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2019 NBA MVP Odds Update: Making a Case for Giannis, Harden and George

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is closing in on his first NBA MVP award. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr).
  • Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is favored to win his first NBA MVP award
  • He faces some stiff competition from fellow All-Stars James Harden and Paul George
  • We make a case for all three players

The player with the longest name in the NBA now has the shortest odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has seen his average odds to capture the 2019 NBA MVP award improve from -130 on February 28th to -190 on March 7th across a number of top online sportsbooks. It’s been a long and steady journey to the top for the Greek Freak, whose odds opened at +480 on August 9th and have gradually shortened as the season has progressed.

2019 NBA MVP Odds

Player 2019 NBA MVP Odds
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) -225
James Harden (Rockets) +150
Paul George (Thunder) +1200

*Odds taken on 03/07/19

Rounding out the top three are Rockets guard James Harden and Thunder swingman Paul George. Only one player can win, but a valid case can be made for all three All-Stars.

The Case for Giannis Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo has been one of the NBA’s premiere players for the past three seasons, but it took the arrival of Mike Budenholzer to fully unlock his greatness. The former Coach of the Year has constructed a deadly four-out offense that gives the Greek Freak nearly unlimited space to operate in the paint. The result has been an eye-popping 63.6% two-point field-goal shooting percentage and, not coincidentally, the most productive offensive season of his six-year career.

Coach Bud and his prized pupil now have the Bucks in first place in the Eastern Conference and poised to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. That’s noteworthy since six of the last seven MVP awards have been won by players who led their teams to the Conference Finals.

The Case for James Harden

You have to go back to the heydays of Wilt Chamberlain to find a player who has filled up the basket at the same prodigious rate as James Harden. So far this season the defending MVP has recorded one 60-point game, four 50-point games, 18 40-point games, and he recently became just the second player in NBA history to score 30 points in 32 consecutive outings. That kind of scoring spree would be remarkable in a video game, yet alone in the NBA, where coaches are paid millions of dollars to find innovative new ways of shutting down the opposing team’s top weapon.

Harden has already recorded one 60-point game, four 50-point games, and 18 40-point games in 2018-19.

Harden’s 36.7 points per game average is a a full eight points higher than his next closest competitor, and he also leads the league in minutes played, usage rate, offensive win shares, box plus minus, and VORP, a stat which measures a player’s value above a replacement player per 100 team possessions.

The Beard’s pedestrian shooting percentages leave something to be desired, but there’s no questioning the fact that he’s the NBA’s greatest offensive threat. No other player possesses a greater array of moves or an ability to generate points by drawing fouls and consistently getting to the line. Love him or hate him, you have to respect his ability to put points on the board.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo Statistical Comparison


36.7 Points Per Game 27.0
6.5 Rebounds Per Game 12.6
7.5 Assists Per Game 6.0
2.2 Steals Per Game 1.4
0.8 Blocks Per Game 1.5

The Case for Paul George

With all due respect to Harden, no Western Conference player was better in February than Paul George, who was named Player of the Month after averaging 35 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. PG-13 is posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point attempts in his sophomore season in OKC, and has emerged as the go-to scorer on the 39-25 Thunder.

As impressive as George has been on offense, he’s been just as good at the other end of the court. The 28-year-old leads the NBA in steals and is fourth in the league in defensive win shares. The Thunder’s defensive rating is 5.1 points per 100 possessions better when George is on the court thanks to his ability to harass smaller ball handlers and body up against bigger wings.

Who’s the Real MVP?

Antetokounmpo, Harden, and George have all put up outstanding numbers this season, but the number that stands out most is team wins. At 48-16, the Bucks have nine more victories than both the Rockets and the Thunder, who have identical .609 winning percentages. That’s significant, because Russell Westbrook is the only player from the past 18 years to win MVP honors on a team that posted a winning percentage below .680.

MVP voters like winners, and Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have emerged as the biggest winners of the 2018-19 regular season. Throw a few bucks his way before his odds get even longer than his legendary wingspan.

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