NBA Spotlight on Bulls, Cavs Heading into the All-Star Break

LeBron Rose
LeBron Rose
LeBron James and Derrick Rose hook up in Chicago tonight.

The National Basketball Association is a one-man show this evening as all of the focus is on the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. It also happens to be the last game of the “first half” of the season. Friday evening brings a number of events as does Saturday before it all culminates on Sunday in the annual All-Star Game between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The first portion of the season has brought numerous storylines to the forefront of the league. From Atlanta’s rise in the East to the rise of Golden State and Memphis in the West.

Today I’m looking at the Bulls and Cavs as the two Central Division rivals hook up with momentum for the second half on the line.

Cleveland (-1) at Chicago (O/U 201.5) – The Cavaliers have been as streaky as any team in the National Basketball Association this season and they’re now in the midst of an upswing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. As I wrote in the blog yesterday, LeBron James tweeting an anonymous, motivational message to teammate Kevin Love was not the way I or many others would have done things but if it works then OK.

Kevin Love responded to LeBron's tweet but will he keep it going?

At 33-20, the Bulls have a solid record and lead the Cavaliers by just a game right now in the Eastern Conference. Chicago is tied with Washington for the third seed but holds the tie-breaker while Cleveland sits in fifth. The fact of the matter is, and this goes for both the Cavs and Bulls, is that they are light years behind conference leader Atlanta who has a lead of 11 and 10 games respectively.

Although the All-Star Game is this weekend, the season is well past the halfway point. What this means for the Cavs and Bulls is that any designs on getting the one seed in the East are futile barring an epic collapse by the Hawks and I don’t see it happening.

If you didn’t think the Bulls and Cavaliers were close enough in just about every way then consider this; they both average exactly 102.0 points per game and defensively Cleveland gives up 99.2 points per game while Chicago gives up 99.1. So far this season, the Cavaliers own a 2-0 record against the Bulls.

Cleveland won the first match-up with Chicago in the Windy City in overtime and then defeated the Bulls in Cleveland by 14.

The Pick: If Kevin Love continues to play inspired and LeBron keeps on being LeBron then the Cavs are going to be difficult on anyone they play. While the Bulls have the advantage of being at home this evening, they also played Miami last evening while Cleveland had an off night. Keep in ind too that the Bulls have better on the road than at home. Take the Cavs to cover and take the UNDER tonight as well.

Trends: Cleveland has won nine of their last ten games (written before conclusion of last night’s game)… Chicago has won three straight games and six of their last ten games… The Cavs are 12-12 on the road… The Bulls are 14-11 at home.

Social Media Motivation Would Never Have Flown in Jordan’s Day.

I can't imagine Michael Jordan eve sending a tweet to motivate a teammate.

Fair or unfair, those of us who were alive to watch every second of Michael Jordan play basketball in college and in the NBA have naturally compared LeBron James to him. Much like the natural cycle of life, comparing great players in any sport is a rite of passage. I have always found the comparisons of players from different eras to be fruitless.

While team titles are typically used as one of the more important factors in deciding what player is better, that shouldn’t always be the overriding fact either. Karl Malone and Charles Barkely never won titles but should that detract from their greatness? Will Kobe always be second fiddle to Jordan because he will likely finish with five titles to Jordan’s six? Keep in mind, Bryant has surpassed Jordan in all-time scoring but will he ever be put atop of his Airness?

More than likely not.

Let me get back to my original thought about Jordan and LeBron… I couldn’t help but wonder this week about social media and Michael Jordan. What would Jordan have been like had social media been around as it is today?

James and Love
Taking to Twitter to motivate Kevin Love may have worked for LeBron but I don't think it looks good.

I ask this because of a tweet LeBron James directed at Kevin Love. First of all, this is what the tweet read: “Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts.”

Once that comment made the rounds, it became clear it was directed at Love who admitted a day after that he was a bit taken aback by it but didn’t have a problem with it. I credit Love for taking the high road here and I wish I could do the same with LeBron.

