Over the last week we’ve provided you with our best bets for all of the major yearly awards that are up for grabs in the NBA. However, there is still one more to preview, the big one! Who will win the 2018-19 NBA MVP?
Six different players have won the award over the past eight years, will we see another first-time winner or will a previous winner add another trophy to their cabinet? We preview the contenders and give our best bets for the award below.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak enters the 2018-19 season as the favourite to win the NBA Most Valuable Player at most major outlets. Giannis is yet to win the award but after leading the Bucks to the playoffs for the second straight year last season and the third in four years, Milwaukee finally look primed to make the jump into the top four in the conference. The 6’11 utility is capable of playing any position on the floor and averaged a career high 26.9 points, 10 rebounds and 4.8 assists last season while adding 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Averages of 30/12/6 aren’t out of the realm of possibility for Giannis this season.
LeBron James: LeBron came in at #1 on the NBA Punters Top 50 this season and while we have no doubts that he is still the best player in the league, the road to his fifth MVP might be tough this season. In a new look Lakers outfit which boasts plenty of young talent, we can see James taking more of a backseat and deferring to the likes of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball throughout the regular season. LeBron has already reduced his effort on defence over the past couple of seasons to limit fatigue and while he currently sits second in the betting markets, we fancy a couple of players over The King this season.
Anthony Davis: Hard to believe that Anthony Davis is still just 25 years old. It feels as though the New Orleans star is a seasoned veteran now and after an outstanding 2017-18 season that saw him as one of the three nominated MVP candidates, he returns as the third favourite in the betting markets this year. Davis compiled career high per game numbers in points, steals, assists, FT%, 3PT%, games and minutes last season and also led the entire league in blocks per game, all while sharing possessions with DeMarcus Cousins for half the season. He’ll get unlimited usage this season and should be around the 30-12 mark once again. His downfall, however, could be the loaded Western Conference where the Pelicans could struggle to finish in the top four which has proven to be vital in MVP campaigns in the past.
James Harden: Harden was the clear front-runner in the 2017-18 MVP race and comfortably took out the award ahead of other nominees in Davis and James. Interestingly, he starts the new season as the fourth favourite at most betting agencies which is a bit of a surprise to us. Granted, we think voter fatigue and the improvement of some other players might see the award pass him by this year but there’s no doubt that the stats Harden put up last season are easily replicable with his play style and usage numbers. Harden was the only player to average over 30ppg last season and should be right aroud the mark again this in 2018-19.
Kawhi Leonard: The final player on our contenders list is Kawhi Leonard. The former Spurs forward gets a much-needed change of scenery this season and from all preseason reports looks ready to go with the Toronto Raptors. Was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2016-17 before injuries derailed his season last year and is arguably the best defensive player on the league. Should benefit from playing with an elite level point guard in Kyle Lowry and has the benefit of being almost guaranteed a top two spot in the Eastern Conference with the Raptors.
In our opinion, the 2018-19 NBA MVP award will hinge on the ability of two fringe teams ability to push for a top four spot in the conference. Only once since Michael Jordan in the 1987-88 season has a player won MVP in a team that finished outside the top two in their respective conference, that was Russell Westbrook two years ago.
We think that the statistical seasons that are in the pipelines for both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis will be good enough to win the MVP award, but their teams have to finish inside the top four in their respective conference. In our pre-season predictions we had both the Bucks and Pelicans finishing in fifth spot but we think the Bucks have a slightly better chance to push into the top four given the quality of the tough Western Conference. We think 30 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists per game is well and truly on the cards for Giannis this season, add in home court advantage in the first round of playoffs and you have yourself an MVP.
Giannis Antetokounmpo MVP +350 at FanDuel