NBA Futures MVP Odds: Value in Mid-Tier with Lillard and Jokic

Last week, we began looking at NBA futures MVP odds at online sports betting sites for the 2019-20 season. After breaking down what it takes to win the NBA MVP Award, we analyzed the favorites at the top of the NBA betting board.

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For those who missed it, let’s catch you up:

Looking at past MVP winners, we found some MVP-winning trends:

  • Nine of the last 10 MVP winners have been either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in their respective conferences.
  • Only two MVP winners — Antetokounmpo and Harden — have played less than 76 games since 2001.
  • Among the last 10 NBA MVPs, eight have had the highest Player Efficiency Rating in the NBA
  • Four of the last six winners have led the league in scoring,

In short, a few factors are very important for MVP voters: 1) games played 2) playing for a conference championship contender and 3) scoring and efficiency.

As Russell Westbrook proved in 2017, sometimes historical numbers can make up for not being on a top team.

Be sure to read the whole thing and why you should fade a few of the NBA MVP favorites: NBA Futures MVP Odds: Fade Los Angeles Superstars

This week, we make our way down the NBA MVP betting sheet and try to find a couple of mid-tier candidates who potentially fit the formula. Remember, with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard as two of five favorites to win the award we can find value on other MVP candidates. Additionally, voter fatigue could be an issue for recent winners like Giannis Anteokounmpo and James Harden.

NBA MVP Odds At FanDuel Sportsbook (use our FanDuel promo code to get these odds.)

All odds referenced herein are from FanDuel Sportsbook unless otherwise stated. For those interested in PA online sports betting, FanDuel PA online sportsbook went live July 22, 2019. Use our FanDuel promo code to get a risk free bet up to $500.

Damian Lillard +2800

Damian Lillard +2800 is my favorite mid-tier candidate to win the MVP. Not only is +2800 a great price relative to other online sports betting sites (see: Lillard is +1600 at DraftKings and +2200 at William Hill), but everything about Lillard reasonably fits the NBA MVP winning formula mentioned above.

In recent years, Lillard has finished sixth and fourth in MVP voting. Last season, Lillard averaged just under 27 points per game while draining 237 threes.

The tough Western Conference may be the biggest obstacle for Lillard’s MVP hopes. The Portland Trail Blazers are +2100 to win the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Houston, Golden State, Utah and Denver. Conversely, Portland is +1600 to finish the regular season with the No.1 seed in the West.

We’ve already discussed why L.A. superstars like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are unlikely to win the 2019-20 NBA MVP Award, and why injuries are a concern for Anthony Davis and Paul George. This opens up the possibilities for a dark horse like Lillard.

While I don’t advise betting on Portland to earn the top spot, opening the playoffs with home-court advantage in Round 1 is definitely within the range of possible outcomes for the Trail Blazers. It’s a long road to get there, and many things will have to their way, including a season-long MVP campaign on behalf of Lillard.

Put another way, if you’re high on Portland, backing Lillard to win MVP is a much better bet than Portland to get the No. 1 seed or win the West. If Portland gets the No. 1 seed, there aren’t many scenarios where Lillard isn’t one of the top two MVP candidates, but Portland doesn’t need to finish with the No. 1 seed in the West for Lillard to win MVP. Lillard could find himself in the MVP conversation by putting up historical numbers and leading the Trail Blazers to a home playoff series.

The good news for Portland is that big man Jusuf Nurkic is reportedly ahead of schedule in recovering from last season’s grimacing leg injury. If the Trail Blazers, with the return of Jusuf Nurkic, can, in fact, push for the No. 3 seed in the West, Lillard will likely find himself closer to the NBA MVP Award than ever before.

Nikola Jokic +1800 (use our BetStars promo code to get these odds)

At just 23 years old, Nikola Jokic put up a historical season-long stat line where he averaged 20 points, 10.8 rebounds, and over seven assists a game. The Serbian basketball star joined Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Russell Westbrook as only the fourth player in NBA history to put up such numbers.

Those numbers put Jokic fourth in 2019 MVP voting, slightly behind Paul George. Despite the fantastic season, though, we still don’t know how good Jokic can be. The big man doesn’t play with the recklessness of youth that other young stars do. He plays with precision, more like a 7-foot version of Tom Brady than a traditional center, as he dissects defenses with a basketball.

Jokic has no history of nagging injuries like Anthony Davis, for example, which allowed him to play 80 of 82 games in two of his four NBA seasons. In the other two seasons, Jokic played 73 and 75 games.

While he wasn’t at the top of the league in points per game, Joke was third in PER. Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden were first and second, respectively.

Like Antetokounmpo and Harden in their MVP seasons, Jokic doesn’t enter the season playing with a fellow MVP candidate, which should boost his campaign down the stretch.

The West is certainly crowded, but the Nuggets have the potential to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. While MVP candidates join forces in Los Angeles and Houston, the Nuggets enter the season with the advantage of familiarity. Denver has an opportunity to start the 2019-20 hot when other Western Conference contenders try to form chemistry and find their identity in light of their new personnel.

In fact, only the Los Angeles Clippers +260 are favored over the Denver Nuggets +390 to finish with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference at the end of the regular season. Imagine the hype surrounding Jokic if the road to the NBA Finals runs through Denver instead of Los Angeles.

For more general NBA betting picks strategy and past NBA betting articles, please refer to our NBA basketball betting tips guide.

Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images

About the Author

  • Matt Schmitto (schmitto)

  • Matt Schmitto is the sports betting editor for RotoGrinders. He grew up in Texas, graduating from Texas Tech University. He has played high stakes DFS since 2013, and enjoys betting on golf, basketball, football and whatever else is put in front of him. Schmitto is an advocate of The Bettor’s Oath.

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