Can you imagine Jordan taking the passive-aggressive approach that James did? I’m almost in a complete chuckle over the thought. No one in modern sports’ history was as notorious for getting after his teammates like Jordan did. Read any definitive book on Jordan or books by his teammates and they’ll tell you that Jordan had complete authority things even got to the point where Jordan would challenge players by hitting them.

While that last part may have in fact gone a bit overboard, it sure as heck beats the move by James.

If LeBron had something to say to Love then he should have said it in-house and behind closed doors. I’m not letting Jordan off the hook because there were times when he would make comments to the press about guys needing to play better but he didn’t hide from his comments either.

I realize I’m from a different generation than the one currently playing sports today but isn’t there still a “proper way of doing things?”

Great leaders know how to motivate their teammates and maybe James is a better leader than I give him credit. Perhaps he’s been around Love long enough now to know that this was the best way to get his attention and motivate him. He did have his best game as a Cavalier immediately following the message.

Still, I don’t think Jordan would have ever taken this course of action and I hope LeBron chooses a more private course himself in the future. While comparing these two will never end, one area I think Jordan clearly has an advantage is his assassin’s attitude and ability to lead others.

Take note LeBron.

Minnesota Timberwolves Close the Book of Love

The NBA, players, coaches and fans alike knew that the Minnesota Timberwolves had to trade power forward Kevin Love.

The franchise’s face played in Minnesota for six seasons without reaching the postseason once. He did not see eye to eye with former team president David Kahn over an extension and spent most of last season putting up his best numbers individually as an NBA player, while occasionally having run-ins with his teammates in a locker room that was highly fractured.

Love wanted to leave Minnesota, the fans wanted him out and a seventh season for the two just seemed out of the question.

The Wolves did not have much leverage, but management had to convince teams that were ready to take advantage of the situation, that the Timberwolves really did not have to trade away Love.

On Saturday, a summer long saga came to its conclusion when the Wolves sent Love to Cleveland. Other players and other teams were involved in the trade, but Love was the featured star.

Minnesota however was lucky to land the two last No. 1 picks overall in the draft and a talented forward who is just 26 and averaged nearly 18 points a game last season, for a superstar who already had one of his feet out the door.

When Flip Saunders took Kahn’s place last summer, his priority was trying to persuade Love to stay with the club.

That did not pan out and as early as the day the season ended for Minnesota, they were taking bids from other teams, while trying to convince them they did not have to trade Love.

The Timberwolves were near a deal with Golden State at the time of the draft, but the Warriors decision not to include Klay Thompson in the deal broke it.

The Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics all made offers, but none was worthwhile to Saunders of the rest of the front office.

By waiting and holding out, the Wolves were able to get a deal they were comfortable with and one they felt was worth the wait.

Once LeBron James decided to play in Cleveland, the whole dynamics changed as the Cavaliers approached the Timberwolves with quite a bit to offer.

At first, Cleveland refused to offer Wiggins, who was the player most important to Minnesota. Minnesota waited for James to push the Cavs to make something happen.

Once the particulars were worked out and the three teams involved received whom they were hoping for, the deal was agreed to.

The Timberwolves quickly turned the page on the Love era as soon as the trade was completed last weekend and have already moved on, as has the man who wanted out, Kevin Love.

The pressure now starts to build for Cleveland to see if they can mesh LeBron and Love together to form a team that wins the NBA championship.

Tuesday Night NBA Tips

Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves will look to upset the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.

We love Tuesday nights around here. It’s one of only two nights of the week that is solely about the round ball. Well, at least while the NHL officials and players continue to shuffle their feet.

Tuesday sees a relatively compact schedule of games around the Association, but don’t let that put you off; there are some real doozies to get behind.


Dallas Mavericks @ Philadelphia 76ers

Any elation the Mavericks might have had about knocking off New York on Wednesday was clipped by a weak performance against the Lakers. The purple and gold side ran out 115-89 winners on Saturday.

Dallas (7-7, 2-4 road) now heads to Philadelphia (8-6, 5-4 home) to take on a 76ers side looking to find some consistency. In the wake of news that Andrew Bynum will be out even longer, Doug Collins’ side took a victory last time out, beating the Suns 104-101 in the City of Brotherly Love. That win snapped a two-game skid.

