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It's been awhile since the NBA's Most Valuable Player race this wide-open. Here are Bovada's odds to win the 2012-13 NBA MVP:
- LeBron James (MIA) 9/5
- Kevin Durant (OKC) 15/4
- Kobe Bryant (LAL) 12/1
- Russell Westbrook (OKC) 16/1
- Dwight Howard (LAL) 16/1
- Steve Nash (LAL) 16/1
- Chris Paul (LAC) 20/1
- Kevin Love (MIN) 20/1
- Dwyane Wade (MIA) 22/1
- Deron Williams (BK) 25/1
- Blake Griffin (LAC) 25/1
- Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 25/1
- Tony Parker (SAN) 25/1
- Rajon Rondo (BOS) 28/1
- Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 30/1
Let's examine this list closely. There are a few guys we can cross off almost instantly. Unless James or Durant gets seriously injured, Westbrook and Wade will have no chance of winning the MVP. Blake Griffin is still on the up rise in his career, but let's be honest, Chris Paul is the MVP of the Los Angeles Clippers. Without Paul, the Clippers wouldn't be a playoff team. Cross Griffin off.
The MVP odds list often goes off name recognition. Steve Nash is arguably the fourth best player on the Los Angeles Lakers. If the Lakers come out steam rolling, it'll be Howard or Bryant that receive a lion’s share of the credit. Nash has no chance of winning the MVP. Parker and Nowitzki could win the MVP if their respective teams finished with the best record, but that seems unlikely as well.
That leaves the list with Rajon Rondo, Anthony, Williams, Kevin Love, Paul, Howard, Bryant, and of course, James and Durant.
Of the remaining list, you would have to say Williams of the Brooklyn Nets and Anthony of the New York Knicks are the biggest long shots. Neither leads a team that anyone realistically thinks can win the NBA championship, but both play in the New York market. Because of the scrutiny and attention both will receive, they'll always be in the limelight. If they underperform, the critics will throw darts non-stop. But if they play above expectation, the limelight will work in their favor; similar to the way it does for the Notre Dame football team when it plays well. The odds are unlikely; especially since Anthony and Williams have done little to prove they can lead a team to an NBA title. With that said, neither player is a complete write off.
With Anthony and Williams now off the list, that leaves a collection of serious contenders for the MVP:
Bryant and Howard: It's easy to say Howard is the most talented player on the Lakers' roster, but we have to see how he reacts to playing in the new market first. He's not the leader of the Lakers, Bryant is, and he won't have the most offensive opportunities, Bryant will. Howard could steal the award from Bryant if he delivers one of the most dominant defensive seasons in years. The Lakers will have little issues on the offensive end of the floor, but on defense they could be a mess. If Howard can lock up the paint and take the pressure off of Nash and Bryant, he could prove to be the MVP of the league.
Love: The news of Love's broken hand that will sideline him for 6-8 weeks is a huge deterrent. But Love is still the best power forward in the NBA, and he now has a roster surrounding him that has the talent to reach the postseason. Leading the league in rebounding and finishing in the top five in scoring would serve Love well in the MVP race. Getting the Wolves to the playoffs would be even better.
Paul: There's doubt he could pull off the MVP award because of his tendency to go on cruise control until the fourth quarter, but there's no denying his importance to the Clippers. Without Paul, the Clippers would be a lottery team. Depending on where the Clippers finish in the standings will reflect Paul's MVP chances.
James: What is there to say? James will probably average 28-7-7 and lead the Heat to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. James' biggest competition may be the MVP voters, who tend to mix things up if one guy is dominating year-in and year-out, à la the 1996–97 NBA season when Karl Malone beat out Michael Jordan for the MVP.
Rondo and Durant: Where the race will become interesting is between Rondo and Durant. Obviously James will be in the mix, and Durant will too, but Rondo is becoming a serious dark horse. His odds, 28/1, are laughably low for being the most important player on one of the best teams in the NBA.
This race will come down to Rondo and Durant, with James being the default winner if neither of them takes it from him. Durant will be even better than last season, but he has internal competition with Westbrook. Look for Rondo to finally steal the title of best point guard from Paul in 2012-13. He's the best/most important player on the Boston Celtics and will put up an insane amount of triple-doubles.
Prediction: Rondo will win the 2012-13 MVP award, once again delaying Durant from winning his first MVP.