- Giannis Antetokounmpo has surged to -1200, far clear of second-favorite LeBron James
- James is comfortably second as it becomes a two-horse for NBA MVP
- See the updated odds to win this season’s NBA MVP award below
The NBA MVP was wide open a few months ago, with Luka Doncic, James Harden and Anthony Davis all pushing Giannis Antetokounmpo. As the campaign heads down the stretch, only LeBron James is putting pressure on the Milwaukee Bucks superstar.
Antetokounmpo’s odds have shortened all the way to -1200, suggesting the MVP contest is all but over. James is the only other candidate below +1600, where Doncic follows with Harden at +1800.
Just earlier this week, James has closed the gap in the MVP race. Ahead of the Lakers and Bucks matching up on Friday, Antetokounmpo has surged off into the distance once again.
NBA MVP Odds
|Player||Odds at Bovada|
Odds taken Mar. 5
Antetokounmpo has led the NBA MVP odds all season. The Bucks are a historically great team, and the Greek Freak is posting otherworldly numbers per 36 minutes. He is playing at a level that has seldom been seen in NBA history.
The recent change in the odds with Bovada comes on the back of some big outings from Antetokounmpo. Following a quiet 5-for-14 night against the Toronto Raptors at the end of March, he scored 32 points in 27 minutes against the Thunder, before a record-breaking 41-point and 20-rebound night in a win over the Charlotte Hornets on March 1st. His last two games, facing the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, haven’t been as stunning.
Only two players in NBA history, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan, have won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Antetokounmpo is in with a real chance of becoming the third, and his defensive play is an important part of his MVP candidacy. He is third in the league in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus, behind Rudy Gobert and Patrick Beverley.
The combination of the Bucks’ league-best 53-9 record and Antetokounmpo’s elite performance at both ends provide a compelling MVP case, a case that has perhaps already secured him a second MVP in as many years. He would join a special group to have gone back-to-back, including Steph Curry, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan and LeBron, who have all achieved the feat since the turn of the century.
Case for King James
The Lakers are five games behind the Bucks. With how Milwaukee has been playing, that seems like an insurmountable distance, but the Lakers’ brilliance shouldn’t be downplayed. They have won nine of their last 10, featuring wins over the Nuggets, Celtics and Pelicans.
James is second to Antetokounmpo in real plus-minus, his 6.72 mark puts him well clear of Harden in third, but a whopping 0.88 off Antetokounmpo. The three-time NBA champion leads the league in assists and has a league-leading 49.8% assist percentage. It has been phenomenal from James in his age-35 season – plenty of voters will be looking for a reason to back him.
The five-game gap must be closed for LeBron to stand a chance. He needs a handful more games like the recent wins over the Pelicans, Nuggets and Celtics when he took over late on. James has been playing some of the best basketball of his career, but team record is going to matter in this MVP race and the Lakers need to be within a game or two of the Bucks for the debate to re-open properly.
It’s not impossible that the Bucks drop a few. Their Friday meeting is huge, but they have a tougher schedule than LA, including a challenging five-game stretch from March 29th through to April 7th. There’s little margin for error for the Lakers if they are to make ground, however.
Giannis Is Nearly There
It will take a near-collapse from the Bucks or an injury to Antetokounmpo for him to miss out on MVP. Both of those things are possible, of course, but they are unlikely. There will be voters who are keen to support James, who continues to defy aging curves and looks to be leading the Lakers to 60 wins. The glaring on/off numbers work in his favor, too.
James would collect a fifth MVP in most other seasons. Antetokounmpo isn’t like any other NBA player in history, though, and this isn’t just another NBA season. In a system built to bring the best out of him, the Greek Freak is having a special campaign: A campaign that deserves MVP.
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