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Kawhi Leonard’s MVP Odds Fade to +3300 Alongside Teammate Paul George; Will Either Clipper Get Back Into the Race?

Sam Cox

by Sam Cox in NBA Basketball

Dec 2, 2019 · 1:15 PM PST

Los Angeles Clippers Forward Kawhi Leonard (2) looks on during a NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 22, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles
Los Angeles Clippers Forward Kawhi Leonard (2) looks on during a NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 22, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
  • Kawhi Leonard’s MVP odds slip to +3300
  • Leonard’s load management makes him hard to back
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is sportsbooks’ favorite

Kawhi Leonard has seen his NBA MVP odds lengthen to +3300, putting him alongside fellow Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Paul George. Leonard was as low as +1200 just last week, but the reigning Finals MVP has moved into the group of outsiders in sportsbooks, a long way behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, James Harden and LeBron James.

Defending his MVP crown, Antetokounmpo remains favorite but Doncic is putting the pressure on after an incredible November. Harden continues to score at a ludicrous rate, putting him well ahead of James in sportsbooks’ odds.

2019-20 NBA MVP Odds

Player Odds
Giannis Antetokounmpo +200
Luka Doncic +250
James Harden +300
LeBron James +600
Anthony Davis +1200
Joel Embiid +3300
Kawhi Leonard +3300
Paul George +3300
Nikola Jokic +3300
Damian Lillard +6600
Karl-Anthony Towns +6600
Pascal Siakam +6600

Odds taken Dec. 2

Leonard’s load management has been a topic of controversy in the early weeks of the NBA season. The former San Antonio Spur has played just 15 of the Clippers’ 21 games to date and has not taken part in any back-to-backs, sitting out against Memphis, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Utah. He also missed a couple of games against the Hawks and Thunder in mid-November.

All of the NBA’s superstars are going to miss games this season, either through load management, straight forward rest or minor injuries. Leonard, though, has been the poster boy of load management. He is unlikely to play more than 65 games this season even if he avoids an injury lay-off. Load management to this scale inevitably harms his MVP odds.

PG Returns

The return of George has impacted his chances, too. James and Davis are disadvantaged in a similar way, and we saw the same thing happen with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant while they were together on the Warriors. Voters tend to favor players who do not have a fellow All-NBA player on their team.

Harden and Doncic might have Russell Westbrook and Kristaps Porzingis, respectively, but neither are at level of George at the moment. Antetokounmpo is a long way better than the second-best player on his team. Leonard, in contrast, benefits from George’s presence on both ends of the floor. That’s a factor that voters will consider.

Combine Leonard’s time on the sidelines with the impact of George, and the reasoning behind the drastic change in his odds becomes clearer. The conditions make it harder for Leonard to win MVP, particularly when compared to the circumstances and performances of Harden, Doncic and Antetokounmpo – none of which will be ‘load managed’ quite like Leonard.

Finding Value

Seeing Leonard as long as +3300 to win MVP is going to catch the eye. It’s hard not to consider that good value, even with the load management concerns. Leonard, after all, has been immense when he’s played this year, averaging just under 26 points per game and producing the best playmaking of his career for 5.3 assists per night.

With the Clippers set to compete at the top of the Western Conference, having won eight of their last nine, Leonard will be a serious contender for MVP if he plays enough games. On the current load management pattern, however, his standard when he does play would have to be astonishingly high for him to get support to win the award.

The price in sportsbooks feels a bit too good to miss out on, even if he is a longshot to win the award. Injuries and/or drop offs from Antetokounmpo, Harden and Doncic are possible, and that could see Leonard considered a serious contender once more.

James and Davis will sit games throughout the year too. The Lakers star duo will likely play more than Leonard, but it will still increase his chances. Leonard’s MVP candidacy is complex – it’s a story well worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.

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