- Kevin Durant has overtaken Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA MVP odds
- Luka Doncic remains favorite for the award
- Is now the time to bet on the Nets star? See updated MVP odds below
Following Brooklyn’s dramatic win over Milwaukee, Kevin Durant has leapfrogged Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA MVP odds. Luka Doncic is still the betting favorite for the award with LeBron James and Nikola Jokic tied for joint-fourth.
Antetokounmpo was +500 on January 6th on average and +475 on the 11th. FanDuel have the Greek Freak at +700 to win a third consecutive MVP. Doncic has remained around the +400 mark, while Jokic and Joel Embiid have seen their odds shorten drastically since the start of the season.
2021 NBA MVP Odds
Odds taken on Jan 20 from FanDuel
Kevin Durant scored four points fewer than Giannis Antetokounmpo, and was less efficient, as the Nets beat the Bucks. The narrative was created by the Nets’ win, and how Giannis was once again nullified down the stretch of a close game. It’s the right basketball decision to let Khris Middleton take over in the fourth quarter, but it does Antetokounmpo’s MVP chances no favors.
Durant, in contrast, has seemingly been able to score at will. A 67.5% true scoring on the young season is Durant’s best mark of his career, a couple of percent higher than his 2016-17 campaign with the Golden State Warriors. He’s posting some of the best numbers of his career per 36, including a career-high in scoring and six assists per 36 minutes – he’s only been better than that in one full season previously.
KEVIN. DURANT. COLD-BLOODED. ❄️ pic.twitter.com/CLfy6blOBX
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 19, 2021
Brooklyn laid down a marker in the battle for Eastern Conference supremacy with their win over the Bucks. Durant was spectacular. He’s scored 30 or more five times already this season, and he’s playing great defense.
Fellow Stars Hold Durant Back
The return of Kyrie Irving and trade for James Harden have made the Nets favorites to come out the East. Recent history suggests it could prove problematic for Durant’s MVP case, however.
LeBron James’ candidacy last season was impacted by the presence of Anthony Davis. Durant and Steph Curry were out of legitimate MVP consideration when they were teammates. Having multiple superstars on one team helps to win games, but it becomes trickier to claim individual awards.
A perception it is easier to flourish alongside players like Harden and Irving makes it harder to win votes. Durant is unlikely to have as many nights where he takes 20+ shots. He’s the best player on his team, but when you’re accompanied by another top ten player and an All-Star point guard, MVP voters are going to want Durant to be more than his usual ultra-efficient self.
The flip side, of course, is it’s easy to build a pro-Durant narrative. He will be perceived as the leader of this team, and if the Nets flourish in the regular season, it will be seen as a victory for Durant following all the skepticism around the Harden trade. That’s not to mention the returning from injury factor, which will lure some voters.
Giannis Needs Progress
Giannis was always going to have a tough time getting MVP support this year. He set almost unattainable standards last season, and defenses are becoming more aggressive with how they wall off the paint. Voters will have wanted to see development in Antetokounmpo’s game, rightly or wrongly, and there’s little evidence of that so far.
Crazy Stat: Seth Curry is shooting a higher percentage from the 3 point line this year (59.5%) than Giannis Antetokounmpo is from the free throw line (57.5%).#Sixers #Bucks pic.twitter.com/25n8SnEoic
— TimeoutSPORTS__ (@TimeoutSPORTS3) January 16, 2021
The two-time MVP endured an historically bad night at the charity stripe last week, going one-for-10. He’s under 60% from the line on the season, continuing a year-on-year decline. Though he’s taking more threes, his shooting is still nowhere near good enough to make defenders guard him out there.
Antetokounmpo needs to shoot much closer to 70% from the free throw line to be a serious MVP candidate. Given the Bucks’ all-in offseason, he probably needs Milwaukee to be dominant like they were last season, too.
Giannis needs to be spectacular to overcome the inevitable voter fatigue after back-to-back MVPs. There’s a reason no one since Larry Bird has won three in a row.