Just two weeks shy of his 38th birthday, LeBron James continues to produce at an elite level. But is that enough to be considered a contender for the newly-named Michael Jordan Trophy awarded as the league’s most valuable player this season?
Love him or hate him, James has unquestionably had one of the most remarkable careers in NBA history. “King James” has won four NBA titles for three different franchises, four NBA Finals MVP awards, four Playoff MVP awards, and four NBA MVP awards while being named to 18 All-Star teams.
The bookmakers at BetMGM have James at +30,000 right now to win his fifth MVP award, a long shot for sure and well behind the Boston Celtics Jason Tatum (+250), the Milwaukee Bucks’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300), and Luka Doncic (+350) of the Dallas Mavericks. Joel Embiid (+1100), Stephen Curry (+1300), Zion Williamson (+2000), two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic (+2200), and La Morant (+3000) round out the top ten favorites.
Efficiency vs. the Competition
John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a great one-stop measure of a player’s statistical production. It includes “positive accomplishments such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals. It also takes negative stats into accounts, such as missed shots, turnovers, and personal fouls.” The league average is always set to 15, while the league leaders generally sit in the high 20s to low 30s.
It is an efficient stat, so it rates production while on the floor. Players that play a lot of minutes at peak efficiency for winning teams are the most valuable in the league. Jokic currently leads the NBA with a 33.15 PER, followed by James’ Los Angeles Laker teammate Anthony Davis at 32.41. Doncic rounds out the top three with a 30.84 PER in 27 games.
Where is James? The Laker forward checks in at 22.75 PER, 21st in the league and well behind the leaders. Playing in only 22 of his teams’ 29 games hasn’t helped James’ rating, and the teams’ willingness to sit him in the second game of back-to-back contests will undoubtedly pull down his PER even more. Davis’ recent injury may put James on the court more, but he will have to put up some monstrous numbers to catch the leaders.
The Lake Show Leaving Prime Time?
The good news is that Los Angeles has stabilized their season after a terrible start. They’ve won 6 out of their last 10, are 13-16, and, most importantly, just 1.5 games out of a play-in spot. The bad news is that they’re entering a tough stretch on their schedule with seven of their next eight games on the road, including two back-to-back games against during that stretch.
Worse, the Lakers will play without Anthony Davis, who will be out for at least a month with a foot injury suffered in the Laker’s 126-108 win against the Denver Nuggets last Friday Friday night. Without their Davis, Los Angeles could find itself well out of a playoff spot two weeks into the new year.
Currently, the Lakers are +3500 to win the Western Conference and +6600 to win the NBA Finals. Hard to see those odds shortening until Davis returns.
Other Player Props
The NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award
This award may not thrill a future Hall of Famer, but the Laker’s Russell Westbrook is the favorite.
- Russell Westbrook +125
- Jordan Poole +300
- Benedict Mathurin +1000
- Christian Wood +1200
- Malcolm Brogdon +1600
- Bobby Portis +1600
- Colin Sexton +2000
- Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland +2500
- Kevin Love +3500
- Norman Powell +5000
Westbrook is coming off the bench for the first time since his rookie year. He’s playing 28.1 minutes a game (vs. 34.5 minutes for his career) while averaging 14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game, all well below his career averages but generally in line with his reduced court time.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
With the Bucks, Ex-Laker Brook Lopez is the demonstrable favorite to win his first Defensive Player of the Year award at even money. OG Anunby of the Toronto Raptors is a distant second, along with Lopez’s teammate Antetokounmpo at +650. USC alumni Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers rounds out the field at +1200.
Other Laker Props
Several other Lakers only have long-shot odds in different award categories. Lonnie Walker IV is priced at +25,000, and Austin Reaves at +50,000 for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Darvin Ham opened at +1,800 but, with a slow start this season, is currently at +8,000 for Coach of the Year.