The NBA season is reaching its final leg and the race for the playoffs is heating up with several teams in the mix to snag playoff spots. While the playoffs are on everyone’s eyes and minds, the NBA Most Valuable Player race is the other battle that everyone seems to be keeping their eyes on. Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo won the league MVP award last season, beating out the Lakers’ LeBron James and Houston’s James Harden.
Looking at the 2020-2021 season, there are a lot of players that could possibly beat out Antetokounmpo for the award. Starting the year, LeBron and Antetokounmpo were considered to be the betting favorites to win the award. Here are the top five players with the best odds to win the MVP award for the 2021 season.
5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers +1200
One of the most clutch players in the league, Portland’s Damian Lillard is finally getting recognition in the form of the MVP conversation. Last year, in the Orlando Bubble, Lillard won the Bubble MVP Award for his performances. While the Blazers were unable to get far in the playoffs, Lillard’s efforts were noticeable. This season, Lillard has kept up his high level of play. Currently, Lillard is averaging 30 points per game and shooting 37.6% from beyond the three-point line.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks +900
The reigning MVP currently has the fourth-best odds to win the MVP award in 2021. If Giannis were to win the award again in 2021, he would be the first player to win it back to back since Steph Curry did in 2015-16. This season, Antetokounmpo is maintaining his MVP-level performance from last season. He is currently averaging just over 28 points per game, as well as 11.5 rebounds per game and 6.4 assists per game. His team currently sits in the third-place spot in the Eastern Conference and is looking to make a deeper run in the playoffs than they did in Orlando last year.
3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers +600
If there’s any player in the NBA that has MVP-caliber talents but has rarely been in the conversation, it’s Philadelphia’s center, Joel Embiid. This season, Embiid is averaging a career-high 29.9 points per game and has helped the Sixers maintain the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Thanks to his career-high 52.5% field goal percentage, and career-high 42.2% from beyond the arc, Embiid is finally playing like the dominant big man that he was touted to be out of Kansas and then some. He could be a sleeper selection for the MVP award at the end of the season.
2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers +450
While a high-ankle sprain has somewhat derailed a true MVP season, don’t count LeBron James out of the MVP race for the 2021 season. He still currently sits with the second-best odds to win the award, and for good reason. The 36-year old James was averaging just over 25 points per game before his ankle injury and had the Lakers rolling towards a powerful finish of the regular season. If James comes back from his injury and continues to play at the high level that he was, there’s no doubt he’ll be a top finalist for the MVP award at the end of the season. He should still be considered a heavy betting favorite, as it is likely unwise to bet against the superstar.
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets +110
If you asked Denver Nuggets fans who the league MVP would be at the beginning of the NBA season, they would have vehemently told you that center Nikola Jokic would be the MVP. At this point, Jokic is the current betting favorite to win the MVP award after LeBron’s ankle injury. Even without James’ injury, though, Jokic is playing like the league MVP. Jokic currently leads the Nuggets in every metric including minutes played, points per game, and field goal percentage. The 25-year old Serbian is currently averaging a career-high 27 points per game and is nearly averaging a triple-double with 11 rebounds per game and over eight assists a game. If you’re looking for a sure bet for MVP, Jokic is almost a lock to win the award.