NOT FOOTBALL PART DEUX…FPS subscribers get a sneak peak of my NBA piece on Fantasy Pros. Enjoy, and bet well…
With every selection, or betting exposure I advise, we focus on one thing: profit. With that being said, whether through data or procedure I’ve found it best to start out “reverse engineering the problem”. What’s the problem? How to maximize likely profit, by selecting the NBA MVP. As for the solution, with all futures bets, (especially MVP picks) the first step is to understand how the award is determined.
The NBA MVP selection process has had a unique history, and has changed multiple times. At first, it was essentially a player’s award (MVP being selected by peers). After 1981 it was decided that a panel of NBA media, including not desirably in hinesight: “hometown” broadcasters, would make the selection. As of today we have the modern system where the MVP is decided (mainly) by a disclosed select panel, of “non-hometown” media types. Knowing this, we start the process by looking at the current favorites.
As for the 2020-21 NBA MVP race the lines list the odds as follows:
Current NBA MVP Odds:
|Player||NBA MVP Odds|
Those odds, along with a fun graphic thanks to SportsBettingDime to see the change in odds over time gives us a starting point.
2020-21 NBA MVP Change in Odds (thanks to SportsBettingDime):
Now that we see the landscape, it’s best to first consider what the EVENTUAL NBA MVP “looked like” (in regards to odds) coming into the season in the past seasons.
Previous Winners (and Preseason Odds)
|2019-20||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||275|
|2018-19||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||400|
|2017-18||James Harden||Houston Rockets||750|
|2016-17||Russell Westbrook||Oklahoma City Thunder||300|
|2015-16||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||650|
|2014-15||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||4000|
|2013-14||Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City Thunder||300|
|2012-13||LeBron James||Miami Heat||160|
|2011-12||LeBron James||Miami Heat||250|
|2010-11||Derrick Rose||Chicago Bulls||2500|
|2009-10||LeBron James||Cleveland Cavaliers||275|
|2008-09||LeBron James||Cleveland Cavaliers||250|
|2007-08||Kobe Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers||500|
|2006-07||Dirk Nowitzki||Dallas Mavericks||700|
As you can see, the NBA is relatively predictive in terms of eventual NBA MVP given the award has been given out to a player averaging +808 payout. Put another way, the NBA MVP is typically within the top 3-5 favorites coming into the season.
Knowing this, along with the current odds the next step is to whittle down our pool to those most likely to be productive. With any bet, advanced statistics will be the best place to start. Remember, it’s not what you know, it’s what you know relative to the market. And the market, or at least 75% of it, use traditional data/gut to make selections. In other words, you can gain a clear advantage leveraging advanced metrics. Metrics like Basketball Reference’s “VORP” (their NBA version of WAR). As it turns out, VORP is HIGHLY tied in/predictive with the NBA MVP. Frankly, it’s almost eerie. Outside of (likely bias against) LeBron James in a handful of years, the number one ranked VORP player for the year has won the MVP, and never has been lower than 3rd. Take a look at this chart of previous winners and their VORP Ranking.
NBA MVP, VORP Ranking and “Higher ranked VORP player if not selected MVP”:
|Year||Player||Team||Odds||VORP Rk||Higher Ranked|
|2019-20||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||275||2||James Harden|
|2018-19||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||400||2||James Harden|
|2017-18||James Harden||Houston Rockets||750||2||LeBron James|
|2016-17||Russell Westbrook||Oklahoma City Thunder||300||1||na|
|2015-16||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||650||1||na|
|2014-15||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||4000||2||James Harden|
|2013-14||Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City Thunder||300||1||na|
|2012-13||LeBron James||Miami Heat||160||1||na|
|2011-12||LeBron James||Miami Heat||250||1||na|
|2010-11||Derrick Rose||Chicago Bulls||2500||3||LeBron James, Chris Paul|
|2009-10||LeBron James||Cleveland Cavaliers||275||1||na|
|2008-09||LeBron James||Cleveland Cavaliers||250||1||na|
|2007-08||Kobe Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers||500||3||LeBron James, Chris Paul|
|2006-07||Dirk Nowitzki||Dallas Mavericks||700||2||LeBron James|
Granted, these are end of year metrics, but there’s still plenty to glean from this info from a predictive nature. At least with some simple adjustments.
Adjusting for the remaining schedule thanks to tankathon, we can get a decent proxy as to where VORP will most likely end up at the end of season.
NBA MVP Favorites, VORP and Remaining Schedule Adjustment
|Player||NBA MVP Odds||Tm||VORP RK.||VORP||REMAINING Scd.EASE||Fut. Scd. Adj. EXP VORP|
Putting it altogether,
- VORP is insanely correlated with MVP (so let’s only consider top 5)
- Final VORP is what actually matters, so lets add an adjustment for upcoming schedule
- Knowing that the NBA winner is typically in the +800 range (and much more likely to be on the favorite end of the spectrum compared to MLB), we would LIKE to keep picks in that range, but EV along with the other variables have us setting the limit at +1400
This leaves us with two picks:
The best pick: Nikola Jokic.
The most likely profitable pick: Luka Doncic
If you bet on Giannis Antetokounmpo, or even James Harden we wouldn’t blame you. They are still positive EV picks given our process. If you really want to go above and beyond, and minimize risk, similar to the process we broke down in MLB Futures, we highly recommend you follow the MVP selectors to make the absolute best pick. If you haven’t read up on the thought process, simply put, the award is determined by humans. Humans that have twitter accounts. Twitter accounts reveal. We hope to automate the “MVP Selector’s Twitter Post” data mining in the future, but if you want to help ensure profit, here’s a great list/account of picks of the current NBA MVP panel by Hoops Hype.