Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are the league's most recent MVPs, but they both trail LeBron James in the early basketball odds for 2015-16. Which one's the better bet?
LeBron James this, LeBron James that. If he's the best player in basketball, how come he hasn't won the MVP since 2013? Fickle fans were happy to see Kevin Durant take home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy two years ago, then Stephen Curry outplayed James and everyone else in the NBA last year. Out with the old, in with the new.
Except James isn't quite done yet. He's still an incredibly gifted player, and James will no doubt be putting up monster numbers this season as he leads the Cleveland Cavaliers to the top of the Eastern Conference – and beyond. But when it comes to our NBA picks, we're not happy with James at 2-1 in the early MVP odds we're seeing across the pond. Not when Durant is available at 4-1, and Curry at 6-1. So which of these two alternatives looks more appealing?
In a way, Durant has a similar narrative for 2015-16 as James does. They'll both be trying to lift their teams to a higher level after slumping a bit last year; while James (25.9 PER, +7.4 BPM) saw his numbers dip with the Cavaliers, Durant (27.6 PER, +6.1 BPM) ended up playing just 27 games because of assorted injuries, as his Oklahoma City Thunder missed the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Like the Cavaliers, the Thunder made some key midseason upgrades last year, none more important than adding Enes Kanter (24.9 PER, +1.2 BPM) to the frontcourt. Provided that Durant stays healthy, Oklahoma City should be right back in the title mix, and Durant has proved likeable enough to win the MVP despite splitting votes with teammate Russell Westbrook. So how much do you want to bet that Durant stays healthy?
Better Call Paul
We'd rather cast our lot with the incumbent MVP. Not only does Curry (28.0 PER, +9.9 BPM) offer longer NBA odds, he's also missed just 10 regular season games in the last three years combined. And while Klay Thompson (20.8 PER, +2.7 BPM) could siphon off some of those MVP ballots on the West Coast, he only earned one fifth-place vote last year, and is a step below Westbrook in talent.
It's really an easy pick between Durant and Curry. Having said that, we think there's even more betting value to be found in a certain player who's been hosed more than once in the MVP voting. Chris Paul (26.0 PER, +7.5 BPM) could be in line for the same kind of “lifetime achievement” MVP nod that Kobe Bryant got in 2007-08; Paul's Los Angeles Clippers are on the verge of greatness after improving their bench this offseason, and he finished sixth in the voting last year with yet another superstar-quality campaign. Best of all, Paul is available at 22-1 in the Euro markets to win the MVP. Time to give the man his due.