The NBA stopped play on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic that eventually shut down most of North America. The league still has not resumed play and likely will not anytime soon.
Commissioner Adam Silver and the owners have discussed a number of plans to get back to work. The league is hopeful to continue the season at some point this summer.
Lost in all the COVID-19 distractions is the current NBA Most Valuable Player race. The reigning MVP, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, has been the clear favorite to repeat the entire season. The odds shifted though as a former MVP was in the midst of a late-season move to overtake the Bucks star.
NBA MVP: The Greek Favorite
The reason why Antetokounmpo is the -325 favorite to repeat as NBA MVP is rather simple. The All-Star has improved his scoring and rebounding numbers from a year ago and his Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the league at 53-12.
The Bucks lead the NBA in scoring averaging 118.6 points per game thanks to nearly 30 (29.6 ppg) from Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee is also the NBA leader in rebounds per game (51.7) led by their star’s 13.7 a game.
The reigning MVP also averages 5.8 assists a game and shoots 54.7 percent from the field. He has even shown that he can step outside the arc and hit a 3-pointer every now and then (30.6 percent on 3-pointers).
While Antetokounmpo has led the MVP race all season, his gap closed somewhat just before the suspension of the season. He has missed eight games due to injury and did suffer what now appears to be a minor knee injury just before the break. The time off may work in his favor as he gets to heal completely.
NBA MVP: Closing Fast
Even at 35 years of age, LeBron James is still one of the best players in the game. He was enjoying an outstanding season and he even turned it up after the All-Star break. In the eight games following the All-Star break, James was averaging 30.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 9.5 assists. His average of 10.6 assists a game leads the NBA.
More importantly, the Lakers went 7-1 in those games. One of the wins just happened to be over Antetonkounmpo’s Bucks, a 113-103 victory in which James scored 37 points. James’ performance just before the league shutdown was the big reason why his MVP odds shifted to +200.
NBA MVP: Why Giannis Wins
Antetokounmpo has been the best player on the best team in the NBA. The Bucks have the highest winning percentage and best net rating in the league and are miles ahead of the second-place Lakers.
The Greek Freak’s 2019-20 season ranks fifth all-time in player efficiency rating. He increased his usage percentage and maintained his scoring efficiency despite still not having the most accurate long-range jump shot.
Giannis has been the most consistent NBA star during the 2019-20 season and is playing even better than he was a year ago. Only 11 NBA players have won back-to-back MVP awards. All are in the Hall of Fame.
NBA MVP: Why James Wins
No other 35-year-old in the history of the NBA has done what James has done this season. In Year 17 of his illustrious career, James is one of just five players 35 or older to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists a game.
He has them all beat in scoring (25.7 ppg) and assists (10.6 apg). His plus-minus ratio is the highest of any NBA player his age.
James has been the best player on the best team in his conference. His renewed commitment to defense has helped the Lakers become one of the best defenses in the league. Los Angeles is third in points allowed per game this season giving up 106.9.
NBA MVP: Can Anyone Else Win?
Should the NBA season resume, there are a few longshot bets for the NBA MVP worth examining. The first involves Dallas star Luka Doncic. The second-year player has blossomed into one of the league’s best players averaging nearly a triple-double per game.
The 6-8 Doncic scores 28.7 points per game and averages 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He is the big reason why Dallas is third in the league in scoring (116.4 ppg) and why they were closing in on Houston in the Southwest Division standings.
The Mavericks (40-27) own the seventh seed in the Western Conference right now, just one spot below the Rockets (40-24). A strong end to the season filled with some playoff upsets along the way could propel Doncic (+1600) to an MVP.
The only realistic longshot bet would be on former MVP James Harden. The 2018 MVP leads the league in scoring once again averaging 34.4 points per game. Harden averages 7.4 assists and 6.4 rebounds, but the Rockets are nowhere near the top of the heap in the Western Conference.
It will take a superhuman effort for the Rockets to even get to the conference finals in the postseason. Houston could do it with Harden and another former MVP Russell Westbrook in the backcourt. It’s not likely, but there are worse wagers than Harden to win the MVP at +2000.
Anthony Davis (26.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) is having an outstanding season but is overshadowed by James in Los Angeles. Davis’s odds to win are +5000. Damian Lillard (+8000) is once again among the league leaders in scoring (28.9 ppg) and Kawhi Leonard (+8000) has many people thinking the Clippers can win an NBA title.