We may only be one month into the 2019/20 NBA season, but that is enough for a realistic appraisal of who is in the contending group for the Most Valuable Player award. And in terms of both the season averages to date and the betting lines, a pack of five have stood out from the crowd, one of them should draw our eyes in particular.
Second year Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic is doing historic things. He is a mere 0.3 assists per game shy of averaging a triple-double on the season, something once thought to be impossible, and he is also averaging a mere 0.1 points per game short of 30 points per game in the process. Even with James Harden of the Houston Rockets averaging almost 40 points per game – itself something previously thought would never happen again – Doncic’s numbers stand out in terms of both their versatility and the young age at which he is putting them up.
Perhaps more importantly from the MVP prospective, he has the added value of being the newcomer. The novelty. The New Kid On The Block. The other four players in the leading pack – Harden, LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the L.A. Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks- have been in this discussion before, three of whom have won it. And when it comes to the MVP award, history suggests that novelty is a big factor.
There are no specific criteria demanded for voters to follow when selecting their MVP, and even if we interpret the name of the award to mean who was the league’s best player that year, there is no defined and incontrovertible way to know who that was either. The subjectivity of the award therefore leaves plenty of room for bias, which gives legitimate newcomers an advantage. See also, Steve Nash’s first MVP award fifteen years ago – excellent though he was, and as ahead of the game as both he and his Phoenix Suns team that year turned out to be, it was his first season of excellent play after a career of previously only being good, which saw him stand out as a novelty. Additionally, the case of Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls winning in only his third NBA season back in 2010/11 lends credence to this idea; great scorer and prodigious athlete though he was, Rose’s game had plenty more flaws than most other MVP candidates, yet his status as a newcomer saw him break up LeBron’s monopoly on the award.
It could be said that given his age and the assist numbers he is posting this season, LeBron could be considered to be a novelty himself at this point, and the monopoly ended a while ago as he has not won the award for six years. Other than Doncic, the only one of the leading contenders to have never won is Davis, whose enormous numbers and newfound high-profile after his summertime moved to Los Angeles will both help him to stand out as well. But Davis has been a superstar NBA player for some years – Doncic has been one for one month. If it sustains – and, really, there is no reason to believe that it will not – he seems a very legitimate candidate for the award, more so than his odds suggest.
Value Pick: Luka Doncic to win MVP (+850 FanDuel)
Luka Doncic stats through 15 games this season:
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