The race to win the 2020-21 NBA MVP Award has been a wild one. Luka Doncic opened as the presumptive betting favorite last summer, only for LeBron James to quickly overtake the young Mavs superstar early in the season. James looked destined to win his fifth MVP for quite some time before he went down with a serious ankle sprain last month.
Joel Embiid spent some time as the favorite himself before he was sidelined with a knee injury shortly after the All-Star break. Nikola Jokic has since taken the mantle from Embiid, and the Nuggets big man remains the odds-on favorite as the season winds down. As of this writing, BetOnline has Jokic as a pretty overwhelming -350 favorite.
While Jokic may well go on to win MVP for the first time in his career, he still has plenty of competition. In the end, former two-time MVP Stephen Curry may ultimately prove to be the Joker’s biggest threat. Curry has spent the majority of the campaign on the fringes of the MVP discussion with his Golden State Warriors largely treading water near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture.
However, Curry’s recent surge has catapulted him right back into the conversation. BetOnline.ag now has Steph at +1000 to win MVP this season, which makes him third-favorite behind only Jokic and Embiid (+300).
Steph, as the kids say, is on one right now. Is he a good bet to win MVP at the current +1000 odds?
Curry’s Incredible Flurry
Curry has been held to 50 games this season due to a few injuries, but he likely hasn’t missed enough time to fall out of the MVP race. Embiid, for example, is very much in the race despite having played just 39 games. With Kevin Durant now in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson missing another season with an injury, Curry has had to shoulder a massive load for Golden State.
On the year, Steph is averaging a career-high 31.4 points per game while shooting better than 43 percent from three-point range. He recently surpassed Bradley Beal to become the league’s leading scorer.
Curry has been in fine form all year, but it’s his recent work that has vaulted him into the MVP mix. Since the calendar flipped to April, the 33-year-old is averaging an incredible 40.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field and over 50 percent from downtown.
Take a moment to appreciate those shooting percentages. This isn’t a seven-footer taking all of his shots within four feet of the rim. Curry is a volume shooter that has made a Hall of Fame career out of making difficult shots nobody else would even dream of taking. As of April 21, Curry has made at least 10 three-pointers in four of his last five games. In those five games, Steph has finished with 53, 42, 33, 47, and 49 points.
That string of games with 10-plus threes is noteworthy because Klay Thompson is the only other player in NBA history that has made at least 10 threes in at least five games…in his entire career.
Steph isn’t just putting up numbers for no reason, either. He’s helping to drag the Warriors to a playoff berth. Golden State is 6-4 so far this month, but they have won five of their last six. The Dubs are now in the No. 9 seed in the conference, just two games back of Luka’s Mavericks for seventh. If Curry is going to be playing like this, the Warriors are not a team any contender wants to face in the postseason.
Curry’s MVP case may ultimately hinge on how high the Warriors are able to finish in the standings. Golden State is six games behind the Lakers for the No. 5 seed with 14 games left to play. It’s not impossible to make up that ground, especially given the Lakers’ injury woes, but Golden State is most likely to finish as a play-in team this year.
Curry’s status as arguably the league’s most popular player won’t hurt his MVP chances, of course. Voters will see what he’s doing with an undermanned Warriors team, which could help boost his case.
Golden State may not be a title contender, but Steph’s current +1000 odds are certainly alluring. If he’s able to continue his scoring bonanza and nudge the Warriors into the No. 7 or 8 spots, the odds will likely improve.
Can Jokic Survive?
If you think availability is a criterion that should be considered for MVP, Jokic has to be the favorite. We have seen no shortage of injuries thanks to the congested schedule this season, yet Jokic is one of the few stars that has been able to stay healthy. Embiid, James, Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harden have all endured injury spells.
Jokic has logged 57 games for the Nuggets this season, who are currently fourth in the West. It also likely doesn’t hurt that the big man has put up absolutely insane numbers all season. Through those first 57 games, Jokic is averaging career-highs in scoring (26.4), rebounding (11.1), and assists (8.8). He leads his team in all three categories, while also shooting 57 percent from the field and a tidy 42 percent from long distance.
