- LeBron James is the favorite to win NBA MVP after stunning performance in Cleveland
- James dropped 46 on his former team to keep the Lakers atop the Western Conference
- Are there better options to win MVP? Do Durant and Doncic present value? See updated odds below
The NBA MVP odds are constantly shifting. LeBron James is the latest player to own favorite status after he lit up the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Last season’s runner up in the MVP race, James’ Lakers are title favorites and own the best record in the Western Conference.
James’ move to MVP favorite comes just a few days after Kevin Durant’s price shortened significantly. Durant leapfrogged Giannis Antetokounmpo after the Nets toppled the Bucks, but the Brooklyn forward has since been overtaken by Joel Embiid.
2021 NBA MVP Odds
Odds taken on Jan 27 from FanDuel
Reigning champions and title favorites, LeBron James’ MVP candidacy is almost guaranteed to check the ‘team success’ box. The Lakers look every bit as dominant as was expected this season. James hadn’t scored more than 29 in a game this season until January 21st. In a win over the Bucks, LeBron took the most shot attempts of the season and played his most minutes until that point.
Returning to Cleveland on the 25th, the four-time MVP unleashed another massive night on the offensive end. He again played 38 minutes, reached a season-high in field goal attempts, including seven made threes.
James scored 46, and outscored the Cavs in the fourth, to put the Lakers on his back for another win. Cleveland, like Milwaukee a few days before, had no answer. Having seemingly cruised through the first few weeks of the season, James has put his foot on the gas.
Once again, he is playing like an MVP. He could have easily won more than the four he already has. After his complaints when Antetokounmpo won the award last season, it’s hard not to wonder how voters will view LeBron this time round. If the Lakers are the top seed, if he averages 25-8-7 as efficiently as he is now, will voters default to LeBron?
Should You Hop on the James Train Now?
It would usually be a mistake to back a player for MVP after two big performances. All the money is going on LeBron right now. His price has dropped.
The trouble in this instance, though, is that LeBron could run away with this. The Lakers face the Sixers on Wednesday, followed by Detroit and Boston. Two more big nights from James, and two more Lakers wins over Philadelphia and Boston, will see his MVP price shorten even more.
The combination of James’ efficiency and the Lakers’ relentless winning will make him a hard player to beat for MVP. It’s best to back James sooner rather than later – he still represents value at +500, but that might not be the case much longer.
Downside of Durant and Doncic
This is the first time in a while Luka Doncic has not been MVP favorite. While Doncic is posting great numbers, the Mavericks’ record is not doing him any favors. Dallas is under .500 at 8-9 and currently occupies the 10 seed in the West. The Slovenian star is not going to win MVP unless Dallas, at the very least, make their way into the top six in the West. There are extenuating circumstances with several key COVID absences and Kristaps Porzingis yet to hit his stride, but the Mavericks already have considerable ground to make up.
Doncic is third in assists per game and seventh in scoring. He’s 0.2 of a rebound and 0.1 of an assist from averaging a triple-double for the season. It’s an MVP-level campaign thus far, but Dallas aren’t winning enough games at the moment for him to represent any sort of value at that price.
Team success is no guarantee for Durant either. The early sightings of the Nets’ big three do not suggest a team set to cruise to the top seed in the East. Occasional rest games could work against his MVP candidacy, too.
If Brooklyn are a top two seed and Durant keeps up these numbers (30 points per game on a career-best true scoring), he’s going to be in position to seriously challenge even a great LeBron season. For now, though, it’s still worth waiting to see how the Nets’ big three look over a longer period before wagering on Durant to win MVP.