It’s awfully dangerous to be prisoner of the moment in a sport like professional basketball. Take this current heater by Houston Rockets star James Harden, for example. He’s obviously crucial to his team’s success and he’s playing out of his mind right now, but does a hot run really decide if you’re the MVP of an entire league?
Harden deservedly won the award last year and stands in as the odds on favorite to do so again. I can’t exactly argue against the logic. He’s right up there with Giannis Antetokounmpo and it’s quite likely one of those two studs will take home the hardware by the end of the year.
As great as they are, though, it’s impossible to ignore the other insane individual performance littered across The Association this season.
To be frank, this year’s NBA MVP race feels like a two-man race but one could make a case it’s probably closer to a six-man affair.
2018-19 NBA MVP Odds
I’m eyeing three NBA MVP sleepers that really stand out and could give Harden and Giannis a run for their money.
Before I dive into why the top MVP favorites might not have as big of a gap between them and the field as many may think, let’s first check out the latest NBA MVP odds.
Where you bet on the NBA can often dictate the value you get, but I tend to look for the NBA sportsbooks that offer the best combination of odds, wagers, bonuses and elite customer service.
Because of that, let’s take a gander at the latest NBA MVP odds over at Bovada:
This is the best NBA MVP list I’ve seen all year and it’s hard not to fall in love with some of these prices. Harden is the clear favorite right now and still offers insane value at his +115 price tag.
You can’t ignore The Greek Freak entirely at +200, either. This is Harden’s race to lose, but he really does have some tough competition right next to him.
4 NBA MVP Sleepers to Target
While most of your wagers should be split between those two guys, I do think there are a couple of arguments for options that will return more profit.
Whether it be amazing production, team success and/or elite betting value, these four guys stand out as fantastic flier bets for this wager at Bovada:
Stephen Curry (+1100)
The first is Chef Curry, who is so good that he’s already claimed league MVP twice before. He’s actually putting up comparable numbers to the years he won it, but the presence of Kevin Durant seems to weigh down his argument.
I’ll hear that, but Curry plays for what is probably still the best team in basketball. You can say he shouldn’t win because of the talent around him, but it’s pretty impressive that he can put up almost 30 points per game despite all of the stars around him.
Curry is truly enjoying his best season of his career right now, as he’s shooting a career-high 45% from deep and also laying a sweet 29-5-5 stat line right now. Add in Golden State’s struggles when he was nursing an injury earlier this year, and it’s pretty obvious how valuable he is, both to his team and the NBA.
Joel Embiid (+2000)
The Process offers even better value, as the 76ers star big man has posted monster stats throughout the year. He’s been bogged down a bit with the arrival of Jimmy Butler, but Embiid still owns nasty averages of 27 points, 13.3 rebounds and two blocks per game.
His numbers don’t rival Harden, but he absolutely could get there if Philly allowed him to. Still, it’s his sheer dominance that makes him such a compelling NBA MVP bet. Just take a look:
20 seconds of absolute dominance from Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/i2LaWpa5ab
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 13, 2019
Philly certainly needs all of the pieces they currently have, but they’d lose a ton of offense without Embiid and would probably be one of the worst defenses in basketball if he were sidelined, too.
Embiid is crucial to Philly’s success and the crazy thing is we have no idea right now what he’s truly fully capable of. His immense upside is crazy to think about and that’s one big reason why bettors need to consider him as a sleeper bet.
Russell Westbrook (+3300)
Westbrook has admitted himself he’s not having his best season as a scorer, so I get why his NBA MVP odds are so low right now. Still, OKC is in the top half of the Western Conference at least partially because of him and I think it’s a little weird that we’re not praising a guy averaging a triple-double a bit more.
Sure, Westbrook is that classic case of “been there, done that” with this being his third straight year of posting a triple-double, but how spoiled are we that we’re getting bored by this video game-esque numbers?
Westbrook is far from efficient, but he is still a big reason for his team’s success and the numbers remain eye-popping.
Nikola Jokic (+5000)
You can throw bets all over the place here, but I’ll cap my NBA MVP sleepers breakdown with The Joker. Jokic isn’t going to pace the league in scoring, but he’s mighty fine in that department with nearly 20 points per game.
Jokic is on a very deep Nuggets team with a slew of scorers, so the fact that he’s even aggressive enough to get to where he is as a scorer is beyond impressive. Even better, though, is the fact that he’s clearing 10+ rebounds per game and displaying his jaw-dropping passing chops on a nightly basis (7.5 dimes per game).
Jokic’s passing remains underrated somehow. He’s been specifically ridiculous in halfcourt sets:
Nikola Jokic averages 6.5 assists per game in half-court sets. No player in the NBA has recorded more non-transition dishes than the big man has thus far. He has been unreal on drawn plays for the Nuggets.
— Bryan Kalbrosky (@BryanKalbrosky) January 16, 2019
The Joker is in the NBA MVP conversation with a sick stat line like that, but it has to be the transformation of the Denver Nuggets (previously #1 record in the west), who aren’t just playoff threats, but arguable title contenders.
If Jokic can up his scoring, get closer to a triple-double and have Denver end the year with the best record in the league, bettors may really have something here.
Who Will Win NBA MVP?
It’s still going to be James Harden for me. The point here isn’t necessarily to build some crazy argument against betting on the most worthy MVP candidate.
It’s really just to think outside the box a bit, feel out potential fliers that make sense and marvel at the fact that this has been an incredible year for individual performance in professional basketball.
James Harden feels like a lock in my eyes. He’s put up numbers in spots that we literally haven’t even seen before and he’s doing all of the heavy-lifting for a Rockets team that is truly just spare parts beyond him right now.
Carmelo Anthony’s arrival and abrupt departure could have destroyed this team. Injuries to Chris Paul and Eric Gordon could have sunk it even further. However, Harden wouldn’t give in to any of that, nor would he allow a slow start to derail this team.
Harden fought through the noise to get the Rockets back to the top of the Southwest Division and back in the discussion for a top-three seed in the still ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Doing all that and leading the NBA in scoring with a slew of other impressive stats to boot makes him a great bet to repeat as league MVP.
If that’s boring or anticlimactic, so be it. You can still win money with that wager, though.