Heading into the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, no player stands out as a heavy favorite in the MVP race. Five players have between +500 and +800 MVP odds. The top nine candidates have +1800 odds or better.

Luka Doncic leads the way with +500 odds at FanDuel Sportsbook. The Dallas Mavericks star is technically the betting favorite for the second straight year. Doncic finished sixth in the 2021 MVP voting, and it was clear for most of the season that he wouldn’t be the winner.

Kevin Durant (+650) is second on the list, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700). Durant might be the best basketball player on the planet, but injuries have prevented him from contending for the award since 2019. Antetokounmpo was fourth in last year’s voting after winning back-to-back MVP awards.

Joel Embiid (+800) and Stephen Curry (+800) finished second and third, respectively, in the 2021 MVP race. It was the best finish of Embiid’s career. Curry won the award in 2014 and 2015. 

Damian Lillard (+1200) has been a top-eight MVP candidate, at worst, in four straight seasons. Four-time MVP LeBron James (+1600) was a top-two MVP candidate last season before a sprained ankle derailed his quest to win the award a fifth time.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (+1600) won the award as a dark-horse candidate. The Denver Nuggets center started the season with +3600 odds. Jokic finished with averages of 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game for the West’s No. 3 seed.

Here’s a look at the best bets and a prediction for the 2022 NBA MVP award with odds from FanDuel Sportsbook.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700)

An argument can be made that Durant or James is still the NBA’s best player come postseason time, but there’s no denying that Antetokounmpo is the league’s top regular-season performer. After running away with the MVP award in 2019 and 2020, Antetokounmpo was nearly as good in 2021. During those three seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks’ star has never averaged worse than 27.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. It’s possible that the Greek Freak got even better during Milwaukee’s championship run, which culminated with him winning the NBA Finals MVP award. Antetokounmpo’s prowess on defense makes him a better bet than Doncic or Durant.

James Harden (+1800)

Harden isn’t among the betting favorites because he’s the second-best player on his own team, but he could play his way into the discussion if the Brooklyn Nets continue to be cautious with Durant’s minutes. Harden had five top-three MVP finishes from 2015-2020, winning the award in 2018. The guard finished that stretch with three scoring titles. Harden even garnered some brief MVP buzz last season before a hamstring injury derailed his campaign. If Kyrie Irving remains away from the team, Harden’s MVP chances will only increase.

Chris Paul (+8500)

Paul’s consistency makes him the best long-shot bet on the board. The point guard has finished seventh and fifth in MVP voting the last two seasons, missing just two games each year. A healthy Paul virtually guarantees that his team will be a contender. If the Phoenix Suns can finish with a top-two record for the second straight season, either Paul or Devin Booker will at least be in the MVP conversation.

MVP Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Kevin Durant Giannis Nets Bucks Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets is defended by Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of Game Three of the Eastern Conference second round playoff series at the Fiserv Forum on June 10, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images