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LeBron James Opens as 2019 NBA MVP Favorite

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LeBron James is favored to win his fifth NBA MVP award in 2019. Image by DonkeyHotey (flickr) [CC License]
  • LeBron James is on track to win his fifth MVP award after opening with the shortest average odds of any player
  • Can King James still be the NBA’s most dominant player in his 16th season?
  • Can Anthony Davis build upon his phenomenal playoff run? 

The NBA season is still two months away, but bookmakers are ready to hand the MVP trophy to LeBron James.

The 14-time All-Star has the shortest opening odds to win the award across a number of top online sportsbooks. James is currently available as short as +250 at MyBookie and as long as +400 at BetOnline.

 

Rounding out the top five are Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, defending MVP James Harden, Bucks point forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Raptors’ new man of mystery, Kawhi Leonard.

NBA MVP Top 5 Contenders

Player BetOnline Odds
LeBron James (Lakers) +400
Anthony Davis (Pelicans) +450
James Harden (Rockets) +500
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) +550
Kawhi Leonard (Raptors) +800

James’ short odds aren’t shocking given just how close he came to winning the award in 2018, when he topped Harden in total games, minutes, points, rebounds, assists, and triple-doubles. The only legitimate knock on LeBron was his team’s record, as the Cavaliers won 15 fewer games than the Rockets.

LeBron had to deliver a super human effort every night to give the Cavs a chance to win, and he’ll likely have to be just as good for the Lakers in the crowded West. LA has had the league’s worst cumulative record over the last five years and has 11 players who are 23 or younger.

Breathing new life into a franchise is a lot to ask of any player, but LeBron showed repeatedly in the playoffs that he’s up to the task. The three-time Finals MVP scored 40+ points eight times in the postseason and went off for 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. His ability to read and dissect a defense seems to get better with every passing year.

If LeBron does win MVP honors, he’ll be one of the oldest players in league history to earn the award.

Oldest Players to Be Named NBA MVP

Player Year Age
Michael Jordan (Bulls) 1998 35
Karl Malone (Jazz) 1999 35
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers) 1980 33
Steve Nash (Suns) 2006 32
Wilt Chamberlain 1968 31

Ordinarily LeBron’s age would be a big concern, but the Akron native appears to be aging like Benjamin Button. James posted his highest scoring average in five seasons in 2017-18 and played in a career-high 82 games. He also has yet to suffer a major injury thanks, in part, to the fact he spends $1.5 million every year to maintain his body.

Anthony was arguably the best player in the NBA after the All-Star break as he averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while leading the Pelicans to a 17-8 record.

If LeBron succumbs to age or injury, the smart money is on Anthony Davis. The 25-year-old was arguably the best player in the NBA after the All-Star break as he averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while leading the Pelicans to a 17-8 record. Amazingly, Davis was even better in the playoffs, as he scored 33 points per game while powering New Orleans to a commanding sweep of Portland.

NBA MVP Contenders 2017-18 Stats

Player MIN PPG RPG APG
LeBron James (Cavs) 36.9 27.5 8.6 9.1
Anthony Davis (Pelicans) 36.4 28.1 11.1 2.3
James Harden (Rockets) 35.4 30.4 5.4 8.8
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) 36.7 26.9 10.0 4.8
Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) 23.3 16.2 4.7 2.3

New Orleans’ decision to let DeMarcus Cousins bolt this summer means that Davis should have even more room to operate in 2018-19. Don’t be surprised if the Brow averages close to 30 points per game and leads the league in double-doubles.

The real dark horse in this year’s MVP race is Kawhi Leonard, who was traded to the Raptors on July 18th for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. The question bettors must ask themselves is what version of Leonard has Toronto received?

Is it the version that earned a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards and a Finals MVP trophy by smothering opponents and making them rue the day they were born? Or is it the version that sat out the 2018 playoffs after being medically cleared to play and reportedly played hide-and-seek on the Spurs when they went to visit him in New York?

A healthy and motivated Leonard is a bona fide MVP candidate, but a morose and disinterested Leonard is a wasted bet. Play it safe and stick with Anthony or James instead.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.