On Thursday morning, betting giant Bovada released their opening odds for who will win Most Valuable Player at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 NBA season. At the top of the list are the names everyone expects to see: LeBron James (10/3), Anthony Davis (4/1), Giannis Antetokounmpo (9/2), 2018 MVP James Harden (11/2), and Kevin Durant (9/1). If you look further down the list, you will see both Joel Embiid at 9 (16/1) and Ben Simmons at 11 (35/1). Not to be forgotten, Simmons has better odds than both Donovan Mitchell (16th) and Jayson Tatum (25th) For a Philly sports fan, it is relieving to see our two franchise cornerstones being recognized for their superstar skills.
Bovada’s odds are fair and what is to be expected. Between Kevin Durant at the 5 spot and Joel Embiid at 9 are Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and Steph Curry. Between Embiid and Simmons is Kyrie Irving. Embiid, in my opinion, is the more likely of the two to receive MVP honors. With a fully healthy season, it is not too hard to believe that The Process could land in the top 5 at the end of the campaign with his ability to score from every spot on the floor, rebound tenaciously, and defend at his Second Team All-Defense level. Last season, Embiid averaged 22.9 PPG, 11 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.8 BPG and with his first healthy offseason of his career alongside trainer Drew Hanlen, it is entirely feasible for the Cameroonian big man to build on those statistics. His importance to the Philadelphia 76ers is unquestioned, and as the best player on a top-two team in the Eastern Conference, his value is sky-high.
Is Joel Embiid my top pick for MVP? Sadly, no. I, like Bovada, believe LeBron James will be the 2018-2019 MVP after his change of scenery to Los Angeles. With his arrival, the Lakers will make the playoffs for the first time in five years, and The King will bring out the best in his young teammates Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. Then again, LBJ could win MVP every year and nobody would bat an eye.
This year’s MVP race is going to be close once again, and depending on injuries, the race could be up for grabs. I wish the best of luck to both Embiid and Simmons in the upcoming season to continue proving their doubters wrong and cementing their positions as NBA royalty.
University of South Carolina ’21