Once the craziness of all the Super Bowl action is in the rear-view mirror and the sportsbooks get a quick breather, we should see an increased focus on basketball odds. That will included updated NBA odds on individual player awards for the season. It may not happen until the All-Star Break, which follows the games of Feb. 13, but we are here to tell you there will be a new top dog for the MVP race.
First MVP In The Bag For Durant?
One game does not make an NBA season, not when there are 82 of them. That's not true in the NFL. Denver's Peyton Manning was the MVP favorite heading into the 2013 regular season but not by a ton over Aaron Rodgers. Once Manning torched the Ravens for seven TD passes on opening night, he took a big lead in the MVP race that he never relinquished.
It's hard in basketball to target one moment like that in an MVP race, but it appears to have happened on Wednesday. Oklahoma City went into Miami and thumped the NBA champion-favored Heat 112-95 despite falling into an early 18-point hole. It was the second-largest comeback ever in a win for OKC.
The big story line was Kevin Durant against LeBron James because Durant had been just 3-13 in his career against LeBron. James is the four-time MVP, but Durant was the better player on this night. KD finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals and the Thunder were plus-18 when he was on the court. He was 9-for-17 for 23 points when LeBron was guarding him. James had 34 points, three rebounds and three assists and the Heat were minus-17 with him playing. He was 2-for-6 with eight points when guarded by Durant.
It was Durant's 12th straight game scoring at least 30 points, the longest in the NBA since Tracy McGrady's 14 straight in 2002-03; he averaged 32.1 per game that season. For comparison, Michael Jordan never had 12 straight games with at least 30. Neither did Shaquille O'Neal nor LeBron. Durant is blowing away the field by averaging 31.3 points per game and a lock to win his fourth scoring title. He's on pace to become the only player other than Jordan (1995-96) to average over 30 points and shoot better than 40 percent from the 3-point line; Durant is at 42 percent from long range.
When Bovada released its last NBA odds for MVP, James was the 11/10 favorite with Durant 10/11. Indiana's Paul George (15/2) and Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge (12/1) were in the distance. When the new ones come out, there's no doubt Durant will be favored, perhaps as high as 3/1 for sports bettors. Possibly the only chance James has of catching Durant is for Durant to get hurt as James looks to become the first player in NBA history to win five MVPs over a six-year span. The Thunder also have a better record than Miami and play in a much tougher conference. Some might argue James has had to shoulder more of a load with Dwayne Wade occasionally missing games, but Oklahoma City has been without Russell Westbrook most of the season.
MCW Still Rookie To Beat
Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams, the No. 11 overall pick out of Syracuse, was the 5/4 favorite for sports bettors on the last release of NBA awards odds, and he will remain at the top on the next ones. MCW is having a fine season by averaging 17.2 points, 6.7 assists and 5.6 rebounds (entering Thursday) for a bad 76ers team, but he's also benefitting from the fact it's an extremely weak rookie crop this season.
Utah's Trey Bruke was the 2/1 second-favorite at sportsbooks and should remain there with the only other legitimate option being Orlando's Victor Oladipo (5/2 on NBA odds). Neither is coming close to filling up the box score like MCW and Burke missed a handful of games to start the season due to injury.
MCW looks likely to become the Sixers' first ROY since Allen Iverson in 1996-97. If you did a redraft today, Cleveland certainly wouldn't take Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall but might go with Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (Cavs don't need a point guard like MCW). The Bucks' "Greek Freak" is incredibly raw but looks to have the highest upside of this class.