July 7, 2021

Best Bets: 2021 NBA Finals MVP

The list of players with the best NBA Finals MVP odds has changed considerably over the last few weeks. Names like Paul George, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Donovan Mitchell, Nikola Jokic, James Harden and Kevin Durant all had spots at or near the top of the list this season and through the playoffs, but each one has fallen off completely as their teams suffered defeat.  

Now, the list has narrowed to a few worthy candidates for the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award, and someone other than James, Durant or Kawhi Leonard will win the award for just the second time in the last decade (Andre Igoudala in 2015).

Following his 36-point explosion, Chris Paul is the favorite to take home the award at -140, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, with Devin Booker (+550), Khris Middleton (+550), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+600) rounding out the clear top four. 

The most notable longshot is Deandre Ayton at +1000, and then Jrue Holiday is all the way at +4100. With the Suns delivering a punishing 118-105 Game 1 win, we're going to look at the top-four players and handicap who you should bet on to be crowned this year's NBA Finals MVP. 

Chris Paul

Everything is in place for the 36-year-old to complete what's been an incredible career with an NBA Finals win and MVP. The Point God has been masterful this postseason and destroyed the Bucks in Game 1. 

His 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting to go with nine assists was as impressive to watch unfold as it was to read off from the box score. He manipulates the game with ease and has completely changed how the Suns play. Even Holiday had no chance to thwart Paul despite his massive length and frame advantage.

The Suns will have a hard time winning unless Paul is dominant. He needs just three more big performances to win the title. Though his odds are no longer bringing a great value, he's still a reasonably affordable favorite. 

But we can find bigger returns elsewhere, so let's look at the second-tier of favorites.

Devin Booker & Giannis Antetokounmpo 

The best overall players in the series come with some massive question marks and hills to climb. 

Booker is the best scorer on the Suns but isn't as efficient as Paul. His 27 points in Game 1 was a good example of this. He was ineffective shooting from the field as he missed seven-of-eight threes but hit all 10 free throws.

It's hard to win NBA Finals MVP with such a dreadful aesthetic. He also lacks the built-in narrative. I'm fading Booker even though he's a great talent.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a true wildcard. We know he's not healthy, as evidenced by his missed games last round and overall rustiness in Game 1. It's impressive he totaled 20 points and 17 boards in 35 minutes on a bum knee but he made little actual impact.

He's the best player in the series when healthy. It's hard to put faith into his sudden recovery, though. The Bucks never had a chance to win this game and it's not as if the Suns played a great game. Even if the Greek Freak was fully healthy, the Bucks lacked the defense and overall playmaking from Middleton and Holiday to win.

I'm fading Giannis despite the nice price. The best Bucks pick is their leading scorer.

Kris Middleton

Kris Middleton deserves a ton of credit for stepping up in a big way as soon as Giannis suffered his knee injury. He's been a much more aggressive player and more reliable on offense. 

There's been clear limitations with a solid but unspectacular All-Star leading the team. A good jump shooter, Middleton can get hot and create opportunities out of tough looks. He's not doing it particularly consistently, though, and doesn't attack the rim enough.

The entire Bucks squad had just 16 free throws in Game 1. Giannis had 12 of those. Middleton must become less risk-averse and dominate the physicality of this series for the Bucks to endure without the Greek Freak. 

Nevertheless, Middleton is the key to this team. If Paul cools off, Middleton will be the lynchpin for a comeback series win. And it's most realistic on this Bucks' roster considering the offensive limitations Holiday continues to show and Giannis' injury status.

I grabbed Paul's MVP odds prior to the opening tip of Game 1 and still recommend doing so if you haven't yet. I'll also add Middleton as a flier pick. Even throwing one unit on his +550 number would net a massive return in the possible bounce back performance from this talented Bucks team and a letdown from the Suns. 

Photo: Getty Images