The NBA’s annual All-Star hiatus is a perfect time to recap the happenings of the first half of the season and prepare for the home stretch of the schedule, including the NBA futures markets. One of the most interesting bets on the board is the race for NBA MVP.
Here’s a look at a couple favorites and live underdogs on our live odds comparison to take home the Association’s top individual honor in 2017-18:
James Harden, Houston Rockets (-350)
It’s nothing strange to see the best player on the best team at the top of the MVP odds board at this point in the season. What’s that you say? Houston isn’t the best team? Well, take a look at the standing at the break and the Rockets are half a game ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the West, and Harden is a big reason why.
The sharp-shooting two guard is pouring in 31.3 points per game and adding nine assists to those nightly stat lines as well. Harden does have some help in Chris Paul, but he’s undoubtedly the engine behind Houston’s record-setting offense and has the chops to carry the team when Paul is limited, by age or by injury.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (+250)
LeBron’s MVP stock shot up when the Cavaliers dumped half of their roster at the trade deadline, letting big-name teammates like Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose go. And with Kevin Love out for an extended period of time due to a broken finger, James is once again a one-man show in Cleveland.
There’s no real deep-dive analysis needed when pegging James as the Most Valueable Player. If he were not on the Cavs roster, Cleveland would probably be outside the playoff picture looking in at this point. LeBron leads the team in scoring, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and – with Love out – rebounding as well.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (+1,200)
The Bucks were a dark horse pick for many NBA experts heading into the season and Milwaukee looked even more promising when it added some scoring help in Eric Bledsoe. However, things have not gone according to plan, and the Bucks enter the break in a bit of disarray following the firing of head coach Jason Kidd.
Antetokounmpo remains the beating heart of this franchise, leading the team in scoring, assists, rebounding and blocks. The Greek Freak, who is averaging just under 28 points, has Milwaukee in the No. 6 spot in the East and was able to spark a hot streak before the break, with the Bucks winning seven of their last nine. Milwaukee has some key contributors nursing injuries but could catch fire once those bodies return in March.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (+4,000)
If you thought the Rockets run to the top of the West was wild, take a glance at the Eastern Conference standings. Toronto is perched atop the conference, two games ahead of the Celtics, and DeRozan is the driving force behind that strong first-half effort.
DeRozan has made major strides in improving his shooting, knocking down 46 percent of his overall looks and 33 percent from 3-point range, averaging 23.7 points per night. The Raptors shooting guard is also dishing out nearly six assists a game and pulling down four rebounds a night, making Toronto a legit contender out of the East.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (+7,500)
The Pelicans were powered by one of the best frontcourt tandems in the NBA before DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Davis, already perhaps the best two-way player in the NBA, has stepped up in Cousins’ absence, averaging more than 31 points in that nine-game span. Davis entered the break with efforts of 42, 38, and 44 points while totaling 42 rebounds in those three games.
New Orleans is in the postseason right now, sitting eighth in the Western Conference. If the Pelicans hold on to that final playoff ticket or improve their standing, Davis has to be a serious consideration for MVP – especially when you account for how strong the Western Conference is and what little help he has around him in the Big Easy.