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James Harden Has 2nd Shortest Odds to Win 2019 NBA MVP Award

James Harden
James Harden has led the NBA in scoring in back-to-back seasons. Photo by David Santiago/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire
  • James Harden has leapfrogged over Anthony Davis to claim the second shortest odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP Award
  • Harden won his first NBA MVP Award in 2018
  • The Beard leads all players in scoring at 33.3 points per game

It’s amazing what a little scoring spree can do for your MVP candidacy.

James Harden’s odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP Award have improved dramatically from +1200 on December 18th to +480 on January 2nd across a number of top online sportsbooks. That span coincides with a seven game stretch in which the former scoring champ averaged 39.9 points per game on 40% shooting from the field and 43% shooting from beyond the arc.

2019 NBA MVP Odds

Player Odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP Award at 5Dimes (01/02/19)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) +180
James Harden (Rockets) +450
LeBron James (Lakers) +525
Kawhi Leonard (Raptors) +700
Steph Curry (Warriors) +850

Racking up points is nothing new for Harden, but the way he’s been getting his buckets has been noteworthy. The six-time All-Star needed just eight field-goals to score 43 points against the Grizzlies on New Year’s Eve thanks to his 27 free-throw attempts. By contrast, Memphis had 30 free-throw attempts as a team.

Harden has always been good at getting to the line, but he’s practically been living there lately. He’s averaged 14.9 free-throw attempts over his last 10 games and is on pace to lead the NBA in freebies for the fifth straight season. His transparent attempts to get to the charity stripe can be infuriating at times for defenders and viewers alike, but there’s no questioning the effectiveness of his strategy.

Of course, Harden does more than just draw fouls. He’s also averaging 8.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds and has already recorded four triple-doubles this season. He remains the only player in NBA history to have four 50-point triple doubles and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he were to erupt for a 60 – or even 70 – point triple-double on any given night.

Others players have put up gaudy numbers over short stretches, but Harden stands alone because of the way his stats have translated into wins. The Rockets have won 10 of their last 11 games including impressive victories over playoffs contenders like the Celtics, Thunder, Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Spurs.

Those wins are doubly impressive because Chris Paul was unavailable for five of them after injuring his left hamstring in a December 20th game against the Heat. The Rockets aren’t expected to rush Paul back, meaning Harden’s scoring spree should continue unabated.

Should You Bet on the Beard?

Harden’s biggest competition is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has been the favorite among oddsmakers since November 1st. The Bucks forward is posting career-highs in assists, rebounds, and field-goal percentage and, like Harden, has been leading his team to victory. Milwaukee has the best winning percentage in the NBA and has won eight of its last nine games.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo Statistical Comparison

Harden
VS
Antetokounmpo

33.3 Points Per Game 26.3
5.8 Rebounds Per Game 12.6
8.4 Assists Per Game 6.1
2.1 Steals Per Game 1.3
0.5 Blocks Per Game 1.6

Both players have been instrumental to their team’s success and are equally deserving of the award near the halfway point of the season. The difference is that Harden still represents good value at +450 while Antetokounmpo will offer only meagre returns at +180.

This race will invariably get much tighter as the year progresses, so hop on Harden now before his string of 40-point performances impact his odds any further.

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