The game marks the first of eight road games in 10 for a Mavericks side that has struggled on the road so far this year, and is beginning to look desperate for the return of Dirk Nowitzki.

Odds: The hometown Sixers have a slight edge (-2) in this one. The over/under is 195½.

Take: Philadelphia – The Sixers are 4-1 against the Western Conference this season, with wins over Denver, New Orleans, Utah and Phoenix. Only the powerhouse Thunder team has been successful against the Sixers. Take the total to go under; the Sixers struggle to score 100 against the west.


Minnesota Timberwolves @ Sacramento Kings

In dire need of a win, Minnesota (5-7, 2-4 road) travels to Sacramento (4-9, 4-4 home) in a bid to win Kevin Love his first game since returning from injury. The Timberwolves are also looking to snap a six-game losing streak.

Sacramento may be a Pacific Division bottom feeder but the Kings have looked sharp of late, taking two of three, including a win over the Lakers last Wednesday. Tyreke Evans and Co. will look to make it three from four against the Wolves. Sacramento has won six of the last seven against the Wolves in Northern California, a trend the side will look to ride on Tuesday night.

Odds: The spread opened even in this one but most bookies have the Kings as one-point favorites. The over/under is 197.

Take: Minnesota – The Wolves have a real shot at an upset here, and while you’re not likely to make a bundle off of one win, you’ll make a little more from taking the underdog here. Take the total to go under.


Indiana Pacers @ Los Angeles Lakers

The basketball god must really want the Lakers (7-7, 6-3 home) break out of this early season slump; the Southern California side takes to its home court for the 10th time in 15 games, Tuesday night. Of course, for every prolonged home stint, the team faces a devilish road trip.

Tonight the Lakers host Indiana (6-8, 2-6 road), a side reeling in the wake of Danny Granger’s long-term injury. That being said, the Pacers managed to patch together three wins from four before dropping Friday’s game in San Antonio. A victory over the Lakers would move Frank Vogel’s side one step closer to .500, and one step closer to turning things around.

The Lakers bounced back from a two-game losing skid with a definitive victory over Dallas on Saturday. Despite an ailing record, the purple and gold side has been fairly solid at home, dropping just one of the last six at Staples Center.

Odds: The Lakers are the heaviest favored side in the league tonight with the spread opening at 7½-points. The over/under is 195½.

Take: Los Angeles – Despite niggling injuries, the Lakers’ home record suggests that they have enough to get past Indiana, but don’t be surprised if the Pacers cover the spread. Take the total to go over.


Tuesday’s Full Schedule (Favorites highlighted)

Phoenix Suns @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Dallas Mavericks @ Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto Raptor @ Houston Rockets

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Sacramento Kings

Indiana Pacers @ Los Angeles Lakers

Last Orders on Pre-Tip NBA Betting

It’s back!

The 2012-13 NBA regular season opens tonight, promising plenty of drama and excitement. From the slew of preseason injuries to the presentation of the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, all eyes will be on the hardwood and those that take to it over the next six months.

Here at CasinoReview we’ve spent the better part of October getting you ready for tonight’s tipoff. We’ve detailed both conferences, MVP candidates, and those most likely to lead the league in a plethora of statistical categories. Now all that’s left is to leave you with a few suggestions. Below we’ve picked those we like best to take each category, and thrown in a wildcard just for good measure.


Eastern Conference Champion

Take: Miami Heat (4/7)

Wildcard: Indiana Pacers (14/1)

The Heat may be a boring choice but the Eastern Conference – which has been shallow in terms of good teams for years now – has little to offer Miami in terms of competition. Of course there’s always the chance of an upstart team coming through, or injury ravaging the Heat, but this is the safest best to take.

Indiana has just enough talent and has shown just enough resolve over the past few seasons to suggest that they can go deep into the playoffs. They won’t be trying to fit in a bunch of new components. Add this to lengthier odds than the likes of Boston and Chicago and you have a nice little wildcard to put a stake on.


