We’re about a third of the way through the NBA regular season and the current landscape of the league has changed drastically in both the MVP and the NBA title race.
The preseason title favorite Los Angeles Clippers’ odds moved from +380 in Week 1 to +330, and they remain the odds-on favorite to win it all. The Clippers are already 3.5 games behind the first-place Lakers in the West but are 17-4 with Kawhi Leonard in the lineup and have lost just two games with both he and Paul George on the court since George returned from a shoulder injury on Nov. 14.
Speaking of the Lakers, LA’s other team has also seen its odds shorten thanks to its fast start. Tied with the Bucks for the best record in the NBA (24-4), the Lakers are now +440 to win it all after opening at +500. LeBron James is averaging 25.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and a league-best 10.6 assists per game. James is also sixth in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating (26.8). The only thing more impressive than LeBron’s recent play may be Anthony Davis’ domination in his age 26 season. Davis is averaging 27.4 points per game and is fourth in PER (29.4).
The list of teams that have seen their odds grow is much longer than that of teams which have had their odds cut.
At the top of that list are the Golden State Warriors, who came into the season expecting a slight downturn with the loss of Kevin Durant to free agency and Klay Thompson to injury but have experienced a complete freefall.
The Warriors opened the season at +1700 to win a title, and after nine weeks those odds have gone up to +60000. The Warriors own the worst record in the NBA (5-24) and are without Steph Curry until at least February, when he’ll have his broken left hand reevaluated.
Durant’s new team, the Brooklyn Nets, started the season at +2700 but that number has gone up to +7500. Kyrie Irving missing extended time due to a shoulder injury has caused a slow start for one of the preseason sleeper picks in the East as they sit in seventh place in the conference.
The knee injury to rookie sensation Zion Williamson has completely killed any momentum that the Pelicans and their backers had coming into the season. The Pelicans were longshots, opening the year at +7500, but a 7-22 record, despite strong play from Brandon Ingram, has moved their odds to +50000.
When it comes to movement in the MVP race, a major part of the story has been the phenomenal play of second-year superstar Luka Doncic.
Doncic, who came into the season at +5000, is down to +500, behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo (+150) and James Harden (+450).
Doncic is third in the NBA in scoring with 29.3 points per game, but his surge in the MVP race hasn’t just been about putting the ball in the basket. He’s averaging 8.9 assists, 9.6 rebounds per game, is second in the league in PER (32.0) and has the Mavericks in fourth place in the West at 18-9.
Two-time MVP Steph Curry’s odds have fallen off a cliff. His preseason +500 MVP odds have moved to +50000 thanks to the broken hand.
Nikola Jokic, who started the season at +1800, is now up at +6600.
Last season’s First-Team All-NBA Center is having one of the worst seasons of his five-year NBA career, posting career lows in field goal percentage (48.1), three-point shooting percentage (27.1) and free-throw shooting percentage (78.6). He’s also posting fewer points, assists and rebounds than he did last season on a per-game basis.
Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid, who began the season at +1000 and +1600, respectively, have both had their odds grow thanks in large part to a lack availability.
The Clippers are a force with Kawhi on the floor, but he’s only seen action in 21 games this season as part of a load management plan, pushing his odds up to +4000.
Embiid is still missing the second half of some of the team’s back-to-backs, but even when he’s playing his production has been down from what it was last season. Part of that is because of the depth of talent the Sixers have in their starting lineup, but another issue is a lack of efficiency. Embiid is shooting 45.9 percent from the field, his lowest mark since entering the league.