With a fresh challenge, LeBron James remains as motivated as ever and he’s arguably got the best supporting cast he’s ever had as he looks for the fifth MVP prize of his career.
The Cleveland Cavaliers returnee is justifiably favourite in the initial betting stakes. Although he ceded the award to Kevin Durant last term, that only increases his chances of coming up trumps at 2.05 with voters reluctant to give repeat honours.
With Durant missing up to the first three months of the season through injury, he’s not worth a look even at 4.50. But that may pave an opportunity for his running mate in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook, who is great value at 31.00 if the Thunder get on a roll.
With the Clippers a potential contender out of the West, Blake Griffin at 11.00 and Chris Paul at 16.00 are on the hopefuls list but they could cancel each other out.
The wildcard at 16.00 might be Derrick Rose who’s now healthy after the best part of two seasons out. With the Chicago Bulls loaded, he will get a chance to shine. But after watching him at the World Cup and in pre-season, the 2012 MVP looks a gulf away from his former self.
All fingers, in truth, point to James as the head of the pack once again.
Rookie of the Year
It should, in theory, be a two-way fight to be the NBA’s best rookie between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, with both the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves expected to give their highly-touted newbies ample opportunity to make an instant impression.
Parker, favourite for the prize at 3.50, looks the more NBA ready and the Bucks cannot really get much worse than last term.
Yet number one pick Wiggins, having been cast adrift by Cleveland as collateral damage in the arrival of Kevin Love, has a little point to prove.
So too Nerlens Noel, rated 8.00, who will have every chance to make his mark with the woeful Philadelphia 76ers after sitting out all of last season. However it’s a rarity that this prize goes to someone whose team is bumping along at the bottom.
With that in mind, it’s worth a punt on two of the Bulls’ fresh faces, given that Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic could factor in a title challenge.
McDermott at 21.00 may be an interesting option but Mirotic, probably the best player in European basketball over the past two years, represents incredible value at 71.00.
If you don’t want to play it safe with Parker, have a punt on the Montenegrin to top that poll.