Western Conference Champion

Take: Los Angeles Lakers (13/10)

Wildcard: San Antonio Spurs (6/1)

The Western Conference is more competitive than the East, but despite the fact that the Lakers have runaway with the odds of late, there’s still a question of who will take the conference. The Lakers remain the best bet, thanks to that star-studded lineup.

San Antonio is by no means a longshot in the vein of a Minnesota (45/1) or Sacramento (100/1) but realistically the Spurs have a chance of taking the West. A very realistic chance. These odds a worth taking now before Popovich’s side starts rolling to another league-best record.


NBA Champion

Take: Miami Heat (9/4)

Wildcard: San Antonio Spurs (12/1)

The question in the NBA this season is can the Heat beat the West? The answer could prove to be yes, and it could also prove to be a big fat no. At this stage, Miami looks most likely to make the Finals, and has the potential to defeat anybody from the West. OKC couldn’t beat the Heat this past summer. Can they this year?

Again, San Antonio isn’t a massively long shot but they have the potential to win out West and with all that experience, it’s hard to argue against them having the ability to beat the Heat in a long series.



Take: LeBron James (19/10)

Wildcard: Deron Williams (25/1)

James took a massive step forward last year, guiding his team to the championship and being a team leader in the same breath. If Miami is as dominant as it looks capable of, LeBron will almost certainly be a candidate for MVP. The addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis gives James two more legitimate offensive threats to pass off to, which gives him another string to his bow.

The Nets could do some serious damage in the East this year. A new city, arena, and lineup could give the team a new outlook on life. That’s the plan anyway. If it does, expect Williams to be the spearhead of all that is good for those new black and white jerseys. Williams also has the shortest odds (shared with Blake Griffin) for a player not plying their trade in South Beach, Hollywood, or OKC.


Leading Scorer

Take: Kevin Durant (2/3)

Wildcard: Carmelo Anthony (7/1)

Some trends aren’t worth messing with. For three straight years Durant has won the league scoring title. You’d be a fool to bet against him this year, particularly as he may need to make up for the now departed James Harden. Sure Lamb and Martin can shoulder some scoring but you think they’ll have the ball in their hands at crucial moments of the game? Harden did.

You’d more commonly be recommended to avoid betting on Carmelo Anthony in any category not titled ‘least likely to make it out of the first round of the playoffs’. This season could be different though. If New York is to be successful, Anthony needs to follow Marshawn Lynch’s lead, eat some Skittles and turn on Beast Mode. Shouldering his team – particularly with Stoudemire out for the first six weeks (minimum) – and scoring a bunch of points will be vital for Anthony if he’ss to lead his aging Knicks anywhere. He led Team USA in scoring during this summer’s London Olympics off the bench, so he can do it. But will he?


Rebound Leader

Take: Kevin Love (5/2)

Wildcard: Kris Humphries (40/1)

The obvious choice and favorite (10/4) is Dwight Howard, winner of four of the last five rebounding titles. But Howard will see some of his numbers absorbed by Pau Gasol. Plus, the Lakers tend to miss shots less that Orlando. Love becomes your best pick then. He finished second in rebounding last year, and once back from injury, looks set to lead the T’Wolves to the promised land of the postseason.

Kris Humphries is a real long shot but consider this: the Nets’ big man finished fifth in rebounding this year, and should be a little less Kardashian-shocked this year. Add to that an improved New Jersey Brooklyn side and you have an outside gamble worth some action.


Assist Leader

Take: Chris Paul (7/1)

Wildcard: Jose Calderon (40/1)

Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash finished ahead of Paul in the assists table last season, but both look to lose some passes this year. Rondo will need to score more, while the Lakers are likely to pass the ball around more. That’s not to say Nash isn’t going to get his fair share of pick and roll assists. But Paul will be able to pass the ball off more, presumably, to the likes of Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, and Blake Griffin, of course. He’ll still need to score, but those lob opportunities will still be there.

Few people will think much of the Raptors this year, which is probably why Jose Calderon is 40/1 to lead the league in assists. The Spaniard finished fourth in assists last year though, and will still be able to play a pass-first offense north of the border, a factor that could make him a worthwhile wildcard bet.


