Shane Lambert looks at the market for the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2017 and he likes the 25/1 on offer about Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio Spurs.
Stephen Curry is the favorite to win the 2016/17 NBA MVP Award. The guard for the Golden State Warriors has won the award twice, including last season when he was the unanimous pick. It's not surprising to see him priced no longer than 10/3 with Ladbrokes, I think however there are a few good reasons to avoid Curry in favor of Kawhi Leonard.
One reason has to do with Curry's potential for a long-term injury. Curry played in 79 games in the regular season last year, meaning he only missed three. That's certainly not a shocking amount of missed games, especially since NBA stats focus more on averages than totals.
However, when the playoffs came around last season Curry's injuries became a good reason to start betting against the Golden State Warriors. Writing on May 19th this year Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN called Curry the "banged-up MVP," noting ankle/foot problems, an MCL sprain, and an elbow problem.
The MVP is a regular season award so a playoff-time injury would affect nothing in the MVP betting market. However, the point to take away is that Curry's injuries can resurface. The problems he had last year are now part of his medical history and I would expect him to miss more time this season than last season. While missed games don't hurt averages, there is a point where you miss too many games and the writers that vote for the award start to lose some respect for your stats. Curry, after his "banged-up" playoffs, might flirt with this point.
Another good reason to avoid Curry has to do with team dynamics. The Warriors landed Kevin Durant during the off-season, a move that fans and pundits alike have mixed feelings about. But one thing it will likely do is curb Curry's shot opportunities.
Curry might see his shots per game reduced as he plays alongside another prolific scorer. While the team might be just as powerful as last season's, the MVP award is an individual one. Lower averages might make Curry look a little off-pace, even if the reason for the reduction has more to do with Durant taking a big chunk of the team's shots. In turn, it may still affect voting patterns.
Lastly, I think that Curry should be avoided because of the fact that it's been a long time since the MVP award was won three times consecutively by the same player. Larry Bird won it three years straight in the mid-1980's however that was 30 years ago now. Since then, no one has won the award three times in a row and there could be some voter bias working into that.
We can't overlook the fact that the MVP title is awarded subjectively through voting as opposed to some kind of pre-determined objective criteria. Take it or leave it, but I think that the writers that vote might have a desire to see someone else win the award this season. Any kind of close 'coin toss' race and maybe some writers figure that since Curry's won it twice he has won it enough and his greatness has been recognized. Such an inclination could work in the favor of other players besides Curry.
The MVP market is one that is often left open during the season. That's important to note because you can look at stats after a few games, see who is off to a great start, and bet with some clues. For example, last season I tipped Curry to win at decent 6/1 odds based on early-season clues. However, during the pre-season I like to go with longshots alone.
Kawhi Leonard at 25/1 with BetVictor (2.5-pt)
Leonard finished 2nd in MVP voting last season. At 25/1 entering this season, that alone is good enough for me.
The 25 year old is the two-time defensive player of the year and, with Tim Duncan retired, Leonard's the new face of the 3rd-favorite Spurs. He always misses time with injury, but remember - that's not overly considered. In the NBA it's averages that are primarily looked at. That doesn't mean you can miss half the season and still win the award, but Leonard missed 12% of last season and still finished 2nd so I wouldn't get hung up on injury concerns with this player. Furthermore, he is actually heading in the right direction when it comes to missed games as last year was a career low.
2.5 points win Kawhi Leonard - NBA MVP at 25/1 with BetVictor and Ladbrokes