2021-22 NBA MVP odds: Early value on Ben Simmons amid trade rumors
We're mere weeks removed from the end of the 2020-21 NBA season and are still hours away from the start of free agency, but there's never a better time to find value in the MVP market. While most stars will be in similar situations to last year, some could see significant a boost in value if they switch teams - or work on key parts of their game.
Here are the early MVP odds (200-1 or shorter) and three players to target before the offseason gets underway:
Damian Lillard (+1100)
Lillard isn't going anywhere ... right? The Blazers star seemingly postured for a trade shortly after his team's unceremonious first-round playoff exit, and rumors continue to swirl about his unhappiness in Portland. If he were to force his way to a contender, it could be a boon to his MVP profile should his team win 55 games or more and secure a top seed in the postseason.
Even if he stays put, Lillard has the production and pedigree to compete in this market. The six-time All-NBA guard flirted with MVP consideration a year ago before ultimately finishing sixth; he finished fourth in voting in 2018 before three subsequent top-10 finishes. If the Blazers can build a contender around him this offseason, watch out.
Paul George (+3500)
It was only two years ago that George finished third in MVP voting and looked like the version of the two-way star we expected from his early success with the Pacers. Since then, he's slogged through two embattled years with the Clippers, though he teased that superstar upside in a heroic effort in the postseason with teammate Kawhi Leonard sidelined.
There's a chance, albeit small, Leonard departs L.A. this year and leaves George as the central piece of an elite Clippers roster. If that happens, this price is a steal. And even if Leonard stays, he's likely to miss a large portion of the season, and George has flashed MVP potential alongside a ball-dominant running mate before. He can do it again.
Ben Simmons (+20000)
Have oddsmakers lost their mind? Yes, Simmons is a punching bag after his brutal playoff showing for the 76ers, but he still finished 12th in MVP voting a year ago despite playing alongside MVP runner-up Joel Embiid.
Those two have always been a poor fit on the floor, and it has complicated Simmons' star skill set. The former No. 1 pick is arguably the most talented passer in the league, is an elite scorer in the lane, ranked third among guards in rebounding last year, and was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. His shooting is atrocious, but it's also the easiest area to fix if he finds himself in the right situation with the right coaching.
The Sixers are actively shopping their embattled star, which is the best-case scenario for his MVP stock. If Simmons ends up in a spot where his elite skills are emphasized and his shooting improves even marginally, he's a top-25 player in the league with top-10 upside. Grab this price and run.