There you have it. You’ve still got a few hours before the Wizards tipoff in Cleveland (7 PM ET) to start the 2012-13 NBA season. Get your last bets in now.

Buckets, Boards and Dimes: Place Your Bets Now


So, we’ve checked out the Eastern Conference odds, the Western Conference odds, and the battle for the MVP, surely there isn’t anything else we can bet on ahead of the NBA season, is there?

Of course there is. Bovada released a new list of Player Props this week, giving serious bettors the opportunity to wager on who will lead the NBA in points, rebounds and assists during the 2012-13 season.

Here’s a look at the frontrunners in each category with less than two weeks until tipoff.


2012-13 Regular Season Points per Game Leader

Kevin Durant will look to win his fourth straight scoring title, the first player to achieve such a feat since Michael Jordan won seven in a row (1986-87 to 1992-93).

After three seasons leading the league in scoring, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that the odds of Kevin Durant leading the league in scoring are even. The Thunder forward has averaged 28.7 points per game since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, a season that saw him average more the 30 points per game.

LeBron James (2/1) takes the second place spot in oddsmakers’ lists. The Miami forward finished third in scoring last season, after some early season confusion between who should have the ball at crucial times of the game. Since Dwyane Wade has made it clear that this is LeBron’s team, James could take the scoring title this season, to go alongside the same award he won back in 2007-08.

Surprisingly, Carmelo Anthony (6/1) takes third place on the odds list. Anthony averaged 22.6 PPG last season, enough to lead the Knicks, but not enough to make the Knicks a threat. Perhaps oddsmakers liked his big time performances in the Olympics, or perhaps they believe he will be more relevant this season. One thing’s for sure: if the Knicks want to advance, Anthony will need to shoulder the load.

Former two-time scoring champion Kobe Bryant (13/2) takes fourth position while former one-time scoring champion Dwyane Wade (20/1) follows up. Bryant’s odds have most likely dropped thanks to the retooling the Lakers have undertaken, with Howard and Nash looking set to soak up some of the points. Wade will simply be offensive option number two (behind James).

Kevin Love (20/1) could also prove a threat as he looks to lead the Timberwolves to the promised land of the postseason. More on him later.

Leading Scorer Odds

Kevin Durant (OKC) 1/1 | LeBron James (MIA) 2/1 |Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 6/1 | Kobe Bryant (LAL) 13/2 | Dwyane Wade (MIA) 20/1 | Kevin Love (MIN) 20/1 | Amare Stoudemire (NYK) 25/1 | Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 30/1 | Andrew Bynum (PHI) 30/1 | Blake Griffin (LAC) 30/1 |Russell Westbrook (OKC) 50/1 | LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) 50/1 | Any Other Player 35/1

2011-12 Leaders

1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 28.0 PPG | 2. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 27.9 | 3. LeBron James (MIA) 27.1 | 4. Kevin Love (MIN) 26.0 | 5. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 23.6


2012-13 Regular Season Rebounds per Game Leader

Minnesota's Kevin Love is favorite to lead the league in rebounding this season.

Perhaps the most obvious choice for rebounding champion this season would be Dwight Howard. The big man has won four of the last five rebounding titles, including the 2011-12 season. With a career average of 13 rebounds per game, it would be difficult to argue with Howard as the favorite. But Howard isn’t the favorite.

At 5/4, Kevin Love – who led the league in rebounding in 2010-11 – is favorite with the bookies. The Minnesota forward has a career average of 12.0 RPG and has been a revelation in Minnesota this past season. Barring injury, this could be Love’s biggest season yet.

Dwight Howard (3/2) is second on the list, a result perhaps of Love’s emergence, Howard’s own injuries, and the fact that he’ll be sharing board time with Pau Gasol, who can generally be relied upon for 10 boards per game. If you’re wondering, Gasol is 65/1 to take the rebounding title.

After Howard, Blake Griffin (8/1), Joakim Noah (17/2), and Andrew Bynum (15/1) round out the top five. Only Bynum finished in the top five last season, and he’ll have a good shot this season for one simple reason; the Sixers miss more shots than the Lakers, giving the seven-footer an opportunity to swipe more boards.

