The NBA Most Valuable Player award goes to the most talented player with the most impact on their team's success. Much like every offseason nowadays, the player movement was unprecedented. Stars like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall have all been traded to new teams, changing the dynamics of divisions, conferences, and the NBA in general. The players with the best chance of winning are many of the names we've come to expect. No candidate is a sure-fire pick with all the shake-ups around the league and new circumstances. The list below is all the players with better than 10-1 odds of winning.
Odds to Win 2021 NBA MVP According to Odds Shark (as of 12/9/20):
Luka Doncic +300
Stephen Curry +550
Giannis Antetokounmpo +650
Anthony Davis +900
LeBron James +900
Kevin Durant +900
Steph Curry only averaged 21 over his five games played last season while Doncic averaged over 28 throughout the whole season
Luka Doncic is the highest regarded candidate on this list. He is fantastic and will win one, if not multiple, in his career. However, to expect one this upcoming season seems a bit rushed. He has the talent to win, but voters look at age as well. He is only 21 years old. Winning the MVP would make him the youngest in league history. The current youngest MVP in NBA history is Derrick Rose. He was an electrifying talent that led his team to a 60+ win season at 22 years old. I am not sure that Luka can produce that amount of wins (in proportion to shortened corona season) in the western conference amongst some guys getting their last few cracks at this award like Steph, LeBron, and Harden. While I believe he is a top 5 option for Most Valuable Player, I do not see voters giving it to him this year. If he did become the youngest to win the award, I would not be surprised it is just difficult to do. I won't be betting on it.
Steph Curry is another interesting case that I do not see as the second-highest chance of winning the award even though Odds Shark says he does. The MVP award typically goes to the best player on the best team. The Warriors without Klay may not even be a top 4-seed in the West. Unlike Russell Westbrook when he won MVP as a 6-seed, Steph cannot put up historic numbers as Westbrook did to garner all the attention and eventually the award. Steph already has shown us his best days. He is fresh off an injury with a weak team and a rookie center slated to miss the beginning of the season. I don't see it happening. His defensive weaknesses get exposed without Klay. Also, his offense gets worse without Klay. He is the player I give the worst chance on this list of winning it.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has the next highest odds and has won the MVP award the past two seasons. I am a big believer in Giannis and his ability to continue as the best regular-season player in the NBA. He is going to put up ridiculous statistics, with wild efficiency, and win the most games in the league. He will be deserving of the award if I were to guess. What is standing in his was is the voters. Voters fatigue almost robbed him of the award last year so this year the effects are heightened. Sadly, winning the MVP three times in a row is nearly unheard of due to voters simply being bored of electing the same guy. It taints the achievement and negatively impacts some player's legacy. Winning three straight has only happened three times in NBA history. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird are the only players to do so. It has been over 30 years since Larry Legend toted his third straight. I think it is time for another player to join their company. I have Giannis as my most likely to win the award. Hopefully, if he deserves it, the voting members do the right thing.
LeBron James and Giannis share similar career paths up to Antetokounmpo's point on his journey (Photo by: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
I will talk about LeBron and Anthony Davis together because of their similar situations. The only thing getting in the way of them winning is having one another as teammates. Star teammates help people win MVPs, but superstar teammates kill the chances of winning it. Both players will average nearly 25 points and over 8 rebounds. They do not cap each other's statistical possibilities however, the matter of who gets the credit is where electors will fall apart. Anthony Davis and LeBron last season shared nearly equal value throughout the regular season. LeBron put up incredible stats, probably better than Davis, but Davis was the better defender even if both did not one-up each other by much. It would more likely be LeBron to win due to his passing, although he will be sitting some time to make up for the lost offseason and recovery period. I do not see either of the two being able to win the award. Unless father time catches up with LeBron and Davis shines as a top-three player in the league. Which, let's all be honest, is not going to happen.
The final and most interesting case is Kevin Durant. Durant is fresh off an Achilles tear in the 2019 finals. It will have been over 550 days since his last appearance once opening night comes. His situation is perfect for brewing an MVP. He was given full time to recover and has shown signs he will return to the KD we know and love. He also has a star point guard in Kyrie Irving to take some pressure off. The roster has an abundance of great shooting and solid role players like Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan. He also, for the first time in his career, will be playing in the Eastern Conference, which is undoubtedly the worse of the two. All of these are positives, but the number of possible negatives is just as immense. Will he return to normal? Will KD and Kyrie mesh well on the court? Will first-year coach Steve Nash be able to put together a good season? Even if the injury does not hinder his play, will KD regress due to age as he is now 32 years old? All of these questions should make me nervous. But he said it best years ago; "I'm Kevin Durant. You know who I am." and I hang on to those words. At his peak, he was the greatest scorer this game has ever seen and possibly the best player in basketball. He will return to form and wreak havoc over the weaker eastern conference. I think he is going to be a finalist for the MVP award this season. I'm excited to watch him dominate this season, as you should be too.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan