The safest bet in the NBA calls for Kevin Durant to hoist the Most Valuable Player.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward has unleashed his scoring blowtorch this season, notching 31.9 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the floor and a shade under 40 percent from three-point range.
According to betting Web site Oddschecker, the 25-year-old claims the best odds of winning his first-career MVP at 1/3, followed by reigning crown holder LeBron James at 2/1 and smooth-shooting forward Kevin Love way back at 100/1.
Durant has led the Thunder to a tie for the second best record in the league at 47-17, despite point guard and top running mate Russell Westbrook missing 30 games due to torn meniscus. Over the last four years, Durant has finished second to James in MVP voting three times, but that appears likely to change.
Durant could be the first player to win both the scoring title and MVP in the same season since Allen Iverson back in 2001.
James has the unfortunate task of topping his previous four MVP seasons, much like greats like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson before him. Leading the Heat in points, rebounds, and assists for a fourth straight year, James has the club poised for a third consecutive championship run. He could be the first player since Larry Bird to pick up the MVP in three successive seasons.
Averages of 26.5 points and 13.1 rebounds scream MVP, but Love’s play hasn’t been enough to lift the Timberwolves up the crowded Western Conference. The situation could be different if the Minnesota played in the East, where they’d hold down the No. 7 seed and even be in striking distance of the third spot.
Rookie of the Year
Banking mostly on his excellent start to the season, Philadelphia 76ers' youngster Michael Carter-Williams figures to be the third straight point guard named ROY at 2/13 odds despite his squad’s present 17-game losing streak.
Besting all rookies with 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, the former Syracuse star has proven to be Philadelphia’s floor leader of the future.
Much of Philadelphia’s slide can be attributed to its trading away of top assets like former leading scorer Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes before last month’s deadline. Things should certainly pick up next season when Carter-Williams and the Sixers have a full year with center Nerlens Noel, as well as a top prospect from the loaded 2014 NBA Draft.
Orlando Magic shooting guard and No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo is behind at 20/21 odds, and Thunder center Steven Adams has a 19/10 chance.
Oladipo’s posted a solid stat line of 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, but has struggled with his shot and turnovers throughout the 19-46 Magic season. His role is seen as less demanding than Carter-Williams, but in most years Oladipo would be the favorite with countless highlight dunks and excellent play on the defensive end.
Adams’s numbers aren’t eye-popping whatsoever (3.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 47.9 percent shooting), but he’s quickly adapted to defense in the NBA and has been a very good backup for Serge Ibaka.
Utah point guard Trey Burke also holds an outside chance at 12/5, as does Phoenix big man Alex Len at 14/5. Recovery from hand surgery slowed Burke’s start to the season, but he does boast a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Carter-Williams and has shot 91 percent from the free throw line. The Jazz have also won seven more games than Philadelphia.
Len’s first year has been marred with various injuries, limiting him to 30 games. Also at his height, less than half a block a game is arguably inexcusable. However, if the Suns make the playoffs a healthy Len could be a dangerous x-factor with his touch and power around the basket.
MVP Prediction: Durant, but not by a landslide
ROY Prediction: Carter-Williams, with Oladipo syphoning some votes due to Philly’s losing streak.