James Harden Surges to +175 MVP Favorite for First Time Since Odds Opened; Giannis Now +200

Harden driving
James Harden is now the +175 favorite to win the NBA MVP Award this season. Photo by Keith Allison (Wikipedia).
  • Harden, who won the MVP award in 2018, leads NBA in scoring with 39 PPG
  • ‘The Beard’ has netted 40 or more points in 5 of Houston’s last 8 games
  • Can Giannis win back-to-back MVPs? Last player to win consecutively was Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016 

For the first time since early July, there’s a new favorite to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2020. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo held the top spot but slipped to second on the latest odds board.

James Harden’s blazing start this season has vaulted the Houston Rockets guard to the top of the list at +175.

Here’s a closer look at the NBA MVP Odds and the best bet at this point of the season.

2019-20 NBA MVP Odds

Player Odds
James Harden +175
Giannis Antetokounmpo +200
Lebron James +600
Luka Doncic +700
Anthony Davis +1200
Kawhi Leonard +1200
Joel Embiid +2800
Nikola Jokic +2800
Damian Lillard +3300

Odds taken on Nov. 20.

Holy Harden

When the odds first opened in July, Antetokounmpo was the clear-cut favorite among all sportsbooks at +200 with Harden the next player up at +630. However, by late October, Harden’s odds went from +740 to +400.

When the latest odds were released on Wednesday, Harden had a +200 average across all sportsbooks.

What has caused Harden’s odds to shorten significantly from last month?

Well, ‘The Beard’ is off to a remarkable start offensively, averaging a league-leading 39.2 points per game — nine points more than Giannis who is in second place. Over Houston’s last eight games, Harden has scored 40 or more points five different times.

As good as he’s been putting up points, Harden has been just as effective distributing the ball this season. Through 14 games, Harden is averaging 7.6 assists per game, which ranks eighth overall in the NBA.

Some still feel Harden should have won the league MVP award last season, but was robbed when Antetokounmpo was named the recipient.

This could very well be a case of Harden playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Can Harden Keep Up This Pace?

Harden has been in this position before. The Rockets’ seven-time NBA All-Star won the MVP award in 2018 when he led the league in scoring with 30.4 PPG.

However, if there’s been one knock on Harden, it’s been his inability to take the Rockets to a championship level. Many would argue that team success is a contributing factor in determining an NBA MVP.

Harden has proved he can be an elite scorer — probably the best in the league — but can he bring a championship to Houston as well? Maintaining a scoring average of close to 40 PPG will be extremely difficult, even for someone as skilled as Harden.

Russell Westbrook has taken a backseat to Harden in Houston’s offense, averaging 21.6 PPG after a season in which the former OKC Thunder guard put up close to 30 last year.

Giannis is Enticing at +200 Odds

It’s still early into the NBA season, but Antetokounmpo is already averaging more points than last year when he took home the NBA’s MVP award. That is what makes his +200 line to repeat as MVP so intriguing. Giannis is also shooting 58.1% from the field, up slightly from his MVP-caliber season in 2019.

Another player that knows a thing or two about winning consecutive MVP awards is Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. James is a +600 underdog to win his fourth career MVP crown — his last coming in 2012-13.

Lebron is 14th in league scoring, averaging 25.0 PPG, but the three-time champion also leads the NBA with 11.1 APG as of Wednesday night.

While Lebron will be a legitimate candidate as the season progresses, this is really going to be a two-player race between Giannis and Harden.

There’s even a strong chance, based on how well both teams have performed to date, that the Bucks and Rockets could meet in the NBA Finals.

With Giannis being downgraded to +200 now is the time to get in on the Greek Freak.

Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo (+200)

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