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The Favorites

Luka Doncic (+400): Doncic got off to a dreadful start this season, but seemed to hit his stride after sitting out a game due to a bruised quad. He’s only shooting 31.7% from deep and that should regress towards the mean. Doncic is piling up peripheral stats (9 RPG, 7.2 APG) and will continue to see a heavy workload while Kristaps Porzingis (knee) works his way back. The biggest question for his MVP status is whether Dallas can earn a playoff spot in the loaded WCF.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450): The Bucks started a bit sluggish over their first 3 games, then hit another gear with a 144-point outburst to beat the Heat. Giannis followed that up with a string of ridiculously efficient outings in which he shot 59% from the field. He’s top 5 in most categories, including PER, defensive rebounding rate, and free throw attempts.

Nikola Jokic (+1200): Jokic opened the season with +2000 odds to win MVP and his odds continue to rise as he carries the Nuggets. He’s second in PER and is leading the NBA in assists and offensive win shares through 2 weeks. Jokic is in elite shape to start this year, and that wasn’t the case to start last season.

Steph Curry (+1400): Curry is the best buy-low candidate for MVP right now since he’s only 2 games into what could be a season-long hot streak. The Warriors offense ranked dead last in efficiency before Draymond Green (foot) made his debut, and Curry went off for 92 points in Green’s 2nd and 3rd games of the year. That’s no coincidence, and Curry’s confidence is now spurring the Warriors to overall team success with Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. finally showing signs of life.

The Contenders

Kevin Durant (+800): Durant is still listed as a top candidate to win MVP, but it makes no sense to take that bet. He’s more likely to win Finals MVP than a regular season award considering he plans to rest on most B2B sets and is currently out for a week due to a violation of COVID protocols. Playing with a potential MVP candidate in Kyrie Irving (+6000) doesn’t help either.

LeBron James (+1200): James is playing 32.4 MPG and has yet to sit for load management, but that’s still well below his career average of 38.4 MPG and his scoring (23.9 PPG) is also down. He’s another veteran playing the long game as he eyes a championship run at the end of this condensed season.

Anthony Davis (+1200): Davis finished fourth in PER (27.4) and second behind Giannis in Defensive Win Shares (4.4) last year, but finished sixth in MVP voting (82) with LeBron (753), finishing second. As long as James is active, the Lakers overall depth and the shared burden between those superstars makes it tough for either to win MVP.

Damian Lillard (+1600): Early in the season, Lillard is sharing the load with C.J. McCollum, who ranks sixth in Offensive Box Plus/Minus. We’ve seen Dame go on incredible runs before and his current averages (26 PPG, 6.6 APG, 41.7% FG shooting) are stellar.

The Longshots

Jayson Tatum (+2000): Tatum and Jaylen Brown are carrying a massive load for the inconsistent Celtics. Tatum played the most minutes in the NBA through 8 games and is 19th in PER, while Brown ranks 11th. They’re kind of a package deal and the better bet here is Jaylen (+1800) to win Most Improved Player.

James Harden (+2500): Harden continues to put up gaudy numbers in Houston, but his trade demands have soured team chemistry. We saw him miss a game with a mild ankle injury and he could sit more often if the Rockets front office worries about preserving him for a potential deal.

Joel Embiid (+2500): The Sixers are leading the NBA in defensive rating and have been disciplined and consistent under new HC Doc Rivers. Embiid is the catalyst at both ends of the floor and he’s been relatively reliable in terms of missing games for rest.

Kawhi Leonard (+3300): Leonard is posting a 30.6% usage rate while Paul George leads the Clippers with a 31.5% usage rate. Kawhi is clearly the more valuable two-way player and he’s been more efficient with a 25.8 PER.

Trae Young (+4000): The Hawks are slowing down after their impressive start and Young has dropped from 2nd to 8th in PER. Atlanta’s defense is showing holes and they own a putrid net rating in the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving (+6000): Irving stepped up with a massive game (29 points, 12-for-19 FG shooting) in Durant’s first COVID-related absence. That could be a sign of things to come if KD was forced to miss extensive time due to an injury.

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