- LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers to wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers this past weekend
- Giannis Antetokounmpo remains MVP favorite, but his injury has re-opened the debate
- Is James the man to back in the MVP race as his odds shorten?
LeBron James continues to astonish. The MVP award looked to be drifting towards Giannis Antetokounmpo last week, when his odds shortened spectacularly, but James had other ideas.
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers over the weekend with James starring in both games. His performance at both ends of the floor on Sunday was vintage LeBron, making the right basketball play and getting to the bucket at will. NBA MVP odds have shifted once again as a result, with James in at +150 to win his fifth MVP.
2019-20 NBA MVP Odds
|Player||Odds at BetOnline|
Odds taken Mar. 9th
Lakers on the Charge
With an 0-3 record against the Bucks and Clippers before the weekend, the Lakers were under pressure to perform. The top three teams in the NBA are far clear of the rest, but James and co. had yet to prove themselves. The two wins have moved the Lakers to just three games behind Milwaukee for first seed overall and put them 6.5 clear in the Western Conference.
James’ scoring has increased since the All-Star break – the Lakers have gone 8-1 since the mid-season showpiece in Chicago. He was aggressive in the two games over the weekend, driving into the paint at will and drawing plenty of fouls (he shot 29 free throws across the two games).
"LeBron became the 3rd person ever to score 34,000 PTS. Kareem, Malone, LeBron, the only 3 to ever to do it.
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) March 9, 2020
He has passed 30 points on four occasions since the break, and is scoring over 55% from the field, up from 48.9% before the break. It’s a small sample size still, of course, but there’s a sense LeBron – and as a result, the Lakers – has kicked into another gear.
Only five teams have an easier remaining schedule than the Lakers per Tankathon. The Bucks’ run is more challenging, and it remains to be seen how long Antetokounmpo is unavailable for with this knee injury.
Three losses in four games, and seeing the reigning MVP miss time, represents the roughest part of Milwaukee’s campaign so far. Homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs looked to be wrapped up, but this blip and the form of the Lakers has changed the situation. The Lakers are suddenly back in with a shout.
Only because I was curious pic.twitter.com/sAnVUMzWfl
— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) March 7, 2020
LeBron could ease off for the rest of the season, preserving energy for a deep playoff push. He could, however, be just starting to get into some rhythm in the lead up to the playoffs, approaching each fourth quarter with post-season intensity. The games with the Bucks and Clips had that playoff feel, and James thrives in such an environment.
An easy schedule might help James’ numbers, but it limits his opportunities to really shine in the clutch. The Rockets and Nuggets later this week, two matchups with the Jazz and a trip to Toronto later in the month are his remaining games against top-level playoff teams.
Momentum Building For the King
The narrative shifted this weekend. Antetokounmpo’s performances over the past months shouldn’t be forgotten, but recency bias will impact some voters. The numbers favor Antetokounmpo – he’s well clear of James in PER – yet that doesn’t guarantee a second consecutive MVP.
The Lakers showed again today why they are the best team in the NBA. A championship level defense with a spectacular offense led by LeBron, still the greatest player in the world. Make no mistake: the Lakers are favorites to win it all.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 8, 2020
James needs more displays like Friday and Sunday, and the Lakers need to finish with the best record in the NBA. If the former happens, the latter is more likely, and it’s hardly far-fetched to suggest either. The MVP race is about winning over voters, and James will have edged more in his favor this weekend.
With Antetokounmpo sidelined, and the Lakers playing arguably their best basketball of the season, this MVP race is alive. James would love to tie Michael Jordan and Bill Russell with a fifth MVP: his chances of doing so took a major leap over the last few days.
Pick: LeBron James (+150)
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