The Nuggets were dealt a blow when Jamal Murray tore his ACL earlier this month, but Denver still has enough talent to make some noise in the playoffs. Jokic is the main reason for that. Denver has dealt with other injuries over the course of the full campaign, yet the 26-year-old has been able to keep the Nuggets in the mix for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason.
The problem with betting on anyone other than Jokic is that nobody’s case really stacks up. The only other player in the league averaging close to a triple-double is Russell Westbrook, because that’s just what Russell Westbrook does. The problem with betting on Jokic is the current -350 odds don’t give you much profit potential.
What About Embiid?
Embiid would’ve been the Rookie of the Year in a landslide back in 2016-17, but the award was given to Malcolm Brogdon instead because Embiid played in just 31 games. Unfortunately, we may see the same story this year with regard to Embiid and the MVP trophy.
The numbers speak for themselves. Embiid is another big man in the midst of a career year, averaging 29.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and better than a block per game. Unlike Jokic, Embiid has put up these numbers while leading his team to the top spot in the conference. The 76ers are 39-18 on the year, which is good for the No. 1 seed in the East entering play on Wednesday.
In a vacuum, though, Jokic’s numbers look better than Embiid’s. It’s also worth noting that Philly is the top seed in the weaker East. If they had that same record in the West, the Sixers would be just 1.5 games ahead of Jokic’s Nuggets and in third place.
Embiid may have an MVP in his future, but I don’t think he’s worth a bet at the current +300 odds. If the MVP goes to a center this season, it’ll be Jokic.
Can Anyone Else Win MVP?
Here’s how the rest of the MVP race looks, per the up-to-date odds from BetOnline:
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1600)
James Harden (+2500)
Damian Lillard (+2800)
Luka Doncic (+3300)
LeBron James (+3300)
Antetokounmpo, Harden, and James have combined to win seven MVPs in the past, while Lillard and Doncic may have MVPs in their respective futures. However, none of them looks like a viable bet as the season draws to a close.
Giannis won MVP in each of the last two seasons, and deservedly so. However, the Bucks have fallen to the No. 3 spot in the East this season, and Antetokounmpo’s individual numbers have taken a step back. Giannis has also missed a handful of games recently with a knee injury. He won’t be three-peating the MVP Award this year.
I was bullish on Harden’s chances of stealing MVP after he was traded from Houston to Brooklyn, but a hamstring injury will cost him a chance. The Beard has been awesome since joining the Nets, averaging 25.4 points, 11 assists, and 8.7 rebounds while helping Brooklyn challenge Philly atop the East. However, he’s been sidelined since April 5 with a hamstring injury, and the Nets said on Tuesday that he has suffered an unfortunate setback in his recovery process. With no return date in sight, Harden’s MVP case is cooked.
James Harden suffered a setback with hamstring, Nets says.
Lillard could build an MVP case for himself with a Curry-esque streak toward the end of the season, but his chances are fading. Lillard’s numbers have also dipped from where they were a season ago. While Portland is likely to avoid the play-in scenario, Dame’s individual stats just don’t stack up favorably next to those of Jokic, Embiid, or Curry.
Luka Doncic and the Mavs are having to fight for a play-in spot, which isn’t exactly what Dallas had envisioned before the season began. LeBron James has been sidelined since March with an ankle injury, and that lengthy injury absence means he’ll have to wait until next year to try and win that fifth MVP trophy.
What’s the Best Bet?
At this point, Curry at +1000 is probably your best combination of upside and likelihood of actually winning. Jokic’s case looks pretty firm right now, but there is still a little less than a month left in the regular season.
As we know, things can change in an instant. Jokic may be the most likely MVP right now, but who knows how things will look a month from today?
Jokic could go down with an unfortunate injury. The Nuggets could endure a lengthy slump. Perhaps Jokic himself goes through a dry spell while Curry continues his flame-throwing routine. It’s hard to imagine Steph continuing to average 40 points per game moving forward, but would you really put anything past Steph Curry?
I think you can take a flier on Curry at +1000, especially given the chances that the odds continue to decline from here. Jokic offers no upside at -350.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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