NBA Betting: Stephen Curry Shoots To Top Of MVP Odds Board

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry celebrates with his arms outstretched after scoring a three-point basket against the Sacramento Kings
Image Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this year, Stephen Curry broke the NBA record for most career made three-pointers. It might not be the last personal milestone the Golden State Warriors’ superstar achieves this season.

With the 2021-22 season rapidly nearing its midpoint, Curry is the clear favorite to claim his third NBA MVP award. The surprise isn’t that Curry tops the list of NBA MVP betting contenders — after all, he ranks second in the league in scoring at 27.9 points per game; he’s averaging 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest; and he’s the main reason the Warriors entered Monday with a league-best 27-6 record.

No, the surprise is that Curry is putting together an MVP-caliber campaign as he approaches his 34th birthday (March 14).

A quick NBA MVP history lesson: The last 13 winners captured their honor no later than their age-28 season. This exclusive list includes LeBron James (four MVPs during this span), Curry (two), Giannis Antetokounmpo (two), Nikola Jokic (reigning MVP), James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose.

The last player to win the award at age 29 or later? The late, great Kobe Bryant, who was 30 when he garnered 82-percent of first-place votes in the 2007-08 campaign.

Curry is vying to become the oldest MVP since 31-year-old Steve Nash won the second of back-to-back MVPs during the 2005-06 season. The last time someone claimed the award in his mid-30s? Karl Malone, who was 35 when he won his second MVP in 1998-99.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of season left to be played. And there are plenty of contenders who could overtake Curry in the next four-plus months (most notably, a former teammate). That’s why recently asked BetMGM sports trading analyst Darren Darby to provide insight into the NBA MVP odds market and current betting action.

2021-22 NBA MVP Odds

Player Team MVP Odds
Stephen Curry Warriors +140
Kevin Durant Nets +225
Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks +850
Nikola Jokic Nuggets +1,200
Joel Embiid Sixers +3,000
Luka Doncic Mavericks +5,000
Paul George Clippers +6,000
LeBron James Lakers +6,600
Devin Booker Suns +6,600
Trae Young Hawks +6,600
Jayson Tatum Celtics +6,600
Jimmy Butler Heat +6,600
Zach LaVine Bulls +6,600
Chris Paul Suns +6,600
DeMar DeRozan Bulls +6,600

Odds via BetMGM and updated as of 7 p.m. EST on Dec. 21.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry drives toward the basket against the Sacramento Kings
Image Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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Prior to the season, Curry was the fifth choice on BetMGM’s NBA MVP odds board at +900. That was after the three-time scoring champion made a run at his third MVP trophy in 2020-21, when he finished a distant third behind Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.

A big reason why Curry came up short last year? Golden State barely finished above .500 (39-33) and got knocked out of the playoffs in the Western Conference play-in round.

This year, though, Golden State is winning better than 80 percent of its games. With their Christmas Day upset victory over the Suns, the Warriors hold a half-game lead over Phoenix (26-6) in the race for the NBA’s best record.

While you might think a team’s success shouldn’t significantly impact an individual award, that appears to be the case. After all, Curry’s leading the MVP race despite averaging 4.1 fewer points per game than last year and shooting worse from behind the arc (39.9% vs. 42.1%).

Of course, offsetting those modest statistical dips are these two facts: Curry is captaining a squad that has the league’s top-ranked scoring defense (101.2 points per game) and is outscoring opponents by an average of 10.3 points per contest (also tops in the NBA).

While Curry’s NBA MVP odds have dropped precipitously since the preseason, he’s not alone. His current primary challenger — Brooklyn Nets star Durant — has gone from +700 to +225. Also, Jokic has fallen from +1,600 to +1,200.

“It looks like a four-player race, with Steph and Durant as favorites,” BetMGM’s Darby said. “Giannis and Jokic are in a tier behind, but could easily jump to the betting favorite if someone ahead of them misses time.”

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LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter of the game at Target Center on December 17, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Image Credit: David Berding/Getty Images

Suns guard Devin Booker, who notched four games of 40-plus points during the playoffs last season, has seen his MVP odds at BetMGM plummet from +2,000 to +6,600 in a two-month span. Which is weird, considering Phoenix is right behind Golden State in the standings.

A similar fate has befallen injury-riddled Lakers star LeBron James. Despite averaging 25.9 points, 6.8 assists, and 6.6 rebounds, James’ NBA MVP odds have plunged from +1,400 (preseason) to +6,600 at BetMGM. Of course, two factors account for this particular odds dip: James missed several games in November, and the disappointing Lakers have dropped below .500 (16-18 record entering Monday).

As much as James has fallen down the NBA MVP odds board, Darby says the biggest tumble goes to Mavericks playmaker Luka Doncic. The preseason front-runner (+400) now sits at +5,000 at BetMGM.

Ticket Takers, Money Makers & Liability

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby
Image Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Curry’s status as an MVP favorite has more dimensions. He’s also the redoubtable leader in terms of betting tickets and money counts.

At BetMGM, 22.2 percent of NBA MVP tickets have been on Curry, which is tangibly higher than Jokic (13.1%), Booker (10.3%), Durant (9.5%), and Antetokounmpo (9.2%). And when it comes to handle, Curry is commanding more than half the MVP money that’s been wagered at BetMGM — a whopping 50.8. Durant is a distant second (14.7%).

It’s no surprise, then, that Curry is the biggest liability on BetMGM’s NBA MVP odds board — at least for now.

“It is still pretty early in the MVP race, and with COVID and usual injuries, the race and favorite could change multiple times,” Darby said. “This happened last season when [Doncic] opened as the favorite, [but] LeBron, Giannis, and Jokic were all favorites at different points in the season.”

There may have been a revolving door of MVP favorites for most of 2020-21, but in the end, Jokic was the runaway winner. After averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game, the Nuggets’ big man collected 91 of the 101 first-place votes.

So even though Curry currently has put some distance between himself and those chasing him, with more than half the campaign remaining, the NBA MVP race is far from over.