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Breaking down the 10 top names for 2020 MVP

The 2019-2020 NBA season gets started in two months, and the big names will be back in the hunt for the MVP award. With all the roster turnover, who might emerge as a darkhorse?

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James pumps his fist after a play at Madison Square Garden. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp on the horizon, now is a great time to check out the MVP odds for the upcoming NBA season. There’s been plenty of turnover this offseason, but most of the big names on the odds chart are familiar. All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Giannis Antetokounmpo sits as the current favorite at +300, but can the reigning MVP repeat? Based on the recent results, the Greek Freak certainly has the odds in his favor. Since Tim Duncan won the first of his two MVP awards in the 2001-02 season, there have been five instances in which a player has won the award in consecutive years. That means there has been a repeat winner in 10 of the last 18 seasons. Does that mean you should bet on Antetokounmpo before the season starts? I’d wait and see how his 3-point shot has developed. Teams will likely block off the paint this year and force the Greek Freak to prove his shot is an asset instead of a liability.

Everyone already knows that Stephen Curry’s shot is his best asset, but does it make sense to take the two-time MVP at +550? I’d proceed with caution here. Chef Curry is injury prone and this offense is set to change with D’Angelo Russell in town. Let’s not forget Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson is recovering from knee surgery. With the addition of Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein, the Dubs are expected to turn into a pick-and-roll offense, meaning Curry will likely play off-ball more. D’Lo used the pick-and-roll on 920 instances last season, while the entire Golden State offense ran the set a grand total of 995 times. This does not mean Curry can’t put up MVP numbers; I’m just concerned about his durability and the offense changing around him.

LeBron James has the same odds as Curry to win the MVP trophy, but likely has a greater chance to bring home the hardware after a down year. James played the fewest games of his career last season after suffering a groin injury on Christmas. However, The King had previously been known as a durable player. I expect a huge bounce-back season for the four-time MVP with Anthony Davis in town. Speaking of AD, we’re getting The Brow at +900, which feels like a strong upside bet. If Davis can stay healthy (a big if), he has all the tools to run away with this trophy. With the Lakers having the second-best odds to win the title, it makes sense to bet on both players while still having a positive return on investment.

Another way to have a positive return on investment is by crossing off players that you don’t expect to win. James Harden and Kawhi Leonard are both listed at +650 and fall in this category for me. The Beard might have some extra motivation since he felt snubbed by the voters after putting up a historic season — a season that included a streak of 32 games with at least 30 points, a run that sits behind only Wilt Chamberlin in NBA history. Can the 2018 MVP build on that with Russell Westbrook now in Houston? Sure, he can, but it’s unlikely due to Westbrook’s high usage and isolation tendencies.

Leonard is also moving to a new city and pairing up with Paul George, an MVP finalist from last season. Leonard has started 72 or more games in just two of his eight seasons in the league, making him the king of load management. The Klaw proved that he can sit out plenty of games and be effective when it matters. Expect the Clippers to rest Leonard as much as he wants due to the depth up and down their roster. I’ll also exclude PG13 at +1100 after he underwent offseason surgery on both shoulders and has no timetable to return.

Joel Embiid is also at +1100 with George, but he has more upside than the Clippers forward. The Process has also struggled with his health over the course of his short career. Still, the 76ers are set to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. With the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, Philly arguably has the best starting five with Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Embiid will have to play over 70 games for the first time in his career to be the MVP, which will help this team to reach its lofty goals. If you believe The Process will stay healthy, he makes for a strong bet at these long odds.

Let’s close out with two players that sit at +1400, Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard. The Nuggets had the second-best record, while the Blazers finished with the third-best in last year’s Western Conference standings. To sway the voters, I believe one of these studs will have to lead their team to the No. 1 seed. Since the 1999-00 season, the MVP has come from a team with the best record in its respective conference 15 times. Can Dame Dolla or The Joker pull it off without being atop the West? It’s possible, but it will take a truly historic season like when Russell Westbrook did it out of the six-seed by averaging a triple-double.

2019-20 NBA Regular Season MVP Odds

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300)
  • Stephen Curry (+550)
  • LeBron James (+550)
  • James Harden (+650)
  • Kawhi Leonard (+650)
  • Anthony Davis (+900)
  • Joel Embiid (+1100)
  • Paul George (+1100)
  • Nikola Jokic (+1400)
  • Damian Lillard (+1400)

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Odds and lines subject to change. See website for actual odds.
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