By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Online sportsbook Bovada (which will always remain Bodog in my heart) released its early NBA MVP odds for the 2017-18 season, an event which always gets people interested. How does the court of public opinion stack up to whatever calculations the quants ran in their secret super computers? Suprisingly, both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were listed among the top-25 most likely to win the award, with JoJo going off at 50/1 and Simmons listed at 66/1.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) August 16, 2017
Asking Ben Simmons to be in the MVP race as a rookie is too tall an order; in my opinion, you’d just be throwing your money away. Backing Embiid seems far more interesting and would basically be a long-shot bet that he has an exceedingly healthy year. Let’s say he plays close to 70 games, only missing when the team gives him a pre-determined rest day on certain back-to-backs. If Embiid even builds slightly on his absurd averages from last year of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks (which isn’t outlandish considering he was on a minutes restriction), that’s enough to get him in the conversation. If the Sixers were to improve by around 20 wins (going from 28 to the mid-to-high 40’s), the buzz around the team would be incredible. I’m not saying it’s likely, but at 50/1, it’s something to consider.
Regardless, it’s incredible that Sixers players are even listed so highly. It again speaks to the interest around the franchise and the promise this young roster has for the future.
Sixers homerism aside, here’s where I truly find the best value in the above list:
Kawhi Leonard (13/2) – Kawhi was in the discussion for MVP last year and the two guys who finished ahead of him (Russell Westbrook and James Harden) have both added high-profile stars to their teams to cut into their counting stats and credit for success. Kawhi basically has to duplicate his efforts from last season, which considering he’s improved every season he’s been in the league isn’t that crazy, and you’d be getting who I feel is the favorite at the third-highest odds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (17/2) – Here’s the list of players who have ever averaged at least 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in a season: Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s it. The Greek Freak already had a historically great season last year and he’s still only 22 years old. The Bucks are an up-and-coming team in a weak Eastern Conference. If everything clicks right and they’re battling for the 3 seed in the East, Giannis is going to receive serious MVP consideration.
Jimmy Butler (75/1) – Among those players with long odds, I love Butler’s candidacy the best. Only Westbrook, Harden, LeBron James, and Butler averaged at least 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists last season. That reads like a shortlist for potential MVP candidates. Butler also has a flair for clutch play, which voters seem to love. If the Timberwolves finally return to the playoffs, Butler will be seen as the catalyst. I think there are a handful of players with much better MVP chances, but his odds at 75/1 are far too long and seem worth a flyer.