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2019 NBA MVP Odds: Giannis Leaps Harden to Reclaim Lead with 20 Games Left

Giannis Antetokounmpo
It's no reach to imagine Giannis as NBA MVP. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License].
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo has overtaken James Harden and now has the shortest odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP Award 
  • The Greek Freak is posting career highs in points, rebounds, and assists
  • The Milwaukee Bucks are first in the NBA with a dazzling 47-14 record 

Turns out it takes more than a historic scoring spree to impress oddsmakers.

James Harden has seen his odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP Award lengthen significantly over the past month, rising from -190 on January 25th to +110 on February 28th across a number of top online sportsbooks.

That period coincides with an epic 32-game stretch in which the seven-time All-Star scored 30 points or more in every single outing. Harden is just the second player in NBA history – and the first since 1962 – to accomplish the feat.

As impressive as Harden has been this season, oddsmakers believe Giannis Antetokounmpo has been even better. The Greek Freak is posting career highs in points, rebounds, and assists and has seen his own MVP odds improve from +340 to -130 over the past month.

Rounding out the top five are Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James.

NBA MVP Top Contenders

Player 2019 NBA MVP Odds
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) -125
James Harden (Rockets) +110
Paul George (Thunder) +600
Steph Curry (Warriors) +3300
Joel Embiid (76ers) +3300
LeBron James (Lakers) +3300

*Odds taken on 02/28/19

Harden’s Stats Are Beyond Reproach

Harden stands heads and shoulders above his peers when it comes to his statistical production. The 29-year-old guard leads the league in scoring after averaging 41.4 points per game during his lights-out 32-game streak. In addition to putting up more points than Antetokounmpo, he also averages more assists and steals, and posts significantly higher percentages at the line and from beyond the arc.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo Statistical Comparison


36.2 Points Per Game 27.0
6.6 Rebounds Per Game 12.6
7.6 Assists Per Game 5.9
2.1 Steals Per Game 1.4
0.8 Blocks Per Game 1.5

Antetokounmpo Just Wins, Baby

The one statistical category in which Harden comes up short is team wins. Houston went just 21-11 during his hot streak and is now in fifth place in the crowded Western Conference.

Milwaukee, meanwhile, has the best record in the NBA and is 2.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the East. Thanks to Antetokounmpo – and his remarkable efficiency on both ends of the court – the Bucks rank in the top three in the NBA in offensive rating and defensive rating, and are first overall in plus/minus.

Over the past 18 years, Russell Westbrook is the only MVP to emerge from a  team with a winning percentage under 68%.

Milwaukee’s performance is critical since MVP voters have historically placed a great deal of value on wins and losses. Over the past 18 years, Russell Westbrook is the only MVP to emerge from a  team with a winning percentage under 68%. The Rockets currently sit at 59%, while the Bucks are at 77%

It’s Time to Freak Out

Harden played out of his mind over the past 32 games and yet his odds still dropped. In many ways this year’s MVP race is reminiscent of 2018, when LeBron James posted superior numbers in nearly every statistical category, but Harden won after the Rockets finished the regular season with 15 more wins.

Another, perhaps more apt comparison, is the 1961-62 season when Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game, but still finished behind Bill Russell in MVP voting after the Celtics finished with 11 more wins than the Big Dipper’s Warriors.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t the obvious choice a month ago, but his steady contributions to Milwaukee make him the right choice now. Lay a few bucks on the Greek Freak while you still can.

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