NBA Betting: Ranking Top 10 Players vs. MVP Odds

Jason Lake

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 5:48 PM GMT

The NBA odds are out for who will win the 2014-15 MVP award, and to nobody’s surprise, LeBron James is front and center. But figuring out who’s the best bet isn’t as simple as figuring out who the best players are.

It’s that time of year again: ESPN is rolling out its annual ranking of NBA players, all the way from No. 500 (Shayne Whittington, Indiana Pacers) to whomever gets named No. 1. We’re guessing it’ll be LeBron James. He’s the consensus best player in the league, and has been for some time now. But he’s not the reigning Most Valuable Player. That honor went to Kevin Durant last year.

How do these things happen? Because “most valuable” is subjective. You can use all kind of statistics to support your No. 1 in the NBA pick, but it’s still ultimately a matter of opinion. And the only opinions that count are those of the voters – the panel of talking heads and basketball scribes, 125 of them in total, who get to decide who wins the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. If you want to bet on who will win the 2014-15 MVP award, you’d better get with the program and stay on top of the NBA odds.

 

Let’s Get Real
As an exercise, let’s look at who the Top 10 players in the NBA were last year in terms of the hot new metric that’s sweeping the nation, Real Plus-Minus (RPM). This is ESPN’s take on Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus; proper credit for the development of RPM goes to statheads Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. It’s a decent enough metric, definitely a step up from Player Efficiency Rating, since it also accounts for defensive performance.

Here’s how ESPN defines RPM: “Player's estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents, coaches and additional factors.”
 

And here’s how the Top 10 in RPM Shook Out Last Year:

1. LeBron James: 9.08
2. Chris Paul: 7.98
3. Andre Iguodala: 6.63
4. Kevin Durant: 6.42
5. Dirk Nowitzki: 6.35
6. Stephen Curry: 6.24
7. Nick Collison: 5.72
8. Manu Ginobili: 5.42
9. Tim Duncan: 5.33
10. LaMarcus Aldridge: 5.12

Defend Yourself
As you can imagine, not everyone on this list got much MVP consideration last year. Iguodala, Collison, and even Duncan and Aldridge made it into the RPM Top 10 primarily on the strength of their defense, and defense just doesn’t figure into the national basketball conversation as much as offense. Scoring is something people enjoy and understand somewhat. Scoring can be measured easily. Defense? Not so much.

Then there’s the whole “popularity” thing. But before we get to that, let’s go ahead and trot out the Top 10 finishers in last year’s MVP voting. The panelists put their own Top 5 on the ballot; 10 points are awarded for every first-place vote, seven points for second, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth.
 

Top 10 Finishers in Last Year’s MVP Voting

1. Kevin Durant: 1232
2. LeBron James: 891
3. Blake Griffin: 434
4. Joakim Noah: 322
5. James Harden: 85
6. Stephen Curry: 66
7. Chris Paul: 45
8. Al Jefferson: 34
9. Paul George: 33
10. LaMarcus Aldridge: 26

 

Everybody Hates Chris
So we need to talk about Chris Paul. Surly though he may be, here’s a player who is consistently among the very best in the league, but as far as the voters are concerned, he’s not even the most valuable player on his own team.

Griffin finished last year ranked No. 15 in RPM at 4.65, sandwiched between Mike Conley (4.70 RPM) and Amir Johnson (4.61 RPM). But Griffin sure was funny in that red jumpsuit in those car commercials with That Guy from That Show.

Popularity is also why Durant won last year’s MVP. Arguments were made that Durant had to carry the load more for the Oklahoma City Thunder after Russell Westbrook was injured. Whatevs.

Meanwhile, James was still carrying residual hate from The Decision, but now that he’s back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, everyone loves him again, and provided James doesn’t suffer a freak injury, he’s practically a cinch to win his fifth MVP award. Bodog has James pegged as the 5-6 favorite as we go to press. There are no “value” NBA Picks this year.

But just for completion’s sake, here are the Top 10 favorites in the MVP race. May the sphere be with you this season.

Top 10 Favorites in the MVP

1. LeBron James: 5-6
2. Kevin Durant: 9-2
3. Blake Griffin: 12-1
4. Derrick Rose: 15-1
5. Russell Westbrook: 15-1
6. Chris Paul: 16-1
7. Anthony Davis: 20-1
8. Carmelo Anthony: 25-1
9. Stephen Curry: 25-1
10. Kobe Bryant: 28-1