- LeBron remains the MVP favorite, but with the Lakers in a slump – are other players better bets?
- Devin Booker is coming off a season-high 43; the Suns play LAL on Tuesday night
- Is now the time to play Booker for MVP? See analysis and updated MVP odds below
LeBron James did not do anything against the Golden State Warriors to strengthen his MVP case last night. He couldn’t, because he played only 24 minutes in a 16-point blowout win, and his odds did not change. Nor did Steph Curry’s.
James is the leading Most Valuable Player candidate at every sportsbook in the legal U.S. gambling market, but there is still a lot of season left to be played. Let’s not forget, the regular season will not end until the middle of May, and here we are on the first day of March wondering if anyone can catch him.
The answer: Certainly. It’s just a matter of who – and what will it take?
Joel Embiid of the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers and Nikola Jokic of the seventh place Denver Nuggets are the two players with odds that suggest they have a chance. But there are a bunch of other guys with MVP-worthy credentials who just haven’t captured the imagination of the public.
2021 NBA MVP Odds
|Player||Odds at DraftKings||Odds at FanDuel|
Odds taken from each book on March 1st
Booker Presents Great Value
Let’s take a look Devin Booker of the Suns, because he is coming off his best game of the season – and his MVP odds are enticing.
Phoenix is 22-11 and just a game behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division following last night’s 118-99 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game in which Booker scored 43 on 15-for-26 shooting.
It was a season-high point total for the 24-year-old sharpshooter who is shooting better than 50 percent from the field – a significant accomplishment for a volume shooter.
The Suns play the Lakers on Tuesday night in the second half of a TNT doubleheader, and if they win that game and catch L.A. in the standings, you are not going to see Booker remaining at +15000, which is where he is today at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Is Embiid a Legitimate Top Contender to LeBron?
All of the players in the table above are worthy candidates for one reason or another, but the trick in the gambling game is to stay one step ahead of the oddsmakers.
There is no reasonable way to knock Embiid’s candidacy. He is having the best and most focused season of his career for a Sixers team that is gelling quite nicely under new coach Doc Rivers, with Ben Simmons in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.
JOEL EMBIID DOING WHAT NOW!? 🤯 pic.twitter.com/GXsrdP3XGB
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 28, 2021
But sustaining his level of play will be the trick for Embiid, who averaged 32.3 points per game in February but whose team holds only a half-game lead over thee Brooklyn Nets.
“We have taken the foot off the gas on LeBron, dropping Embiid to +300. LeBron was +140, and Embiid was +450,’ said Johnny Avello, head oddsmaker at DraftKings. “All of the play seems to be at the top.”
Assessing the Rest of the Contenders
Nikola Jokic is a brute force for the Nuggets, a dominant center with a more polished outside game than Embiid, but is he truly the third best-player in the league as those odds might suggest? His team is only three games over .500, and that is not going to earn him any first-place votes.
Luka Doncic, who turned 22 yesterday, is a phenomenal talent, but plays for a .500 team. Curry’s team also is three games over .500, Antetokounmpo’s Bucks team is not having the same type of season they had last year when he had the award all but wrapped up by now.
Durant has not even been the best player on the Nets since James Harden was acquired, and Lillard is a superstar whose team is four games above .500.
— FOX Bet Live (@FOXBetLive) February 24, 2021
When you think about it, Booker at +15000 is astonishing. There are guys on very good teams who are not going to get much MVP consideration because their teammates are equal parts of the puzzle. Think Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, who is +6000, or Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, who is +3300, sharing the stage with Paul George.
Booker does the same thing to a different degree with Chris Paul, and the thing Booker may need to do (aside from taking over first place in the division) is drop a few more 40-point games, which get people’s attention (think Jamal Murray in last year’s playoffs).
Booker has had seven 30-point games and has been held below 20 points a mere three times. LeBron scored 19 in three of his last five games. LeBron is going to get extra love because of the agelessness nature of what he does, but again … there is aa heck of a lot of season left.
“All eyes are on the Jazz, but the Suns have a nice little team,” Avello said, “and the extra impressive thing is that they are doing well on the road.”
Let’s see what how the Lakers hold up when the Suns come to Staples for the first of three meetings between the teams this season. Avello will be watching, and he sets the odds at DK.
Right now, Booker is sharing +15000 odds with Jaylen Brown, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving. None of those other four has a shot of finishing top five.
Booker? Hey, we’re not predicting an MVP, but as a flier at 150-1 it’d be hard to find anything comparable.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.