It's hard to believe, but the 2015-16 NBA season tips off exactly two weeks from today. So we continue our preview of the season with a look at NBA MVP odds.
James One To Beat Again
I believe that LeBron James has been the NBA MVP preseason favorite every year since his second in the league. So obviously it's no shock that the world's best player is the +200 favorite on NBA odds to win this year's award. LeBron has won the award four times but is in a bit of a "slump" as he hasn't since repeating in the 2012-13 season while with Miami. He also went back-to-back in 2008-09 & '09-10 in his first go round with Cleveland.
Last year, James finished third in the MVP voting with 552 votes. James was limited to 69 games as he dealt with a few minor injuries and also took a sort of "sabbatical" during the season to get his mind and body right. Those were the second-fewest number of games James has ever played, which is pretty amazing considering how many minutes he has logged. His 36.1 minutes a game last year also were a career low. James averaged 25.3 points (lowest since his rookie season) on .488 shooting (lowest since 2007-08) along with 7.4 assists and 6.0 rebounds. Still pretty stellar numbers. The reason they were a bit down was because James had two good young All-Stars around him in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to help out. Irving obviously handled the ball a ton so James' assists dropped to its lowest level since 2006-07. And Love -- with Tristan Thompson and others -- handled the rebounding. James' rebounding total was his lowest since his rookie year.
I don't think James is a great candidate this year. The guy will be an old 31 in NBA years on Dec. 30. LeBron has all the individual accolades one could want. He's more worried about adding championships. Thus I expect James' minutes drop a bit more this season and it wouldn't surprise me if he missed double-digit games again simply for rest or to deal with minor injuries. It's all about the postseason for him.
Best Of The Rest
The second-favorites are Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and New Orleans' Anthony Davis at +400 on NBA picks. Durant of course was limited to only 27 games last year because of multiple surgeries on his broken foot. Apparently it's 100 percent now, but foot problems have plagued other big men in their NBA careers and ended them early. You don't think of Durant as a big man because he plays on the perimeter but the guy is nearly 7-foot tall. That foot worries me a bit.
Davis could well turn into the NBA's best player this year, his fourth in the league. The Pelicans are going to play more up-tempo under new coach Alvin Gentry so that should boost Davis' scoring numbers at a minimum. He averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks last year. If there's one knock on Davis it's that he's a bit injury prone. He has yet to play more than 68 games in a season.
The surprising winner of last season's MVP Award was Golden State's Steph Curry, who finished with 1,198 points and 100 of the possible 130 first-place votes. He's +650 to repeat. Voters love picking the best player on the NBA's best team and that was certainly Curry last year. He helped the Warriors win a franchise-record 67 games by averaging 23.8 points (sixth in the NBA), 7.7 assists (sixth), a career-high 2.04 steals (fourth) and 4.3 rebounds. He made 286 three-pointers, breaking his own NBA record of 272 set in 2012-13. Curry was the second Warriors player to win the award, joining Wilt Chamberlain, who was honored in 1959-60 when the franchise played in Philadelphia.
Houston's James Harden thought he should have won the MVP last year and by some metrics he probably should have. Harden finished second to Curry with 936 votes. Harden averaged 27.4 points (second in NBA), 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds for the Rockets, which finished with the No. 2 seed in the West. Houston also wants to play faster this year with the addition of Ty Lawson, so Harden's scoring actually could rise as he won't have to create off the dribble as much. Harden is +600 to win the MVP and the only other player below +1200.
NBA Free Pick: I'll go with Davis with a slight lean over Harden. James will get days off; Durant will split votes with Russell Westbrook.