Throughout the NBA’s regular season, there were a number of candidates for MVP. But there were only three that anyone considered to be a serious candidate; really just two, but there was a short time where a third looked like he might have a shot.
The NBA recently announced that those three, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, and James Harden, are indeed the finalist for the Kia NBA MVP award this year.
However, while George had an admirable season this year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, he is not considered a legitimate candidate. His odds got as close as +750 in late February, but otherwise, the race has clearly been between just Antetokounmpo and Harden.
George’s odds were +2200 according to SportsBettingDime.com as of April 1. Antetokounmpo, who is favored and expected by many to win, had -210 odds on the same date. Harden’s were +170.
Antetokounmpo started the season as the favorite with just slightly better odds than Harden. But then Harden and the Rockets took a nosedive to start the season and Harden’s shot right up. However, as he went on his 30+ points a night streak and the Rockets became contenders again, his odds shortened right up.
For a brief time, Harden even had better odds than Antetokounmpo and reached a low of -190 (Antetokounmpo’s were +340 at the time; January 25).
But down the stretch, Harden seemed less focused on scoring (but still put up some points; won the scoring title with 36.1 points/game), more on defense—and his odds rose. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, saw his odds shorten from +340 to -210.
So—who is going to win?
In any given season, both would certainly be award-worthy. However, towards the end of the regular season, the attention seemed to be almost solely on Antetokounmpo. Most do expect him to win. But Harden did have a great season as well. He is not the defender that Antetokounmpo is, but he is more active on the offensive end.
A case could easily be made for either, but if the media is to be believed, there is no way Antetokounmpo loses. But the media has been wrong before….