NBA Finals 2024: Analyzing The "Trick" of the MVP Bet

Tue, Jun 4, 2024
by CapperTek


The 2024 NBA Finals are set, with the Boston Celtics looking like a heavy favorite to secure an 18th Championship. The No.1 seeds were dominant in the regular season, breezed through the Playoffs, and will face a Dallas Mavericks team that they have already beaten twice this season. Logic points to a Celtics’ win, although we can make plenty of arguments for the Mavericks, especially as they have grown into the season.

However, let’s say hypothetically that you, as a bettor, are keen on the Celtics. You are looking at odds of -225 or thereabouts for a Celtics’ victory. Sure, you can look at other NBA lines for the series, but if you fancy the Celtics to get the job done eventually, that’s the price. It feels about right for a team that has every indicator pointing toward a potential champion, including home-court advantage (a weapon Boston used to great effect this season).

Tatum backed for MVP

Nonetheless, you can be sure that some bettors will look beyond the team’s victory to the Finals MVP markets, backing Boston’s star man Jayson Tatum. The odds for Tatum to secure Finals MVP are in the region of -115, securing a much better return than the Celtics winning the series. For some, it’s the value bet.

Now, we don’t want to argue about Tatum’s chances specifically. It’s clear that he was brilliant throughout the regular season; there were some criticisms that he took his foot off the gas through the Playoffs, yet some of that can arguably be put down to Boston not needing to get out of second gear.

Star man usually gets the nod

We do want to highlight the logic in this market generally, i.e., backing the star player over his team to win the series. If you look at recent NBA Finals MVPs – Jokic, Curry, Antetokounmpo, James, Leonard – you can broadly see this makes sense. Last season, for example, Jokic felt nailed on to guide the Nuggets to victory. His odds (-300) were less generous than Tatum’s this term, but the logic remains the same.

Of course, this same strategy – if that’s what we can call it – is not limited to NBA. If you fancied the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl this past two seasons, a more logical bet might have been to back Patrick Mahomes to win Super Bowl MVP, which he duly did. His odds were slightly better than the Chiefs in each of his three Super Bowl-winning seasons.

Shocks can happen

Is there a flaw in the strategy? Yes, several. For a start, you are effectively making two separate bets, even if the outcomes are influenced by each other. For all intents and purposes, you are betting on both the Celtics to win the Finals and Tatum to be the best player in the series. The Lakers’ Jerry West (1969) remains the only player to be on the losing team in the NBA Finals yet still secure the MVP award.

The second problem is that it is more than possible that we will see the Celtics win the Championship and someone else receive the MVP award, with Eastern Final MVP Jaylen Brown (+650) looking like the most likely candidate. Even someone like Al Horford should not be ruled out at huge odds of +40000; Andre Iguodala’s MVP win for the Warriors in the 2015 Finals was proof that the winning team’s biggest stars don’t always get the nod. Indeed, looking at other sports, we can see with Tom Brady (5 Super Bow MVPs; 7 Super Bowl wins) that the trick doesn’t always work.

Yet, you can understand why bettors use this trick. They see the value of the star man. If Tatum doesn’t put in an MVP-worthy performance, then there is a fair chance that the Celtics will stutter. If he does, then an 18th Championship will likely come to Boston. It’s not foolproof – far from it. But it’s a means for bettors to wring an extra bit of value out of NBA Finals betting; let’s see if it pays off. 

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