Although Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder walked away with his first MVP award after the departure of Kevin Durant, the MVP race was much closer than anticipated for a player who averaged a tripe double on the season – something that has not been accomplished since Oscar Robertson in 1962-1962. This season, Mr. Triple Double, Russell Westbrook, leads the way again in NBA MVP award odds at +350, followed closely by Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors at +450 and Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs at +650. Here is a look at how to handicap the NBA MVP award.
Performance From The Past Season
Usually, when a player wins the MVP award, they almost always post improved statistics compared to the prior year. When a player regresses following a MVP campaign, it is quite difficult to make an argument for the player repeating when there are so many deserving candidates. As a result, when a player wins the MVP award in one year by posting ridiculous statistics that surpass their career averages, it is more likely that this player’s performance the next season will regress back to the mean. As a result, it would be prudent to focus on a player or two who you believe has not reached their peak yet and is bound for a breakout performance.
Strength Of Team
It is tough to make a justification for a player to win the MVP award when his team barely made the playoffs or missed out on making the playoffs altogether. Historically, the MVP award has been given out to a player whose team has had good to great success. After all, how valuable is a player if his team is not able to string together a solid season? Circumstances such as Westbrook’s last season is different since the Thunder’s best player in Durant shocked the entire franchise by leaving to the Warriors. Since Westbrook was still able to carry the Thunder to a decent record and qualify for the playoffs with a relatively mediocre supporting cast, this definitely warrants him winning the MVP award. However, those circumstances are rare. Because of this, it is important to focus on, not only the player himself, but also how his team will likely perform during the season.
Number Of Stars On Team
Last year, when Durant arguably had his more efficient scoring and best defensive season to date, his ability to win the MVP award was lessened due to the fact that he joined a team that broke the number of regular season wins last year and was considered by some to be the greatest team of all time – then you add in the NBA’s best scorer and a former MVP award winner to the equation. When a team is as stacked as the Warriors, it is harder to make a case for any one individual player on the team to win the MVP award since this individual has the rare luxury of being able to be carried when he is having an off night by his All-Star teammates. However, for a team with one bonafide superstar surrounded by solid contributors, his chances of winning the MVP award is much better since he will be the de facto leader and best player on the team. If the team has a spectacular season or completely shatters expectations in a good way, you can bet that the team’s best player will likely be in strong contention for the MVP award.