With the announcement that Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant will be out the next four to six weeks, the race for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award is now a bit cloudy. Durant suffered an MCL sprain which will keep him out of the Nets lineup until probably March. That opens the door for a number of candidates to overtake the league’s leading scorer in the MVP race.
As this race heats up as the season drags on through January and February, keep in mind that since 1985 only two MVPs have come from teams that finished worse than second in their respective conference. The award has been won by a player 23 or younger just four times and in four of the past five seasons the NBA MVP was also the NBA’s leading scorer.
With all this in mind, here is a look at the updated NBA MVP race odds.
Two- Three-Man Race
With Durant likely out of the picture, the NBA MVP race becomes a two-man race for most, but if Denver can get its act together – i.e. get healthy – then reigning MVP Nikola Jokic becomes a factor in the race.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry is the current favorite. Curry, who broke the NBA record for career three-pointers earlier this season, is sixth in the league in scoring averaging 26.3 points per game. Golden State has been battling Phoenix all season long for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Warriors currently have the second-best record in the NBA (31-12) and are 2.5 games behind Phoenix in the conference race.
Former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is next on the board at +390. The Bucks are the defending NBA champions and they are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 27-18 record. They are just two games out of first place.
Antetokounmpo is third in the league in scoring averaging 28.5 points per game. He also averages 11.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists a game. Both the Buck and Warriors are likely to make their conference finals and the two teams could possibly meet in the NBA Finals.
Jokic’s numbers are just about where he was a year ago. The Nuggets’ star averages 25.3 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. The issue for Jokic is that Denver has limped its way to a 22-20 record so far. Jamal Murray has yet to play a game this season as he recovers from a knee injury. Michael Porter Jr., who averaged 19 points per game last season, was lost for the season to an injury.
Durant has dropped back to +1400 on the betting board. Even if he returns, it’s unlikely he could overtake one of the top three in the race. There are two others out there that, if they stay healthy, actually could pass the top three and capture their first-even MVP.
Memphis guard Ja Morant was hurt earlier in the season but since he has returned to the lineup the Grizzlies have been on fire. Memphis won 11 straight beginning on Dec. 26 and ending just last Friday with a loss to Dallas. Morant has been outstanding. He averages 24.4 points and 6.8 assists per game. More importantly, Memphis is now 30-15 and fourth in the Western Conference. Should the Grizzlies and Morant continue on their torrid pace, Morant at +1600 becomes a wager worth entertaining.
The other outlier is Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan. He’s a longshot at +3300 at top sportsbooks, but his Chicago Bulls have the best record in the East at 27-14 and he’s a top 10 scorer averaging 25.7 points per game. The one thing holding DeRozan back is probably his teammate Zach LaVine who averages 24.9 points a game. LaVine will be out for a few games with an injury. DeRozan needs to make the most of his absence.