Playoff and draft positioning aren’t the only things being decided in the final days of the NBA season. The race for NBA MVP has been whittled down from a sprawling list of the league’s top talents, to just four worthy nominees – at least according to the NBA MVP odds.
Four names remain on the betting board at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook: James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, and Paul George. But if you ask oddsmakers, the Most Valuable Player Award – AKA the Maurice Podoloff Trophy – should already have the name of the Milwaukee Bucks’ do-it-all forward engraved on it.
If you’re still up in the air about your NBA MVP pick or want to take a flyer on one of the other three contenders, here’s a look at each player and why they could be named MVP of the 2018-19 season:
The “Greek Freak” opened this NBA futures market as a 2/1 favorite and didn’t let the bookies down, pacing the Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and adquately filling the vacuum left in the East by LeBron James' departure to the West.
Antetokounmpo averages just under 28 points, 5.9 assists, and 12.5 rebounds per game and the crazy thing is that those incredible numbers don’t fully speak to the versatility of his 6-foot-11 frame or his impact on both ends of the floor.
If anyone doubted his MVP caliber, Giannis’ 45-point symphony at Philadelphia last week pretty much locked up top individual honors. That effort came against his biggest rival (in size and competition), Sixers center Joel Embiid, and bumped Antetokounmpo from -300 to -400 to win MVP.
Any other year, the odds for NBA MVP would have been pulled a long time ago. If not for the incredible efforts of Antetokounmpo, Harden would have run away with his second straight MVP award after setting the league on fire with his scoring performances.
The Rockets shooting guard opened at 12/1 to win MVP when odds hit the board at the SuperBook back in mid-December. He was behind Antetokounmpo at 2/1, LeBron James 7/2, Anthony Davis 4/1, Curry 7/1, Kawahi Leonard 8/1, Embiid 8/1, and Kevin Durant at 10/1. Those odds didn’t last long.
Harden would record a 50-point triple-double against the Lakers the day after these futures opened and would move to 5/1 by New Year’s. Following back-to-back outputs of 57 and 58 points as well as a 61-point explosion in New York in mid-January, “The Beard” was priced as a huge -500 front runner, with Antetokounmpo sitting at +350. Then Giannis put up a February in which he averaged 30.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and six assists an outing, leading the Bucks to a 10-1 record on the month and swinging the MVP futures.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (+1,000)
Curry has been on and off the MVP odds list over the past couple months, after opening at +700 in mid-December. The case for him is pretty cut and dry: the best player on the NBA’s best team. However, the two-time NBA MVP loses some clout since the Warriors boast a loaded roster, including fellow former MVP Kevin Durant.
Curry has watched his numbers slip a bit in the past few months, after putting up 28.1 and 31.3 points per game in December and January. Some of that is Golden State’s now-annual pre-postseason malaise, stumbling a bit in February before tightening the bolts before the playoffs tipoff. While he’s a fixture in the nightly NBA reel, Curry isn’t going to win MVP - at least not regular season MVP.
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (+1,000)
George set himself up for an MVP season upon his announcement that he would be returning to Oklahoma City – and not joining LeBron in L.A. – last summer, winning over plenty of fans in the process and making for some classic social fodder.
He would then go on to outshine former MVP and teammate Russell Westbrook with a stellar season, highlighted by a February in which he averaged 35 points and more than eight rebounds and five assists per contest.
George fully deserves to be in the MVP conversation (though he won’t win it), and the fact he opened 250/1 and is sitting at 100/1 and still on the board in the final week of the schedule is a testament to his performance in 2018-19.