Leading Rebounder Odds

Kevin Love (MIN) 5/4 | Dwight Howard (LAL) 3/2 | Blake Griffin (LAC) 8/1 | Joakim Noah (CHI) 17/2 | Andrew Bynum (PHI) 15/1 | DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 20/1 |Tyson Chandler (NYK) 25/1 | Zach Randolph (MEM) 30/1 | Greg Monroe (DET) 30/1 | Marcin Gortat (PHO) 40/1 |Anderson Varejao (CLE) 40/1 | Kris Humphries (BKN) 40/1 | Andrew Bogut (GSW) 50/1 | Pau Gasol (LAL) 65/1 | Any Other Player 35/1

2011-12 Leaders

1. Dwight Howard (ORL) 14.5 RPG | 2. Kevin Love (MIN) 13.3 | 3. Andrew Bynum (LAL) 11.8 | 4. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 11.0 | 5. Kris Humphries (NJN) 11.0

2012-13 Regular Season Assists Leader

Rajon Rondo - the first Celtic to lead the league in assists since Bob Cousy - is favorite to repeat the feat this season.

After leading the league in assists last season, Boston’s Rajon Rondo is favorite (5/2) to do the same this campaign. Rondo became the first Celtic to achieve the feat since Bob Cousy in the 1959-60 season.

Rondo will face tough opposition in this particular chase though, particularly from Steve Nash (4/1) and Chris Paul (5/1), who collectively account for the seven assist titles before Rondo’s award last season. Nash will have all kinds of new toys to play with in the gold and purple side of Los Angeles, while Paul will again look to lead the ‘Lob City’ charge across the hallway.

Oddsmakers like Deron Williams (7/2) even more than Nash and Paul though. A strong performance at London 2012 and the addition of Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn (not New Jersey) offense will perceivably give the Nets guard more options.

Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (17/2) closes out the top five. After being derailed midway through last season, the Spanish guard will look to dazzle again this season, with Kevin Love looking to be the recipient of Rubio’s quick hands.

Assist Leader Odds

Rajon Rondo (BOS) 5/2 | Deron Williams (BK) 7/2 | Steve Nash (LAL) 4/1 | Chris Paul (LAC) 5/1 | Ricky Rubio (MIN) 17/2 | John Wall (WAS) 9/1 | Jrue Holiday (PHI) 12/1 | Tony Parker (SA) 12/1 | Raymond Felton (NYK) 20/1 | Ty Lawson (DEN) 20/1 |Jose Calderon (TOR) 40/1 | Russell Westbrook (OKC) 40/1 | Any Other Player 35/1

2011-12 Leaders

1. Rajon Rondo (BOS) 11.7 APG | 2. Steve Nash (PHX) 10.7 | 3. Chris Paul (LAC) 9.1 | 4. Jose Calderon (TOR) 8.8 | 5. Deron Williams (NJN) 8.7

As Early Look at the NBA’s Most Valuable Player

Unsurprisingly, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are top of oddsmakers' lists when it comes to dishing out the NBA MVP award.

With 13 days (and counting) until the NBA season tips off proper, it’s time to take a look at the top MVP candidates this season.

Whilst fans, ‘experts’ and TV analysts may deem it far too early to be considering end of season trophies, bettors know that now is the time to get in on some early action, before it becomes clear that Dwight Howard’s back will prohibit his performance, Derrick Rose’s injury will keep him out all year, or Paul Pierce will return even bigger than he did following last summer’s lockout. Of course, we don’t know if any of that is true, but that’s what makes betting now so fun, not to mention profitable.

Preseason MVP odds are seriously lopsided. In fact, consider them ridiculously lopsided. In a season that oddsmakers believe will be dominated by the ‘Big Three’ of Miami, the Lakers, and Oklahoma City (see our reports on the Western and Eastern Conferences), no fewer than six players associated with those teams top the potential MVP lists. Six!

Top of the heap is reining League and Finals MVP, LeBron James. The Miami forward is considered 9/5 to lift the Maurice Podoloff trophy, on the back of outstanding performances last season. ‘King’ James averaged 27.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game in what was the best all-around performance the NBA has seen in quite some time. Of course, he also led the Miami Heat to the NBA championship.

