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LeBron James Becomes Heavy Favorite for 2019 NBA MVP Award

LeBron James dunk over the Okkahoma City Thunder
Bookmakers think LeBron James will rise above the competition in 2018-19. Photo by Leah Klafczynski/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire
  • LeBron James’s average odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP award keep improving
  • Does LeBron still have enough gas left in the tank to win his fourth MVP award?
  • Can Pelicans big man Anthony Davis overthrow the King?

LeBron James will be able to fill multiple notebooks when he finally gets around to writing about what he did on his summer vacation. The 14-time All-Star has switched teams, inked multiple TV deals, opened a school for disadvantaged youth,  and, most recently, embarked on an expansive world tour sponsored by Nike.

It’s exhausting just to think about, but bookmakers clearly believe he still has a little something left in the tank as his average odds to win the 2019 NBA MVP award have improved from +330 on August 9th to +300 on August 31st across a number of top online sportsbooks.

2019 NBA MVP Award Average Odds

It’s a curious development since LeBron has been doing everything except playing basketball after his season came to a premature end on June 8th. It seems that bookmakers and bettors alike have already forgotten about his early exit from the NBA Finals and have chosen instead to focus on his prospects in LA, where he’ll lead a young up-and-coming team featuring fellow MVP candidates Lonzo Ball (+45000 ) and Kyle Kuzma (+82500).

Lakers head coach Luke Walton has hinted that LeBron will see extensive minutes at the five, where he’ll anchor the team’s fast and furious small ball line-ups. James was extremely effective in the post during the playoffs as both a scorer and a facilitator and is nearly impossible for opposing bigs to contain thanks to his uncommon speed and agility.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton has hinted that LeBron will see extensive minutes at the five, where he’ll anchor the team’s fast and furious small ball line-ups.

The real question is whether his soon-to-be 34-year-old body can withstand the kind of pounding that comes from playing in the paint. It’s one thing to bully small forwards, as he did during much of his career in Cleveland and Miami, and quite another to grapple with the likes of Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert.

If LeBron wins MVP honors he’ll join a very select group. Only four other players have won the award in their first year with a new team. The last player to accomplish the feat was Steve Nash, who earned the award in 2005 in his second stint with the Suns.

Players Who Won an NBA MVP Award in their First Year with a New Team

Player Year Team
Steve Nash 2005 Phoenix Suns
Charles Barkley 1993 Phoenix Suns
Moses Malone 1983 Philadelphia 76ers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1976 Los Angeles Lakers

It’s worth noting that LeBron was nearly named MVP in 2011 in his first year with the Heat. He finished third in balloting that season behind Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. He also finished third overall in 2015 during the first year of his second go-around with the Cavs.

Where is the Value in Betting NBA MVP?

LeBron will likely finish in the top three again in 2019, but at +300 there’s very little value to be found in wagering on King James. We recommend letting it ride on Anthony Davis at +450 instead. The 25-year-old was arguably the best player in the NBA after the All-Star break when he averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists and led the Pelicans to a 17-8 record.

NBA MVP Top 5 Contenders (August 31, 2018)

Player BetOnline Odds
LeBron James (Lakers) +300
Anthony Davis (Pelicans) +450
James Harden (Rockets) +500
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) +550
Kawhi Leonard (Raptors) +800

As impressive as Davis looked on offense, he was even better on defense. He led the league in blocks with 2.6 swats per game and finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. His ability to impact the game on both ends makes him one of the league’s most complete players. It’s just a matter of time before his dominance is formally recognized by voters.

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