Ranking Best Bets to Win 2018 NBA Finals MVP
NBA Finals MVP prices come via the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino and are accurate as of Wednesday, May 30. Always be sure to double-check these odds before placing a wager. They could move before Game 1 tips off. They’ll also ebb and flow during the middle of the series, depending on both player performances and single-game outcomes, since the NBA Finals MVP typically hails from the winning team. Players are presented in order of increasing likelihood that they’ll win, irrespective of their actual odds.
5. George Hill, Cleveland Cavaliers (+50000)
It becomes difficult to suss out a potential winner this far down the totem pole. There’s a definitive pool of three candidates, and then everyone else feels like a wild card.
This spot could just as easily go to someone on the Golden State Warriors—namely Klay Thompson or even 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. They’re the heavy favorites to win this series (-1100), and the Finals MVP typically comes from the winning side.
But someone from the Cleveland Cavaliers has to be considered other than LeBron James. And with Kevin Love’s status for the start of the series up in the air, per Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, that alternative honor falls to George Hill.
Yes, his odds are beyond a long shot. But that’s actually a good thing. He’s only going to win if the Cavaliers take home the title, and he’ll have to play out of his mind for that to happen.
The burden of defending Stephen Curry, and maybe a little bit of Klay Thompson, will fall on him. If he ends up slowing down the two-time MVP, well, then, wow. That’ll say a great deal about the Cavaliers’ chances to win this series.
More so than anyone else on the Cavaliers, Hill will also be in charge if keeping the offense afloat when James sits. He won’t catch many breathers, mostly because he can’t. Cleveland is a minus-8.8 points per 100 possessions without him on the court. But he will have to sit at some point, and Hill is the only player who stands a puncher’s chance of doing anything meaningful without him. Jordan Clarkson isn’t the guy. Rodney Hood doesn’t see the floor anymore. And the Cavaliers have played opponents to a virtual stalemate in Hill’s solo minutes without LeBron, according to NBA.com.
Don’t bet the farm on Hill. That would be a mistake. Just have him on your radar—particularly if the Cavaliers steal Game 1 or Game 2.
4. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (+2000)
Choosing a fourth candidate isn’t all that easy either. Again: The Finals MVP field in this specific matchup is rather exclusive.
Still, rolling with Draymond Green is a lot simpler than choosing anyone else. He remains the heartbeat of the Warriors defense. He won’t spend much time guarding LeBron James. That task will belong to Kevin Durant. But he’ll do everything else while serving as a secondary defender against the greatest-of-all-time candidate.
If the Warriors turn the Cavaliers’ offense into mush, Green will be at the heart of it, showcasing both rim protection, savvy in the passing lanes and next-level rebounding. That alone will put him in play to win the award.
But he could also leave his mark on the offensive end. He owns the Warriors’ highest defensive rebounding rates and assist percentage. Even with LeBron James existing, he could end up leading the NBA Finals in total triple-doubles. And if that happens, you better believe he’ll become an instant favorite to take home the hardware. He represents a great dark-horse option at +2000, blending both lucrative returns with semi-feasibility.
3. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (-140)
Kevin Durant ranks as the favorite to win the NBA Finals MVP trophy. That’s fair. He earned the distinction last year, and he’s in a pretty good position to lead the Warriors’ charge again this season.
Durant leads Golden State in points per game; he’s averaged 29 through the first three rounds. Leading scorers always have a great shot of landing MVP honors if they come from the winning side.
It helps, too, that Durant will be defending LeBron more than any of his teammates. He’s seen more possessions against him since joining the Warriors than anyone else, according to NBA.com’s matchup data. If he’s able to slow down James, halt is progress in any way or just simply outplay him, he could take home a second Finals MVP by default.
At the same time, there’s some risk caked in here. Durant is shooting under 30 percent on wide-open threes for the playoffs, and he’s spent an uncomfortably copious amount of time deviating from Golden State’s usual offensive model to work in the post or attack out of isolation from above the break. And though he finished the Houston Rockets series on a high note, shooting 11-of-21 from the field in Game 7, he combined to hit under 37 percent of his shots in Games 4, 5, and 6.
Cleveland doesn’t have the defensive integrity, attitude or switchability to cause the same problems Houston did. But Durant’s quasi-slump remains a red flag. Players who aren’t laying even money shouldn’t be working off that kind of topsy-turvy Conference Finals. Treat him as a cautionary favorite at best.
2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (+700)
Truth-telling time: Sticking LeBron James in the No. 2 slot is a risk. Finals MVPs usually come from the winning team, and sportsbooks aren’t giving the Cavaliers even a remote hope of upsetting the Warriors. Most have them as a +650, +700, +750 option; there’s even been some +900 and +950 action around the internet.
Do not mistake LeBron’s inclusion as faith in the Cavaliers. That’s not what this is. Take it more so as an acknowledgement that he may win the MVP award even if they don’t win the series.
Indeed, it rarely happens. But it almost happened in 2015, when LeBron dragged the shorthanded, bruised and battered Cavaliers squad to a six-game slugfest with the Warriors. And with most viewing his ability to reach the Finals with this supporting cast as one of his two greatest feats ever, it stands to reason he’ll generate similar consideration this time around.
Just look at the numbers. James is nearly averaging a triple-double for the postseason, with 34.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. He’s shooting 54.4 percent from the field and mass-producing 40-point double-doubles in his sleep.
If he keeps posting these numbers against the Warriors and the Cavaliers still lose, that no doubt damages his chances. Then again, many are predicting a sweep or five-game set. If James is the impetus for pushing the series to five competitive games, or six games, or even seven games, he’ll get tons of respect from the voters. After all, to even reach that point, he’ll need to average something like 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists per game. Can you honestly pick against him following that type of transcendent performance, regardless of whether his team wins or loses?
All in all, LeBron is a good value at +700. He’s something of a long shot, but he’s also LeBron James, so he’s more legitimate candidate than dark horse in practice. If you feel there’s even a half-reasonable chance the Cavaliers will make this a series, he’s your guy.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (+180)
Stephen Curry is the Warriors’ best player. Not Durant. Curry. There, we said it.
Look, perhaps Durant is better on an individual level. He’s the guy the Warriors will turn to in crunch time to create from-scratch offense. And that makes sense. He’s listed at 6’9″, but he’s basically 7’0″. He can shoot over just about anyone and has a much longer reach when trying to finish around the rim.
Still, Curry is the Warriors’ identity. His parking-lot range bends defenses in ways Durant’s pull-ups inside the arc never will. When Golden State was trailing Houston 3-2, many were up in arms that Curry didn’t have the ball in his hands enough. And they were right to be.
Durant is a mismatch nightmare. Curry creates functional chaos on the ball. That’s the difference. And he’s also a more reliable playmaker. Whereas Durant can be coaxed into attacking mismatches in the post and above the break that eat into the flow of the offense, Curry isn’t looking to post anyone up or shoot over smaller players off the dribble. He’s 6’3″. He’s not getting those opportunities. Even if he does, he’s not used to exploiting them.
There’s also a legacy vote weaved into this pick. Curry didn’t win in 2015 or 2017, and yet he more so than anyone else is responsible for who the Warriors are today. His efficiency has superseded Durant’s own marks, and he’s notching comparable scoring numbers. If he continues to play along these lines, within hugging distance of the reigning Finals MVP, he’ll engender the type of consideration from voters you wouldn’t typically see.
Whether that’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. It could happen. That’s what matters. So while Curry isn’t being pegged as the Finals MVP favorite, you’re encouraged to view him as such to open the series.
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