Breaking down the 2020-21 NBA MVP race: Odds and picks - Lillard could light it up

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles up the court.
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Andrew Ortenberg

NBA· 9 months ago

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I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

In just less than two weeks the 2020-21 NBA season will get underway. It really snuck up on all of us. There’s so much to look forward to this season, including futures bets galore. We’ll have ton of great futures betting content here at Pickswise in the coming days, but today we’ll be taking a look at the MVP race. We already broke down the Rookie of the Year conversation yesterday. Let’s jump in and look at the contenders, with odds courtesy of DraftKings:

Luka Doncic +400

Giannis Antetokounmpo +450

Stephen Curry +800

Anthony Davis +800

LeBron James +900

James Harden +1600

Damian Lillard +1600

Jayson Tatum +1600

Kevin Durant +2000

Nikola Jokic +2000

Kawhi Leonard +2000

Devin Booker +2500

Jimmy Butler +2500

Everybody else is at 40/1 or steeper. Antetokounmpo has won it the last two years, and I think it would take him having a season that is truly head and shoulders above anybody else for voters to give him the award three seasons in a row. As such, I can’t see myself liking him at this short of a price. The Bucks’ trade for Jrue Holiday this offseason could also hurt his stats a bit, as his volume should go down slightly as a result.

Doncic will attract a lot of the betting public, especially with the electric way he finished the season in the bubble. But unless his shooting percentages go up dramatically in year three, which certainly could happen, I don’t see him being considered the true best player in the NBA for the season.

Curry is too much of an unknown coming off his injury-plagued season, and without Klay Thompson beside him who knows how great this Warriors offense will actually look. James argues he should’ve won the award last year, but with the Lakers having just finished their season so recently, I suspect the team will look to get their soon-to-be 36-year-old star more rest in this campaign.

I’d be tempted to take a nibble on Lillard at 16/1. Remember that Lillard was absolutely on fire down the stretch in the bubble, and he has a ton of goodwill around the league. That could be important in a close race. He averaged 30 points per game last year while shooting over 40 percent from three on 10.2 attempts. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s the best offensive player in the league this season.

I also don’t hate Davis at +800. Like I just mentioned I think James will be saved for the postseason more, which means the offense will be leaning even more heavily on Davis early on. He still averaged over 26 points per game last year, in his first season in a new system. Now that he’s had a year to adjust to being a Laker, he could be even better this time around. His status as one of the league’s best rim protectors on defense certainly doesn’t hurt either.

As for some true long-shots, I’d sprinkle a few bucks on Zion Williamson at 80/1 just for fun. Williamson showed plenty of flashes during his brief rookie season, averaging 22.5 points in just 27.8 minutes per game as the team took it easy on him. He only played 24 games, and if he had a full first season he would’ve been the clear Rookie of the Year. New Orleans is really going to unleash him this time around, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. He has the potential to score 30 a game with incredible efficiency.

Pickswise is the home of free NBA picks and predictions. We will cover all the big offseason news before making picks for every game during the 2021 season.

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