An MVP award this season will put LeBron James will tie the Miami forward with Wilt Chamberlain (4), putting him just one behind Michael Jordan (5) and two behind all-time leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6).

James’ nearest rival – at least in the bookies’ eyes – is his Finals rival, Kevin Durant. Durant (15/4) has consistently made himself a better player since being drafted by Seattle in 2007. Last season’s 28.0 PPG average marked the third straight season that the Oklahoma City forward led the league in scoring. 2011-12 was also the third straight season in which Durant was named to the All-NBA first team.

Wouldn’t you know it; number three on oddsmakers’ lists is Lakers guard, Kobe Bryant (12/1). Remarkably, despite his position at the top of the game for the past 15 years, Bryant has only ever won one MVP award (2008). Having been surrounded by superstar players for much of his careers, it appears voters have shied away. Don’t expect that to change this year, with the addition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Laker arsenal.

Following the ‘Big Three’ from the ‘Big Three’, Russell Westbrook (16/1), Dwight Howard (16/1), and Steve Nash (16/1) round up oddsmakers’ lists in quick succession. It’s hard to imagine any of these taking the trophy over their ‘leaders’, but the NBA is a funny old place. If you’re wondering; Dwyane Wade (25/1), Chris Bosh (50/1), and Pau Gasol (60/1) all make the top 25 also.

Now, let’s give it up for the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Minnesota’s Kevin Love. Both considered 20/1 to take the award. This makes them the first players to be in the MVP discussion not wearing a ‘Big Three’ jersey. Paul is a legitimate candidate, due to his leading a side that should improve on last year, and could be up there at the end. Love is less of a contender mainly because while his Timberwolves side looks to be better this year, it still doesn’t look like a serious playoff threat, and regardless of what anybody says, voters will take that into consideration.

Next up: Deron Williams. The Brooklyn point guard avoided a potential offseason pitfall, quickly inking a deal with the Nets before heading to London to win an Olympic Gold Medal. Much of the star-baiting that was expected failed to materialize due to the quick signature, which means Williams has been able to focus on nothing but on-court action this summer. This will undoubtedly help him going forward, with new team mates and a brand new arena. At 25/1, Williams is a longshot for MVP, but if he were to somehow lead the Nets to a high finish, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Other notable contenders include former MVPs Dirk Nowitzki (30/1), Derrick Rose (50/1) and Tim Duncan (60/1), but all would have to be considered very longshots. Check below to see who else made the top 25.


Top 25 MVP Candidates

L. James (MIA) 9/5 | K. Durant (OKC) 15/7 | K. Bryant (LAL) 12/1 | R. Westbrook (OKC) 16/1 | D. Howard (LAL) 16/1 | S. Nash (LAL) 16/1 | C. Paul (LAC) 20/1 | K. Love (MIN) 20/1 | D. Wade (MIA) 22/1 |D. Williams (BKN) 25/1 | B. Griffin (LAC) 25/1 | C. Anthony (NYK) 25/1 | T. Parker (SAS) 25/1 | R. Rondo (BOS) 28/1 | D. Nowitzki (DAL) 30/1 | A. Bynum (PHI) 40/1 | C. Bosh (MIA) 50/1 | D. Rose (CHI) 50/1 | D. Granger (IND) 60/1 | K. Irving (CLE) 60/1 | P. Gasol (LAL) 60/1 | P. Pierce (BOS) 60/1 | T. Duncan (SAS) 60/1 | A. Stoudemire (NYK) 75/1 | J. Johnson (BKN) 75/1


Active MVP Award Winners

2012: L. James (MIA) | 2011: D. Rose (CHI) | 2010: L. James (CLE) | 2009: L. James (CLE) | 2008: K. Bryant (LAL) | 2007: D. Nowitzki (DAL) | 2006: S. Nash (PHX) | 2005: S. Nash (PHX) | 2004: K. Garnett (MIN) | 2003: T. Duncan (SAS) | 2002: T. Duncan (SAS)