LeBron James, Anthony Edwards Drawing Early MVP Support

By John Gilpatrick July 24, 2022

LeBron James, Anthony Edwards Drawing Early MVP Support

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This LeBron James-for-MVP thing has knocked his line down as low as 18-1, and another player drawing early flier wagers is Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who just about nobody is discussing as a candidate for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award.

It is the middle of summer, and we are an awful long way from learning who will be crowned MVP. But summer is when the lines for individual awards are the most tantalizing, so Sidelines.io did some legwork with the four biggest books in the United States to see where the futures money is going.

At DraftKings, favorite Luka Doncic of Dallas has drawn 19 percent of all bets and a whopping 28 percent of handle, Giannis Antetokounmpo has drawn 13 percent of bets and 9 percent of handle, and James is No. 3 with 12 percent of the handle but just three percent of all bets.

At FanDuel, Doncic is taking 21 percent of all bets and 15 percent of all handle, followed by Ja Morant of Memphis with 11 percent of the handle and 7 percent of the bets, and Zion Williamson with 9 percent of handle at odds of +6500. James ranks fifth with 7 percent of the handle, with the odds still at +2400.

At BetMGM, the top three in handle are Doncic, Morant and Joel Embiid (at +600), with Detroit’s Cade Cummingham ranking a very strong eighth at +50000, just behind Boston’s Jayson Tatum and ahead of James. 

At PointsBet, Embiid ranks first with 38.1 percent of the handle and 16.3 percent of the bet count, followed by Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Minnesota’s Edwards tied for second with 14.2 percent of the handle. James did not make PointsBet’s Top 10 list.

Some of this can be explained by the regional affiliations of these books. BetMGM, for instance, has a sports lounge and casino within walking distance of Comerica Park, Ford Field and Little Caesars Arena, which means folks in The D (stoked by Cunningham’s rookie season) are more prone to put their money behind the hometown team.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) congratulates center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first quarter during game four of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) congratulates center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first quarter during game four of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

FanDuel and DraftKings are pretty much everywhere that legalized sports gambling is allowed, while PointsBet is not operating in Minnesota, which does not have legal sports betting, meaning that Minnesotans who might be placing those wagers on Edwards are doing so in the neighboring states of Iowa and South Dakota.

Or, PointsBet’s crowd is a little more savvy and fully believes that Edwards, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, is going to be such a factor on what should be one of the top teams in the West following the acquisition of Rudy Gobert, that he is going to make a significant leap from a guy who averaged 21.3 points and shot 35.7 percent from the 3-point range to a guy who can score in the 30 PPG range and shoot the long ball somewhere near 40 percent for a coach, Chris Finch, who will be featuring him to such a degree that Karl-Anthony Towns will not even be a consideration.

“Look, all of the guys we have listed are terrific players. LeBron gets played because he is LeBron, Steph Curry at 17-1, you could see a push prior to the season, and even Kawhi Leonard, who is 35-1, was not healthy last season, but I could see a guy like that getting bet,” said Johnny Avello, the Las Vegas-based director of Race and Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings. “All of them really do have a shot.”

NBA win total over/unders have started to be set by offshore sportsbooks but not by domestic books, and where the value lies this July is in individual player prop wagers – not only in the NBA but in the NFL, too, as training camps get set to open.

RELATED: NFC win total over-under: National NFL writers make their picks.

RELATED: AFC win total over-under: National NFL writers make their picks.

Sharp gamblers keep their eyes focused on these types of bets because of the size of the potential payoff, and as we explained earlier this week the idea of James becoming the oldest MVP in NBA history at age 38 is not all that farfetched now that he is 100 percent healthy and drawing standing-room only crowds to the Drew League. If you do not know how the narrative impacts award voting, you should read that one extra closely.

Wild cards that could impact everything include Kyrie Irving if he is traded some a team other than the Lakers (or, theoretically, if he remains with the Brooklyn Nets), whether the Portland Trail Blazers rise from the pack behind Damian Lillard, and even whether the Sacramento Kings are a contender as Marc Spears of ESPN boldly predicted this week, which would not only impact the MVP chances of Domantas Sabonis (+30000 at Caesars) but also the Most Improved Player chances for De’Aaron Fox (+12000 at FanDuel).

So this is a crapshoot to a certain degree and a science to another degree. Rarely does an NBA team have two individual award winners, and that has to be something the sharp gambler factors in when looking this far ahead.

And since the MVP is the creme de la crème of awards, a savvy gambler must base all of his picks on the assumption that the Coach of the Year, for instance, is not going to be the guy who led the team with the MVP.

Aside from Most Valuable Player, the books mentioned above listed the following players as the leaders in bet count and handle for Rookie of the Year, along with one other extra interesting tidbit:

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) talks to Houston Rockets forward Trhae Mitchell (40) during an NBA Summer League game at T&M. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) talks to Houston Rockets forward Trhae Mitchell (40) during an NBA Summer League game at T&M. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

_ DraftKings: Paolo Banchero, Orlando: 37 percent of handle; 36 percent of bets, followed by Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren and Sacramento’s Keegan Murray, the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League.

_ FanDuel: No ROY numbers, but the Lakers have drawn 27 percent of the handle and 16 percent of the bet count to win the title.

_ BetMGM: Banchero; 19.7 percent of tickets and 32.6 percent of handle; Jaden Ivey of the Pistons: 29.6 percent of tickets and 19.5 percent of handle, and Holmgren; 16.6 percent of tickets and 13.5 percent of handle.

_PointsBet: Ivey has 28.1 percent of tickets and 17.4 percent of handle; Banchero has 19.1 percent of handle but just 8.8 percent of tickets, and Holgren has 40.4 percent of handle and 14.0 percent of tickets.

Pretty much nobody is wagering on Walker Kessler of the Jazz, who we profiled on draft night as a guy to keep an eye on. He will likely be replacing Gobert as the starting center in Utah, he is the reigning NCAA Defensive Player of the Year, and he is +5000 at Caesars for Rookie of the Year and unlisted everywhere else. More on him as the season draws near.

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