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NBA MVP Odds Update: Steph Curry Leads the Pack

After the first three weeks of the 2021 NBA season, NBA expert Ryan Kirksey breaks down the latest NBA MVP odds and rankings. He updates us on the latest here.
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NBA MVP Odds Update: Steph Curry Leads the Pack

The 2021-2002 NBA MVP race is shaping up to be a good one through the first three weeks of the season. Last year’s winner, Nikola Jokic, dropped out of the top five in the oddsmakers’ eyes, so as it stands now, The Joker won’t be able to match Giannis Antetokounmpo’s back-to-back awards from 2019 and 2020. Last week, I dove into the top five in Rookie of the Year odds to see what value has emerged and where that race might be headed. So this week, I’ll pivot to the MVP race to handicap the odds of the top five and give a longshot based on the first few weeks of the season.

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NBA Regular Season MVP Award Rankings

5. Joel Embiid (Philadephia 76ers, +1200)

Embiid may still be in the top five of MVP odds today, but I don’t think he is long for this list, considering his injury history, the turmoil surrounding the 76ers, and his downtick in production so far this year.

Attendance is part of the grade in MVP voting, and Embiid has never played more than 64 games in a season and no more than 51 each of the last two years. So he will have his games he misses with injury, he will have games he misses with injury management, and he will have games like on Monday where he just rests.

His points per game this year (21.0) are down seven points from last year, and his rebounds are below 10 for the first time since 2016-2017. There is plenty of time to turn that around, of course, but for a player who will sit out more than the others on this list, there is less volume to get back to the top of the MVP odds.

4. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks, +800)

If there were futures odds on Doncic EVER winning an MVP award, I imagine that his odds would be around +150. However, Doncic is so young and so talented that it would be a major upset if he never wins one. But I just don’t see it this year.

The Dallas Mavericks are off to a fine start. At 4-2, they sit just one game behind the Western Conference leaders. Their point differential, however, is -4.7, so they have been a bit lucky early in the season. It’s also not a good sign that Kristaps Porzingis is already missing games this early in the race.

We know that MVP voting is often about regular-season production AND regular-season record. So Doncic should have no issues with the performance side of the equation. His scoring is down from previous years at 22.5 points per game, but that is attributed to some poor shooting early on, and he should bounce back from that. Add in 8.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game, and this should be another statistical season for Doncic.

But if the Mavericks are to eclipse their fifth-place finish in the West from 2020-2021, they are going to have a tough hill to climb over teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Suns, Warriors, Clippers, and Grizzlies.

3. Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets, +700)

What Kevin Durant has done since returning from a major Achilles injury has been nothing short of incredible. In the past 40 regular-season games since he returned, Durant is at 27.1 points per game, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 54.5% from the floor and 44% from three.

At age 33, he shows no signs of slowing down and is picking up an extra offensive load that should have belonged to Kyrie Irving this year.

The Nets are in the playoff hunt at 4-3, but they surely have bigger aspirations, as did the general public and voting media. If the Nets continue to languish towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, it will severely diminish his chances at his first MVP since 2014.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks, +650)

There might not be another player who is carrying a bigger load than Giannis through these first couple of weeks. He has been without Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez for multiple games, Donte DiVencenzo is still out with injury, and now Khris Middleton will miss a game for health and safety protocols.

Despite all that, the Bucks have managed to stay near. 500 because of the freakish stats Antetokuonmpo is producing. He is over 27 points and 11 rebounds per game and is also serving as a playmaker, averaging a career0high 6.0 assists per night. All of this comes in just 32 minutes per night and his lowest field goals percentage since 2017.

Imagine if Giannis ticks back up to normal shooting percentages and 34 minutes per night. Considering the struggles, the Nuggets may have without Jamal Murray this year, this race may come down to Giannis and Steph Curry, making +650 incredible value at this early stage of the season.

1. Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors, +575)

Speaking of carrying heavy loads, Curry now leads the NBA in scoring and has positioned the Warriors at the top of the Western Conference after the first 2.5 weeks of the season. And also, like Giannis, Curry is shooting an extremely low 42% from the floor and 39% from three. Curry has never had percentages that low in his entire career, so expect his points per game (currently 28.7) to be back above 30 in due time.

In addition to the other-worldly scoring, Curry is pulling down a career-high 7.5 rebounds per night and still is hovering near seven assists per game.

Within the next six weeks, Curry should get reinforcements with Klay Thompson and James Wiseman suiting back up again. When that happens, if the Warriors are still at or near the top of the standings, it’s going to be Curry’s MVP race to lose. Of course, just because he is the chalk favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad chalk. It would take an injury or prolonged slump by the Warriors to take Curry out of the race.

Long Shot to Watch: Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies +3300)

Pop quiz, hotshot! If Steph Curry is first in the NBA in points per game, who is second? Ok, you have an advantage because the answer is right there in the heading.

Ja Morant is playing absolutely out of his mind right now, with career-highs across the board in points (28.3), rebounds (5.4), assists (7.7), and field goal percentage (52.4%). He has the Grizzlies positioned in the top five teams in the West presently. He has stepped up his usage and playmaking with other offensive forces like Jonas Valanciunas or Dillon Brooks, either traded or injured. Another week or two at this level, and Morant will force his way into the top five in MVP odds.

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Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.


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