Titles are the highest reward for NBA teams, but the simple reality is that there are 30 pro basketball teams and one trophy. For the 29 teams that can’t win it all, there has to be something else to look forward to. That very well may be the league’s MVP award, which actually quite often can go hand in hand with an NBA championship.

That was the case two years ago when Stephen Curry won his first MVP award, but wasn’t the case when the Cleveland Cavaliers upset the first ever unanimous league MVP (Curry got it again, in case you missed out). The addition of Kevin Durant might rectify that whole “losing the NBA Finals” thing for Golden State, but at the same time it may mean a passing of the torch when it comes to the NBA MVP is coming.

It has to, right? Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson all need their shots and it just doesn’t make sense for that trio to give one guy enough work to be named the MVP. Besides, how can Curry win the MVP of the entire league again when with KD in town, it’s pretty arguable he’s no longer the best talent on his own team?

All of that is for another day. The point is, the NBA MVP is probably changing hands after the 2016-17 season and Vegas agrees. Over at Bovada, Curry actually still has a shot with the second best NBA MVP odds, but it’s pretty arguable he should be much lower on the list. What your criteria for a league MVP is could sway things greatly. Ours? Monster stats, you’re the best player on your team, you’re the reason your time is at least moderately successful and the NBA just wouldn’t be the same without you.

I’d agree Curry at least met the criteria the past two years, but now I don’t think he does. Let’s take a quick look at the top NBA MVP odds and then see who might have the best chance to hoist the MVP trophy at the end of the 2016-17 NBA season:

2016-17 NBA MVP Odds

Per Bovada, here are the top 2016-17 NBA MVP odds:
NBA Odds From Bovada

Top Sleepers

As you can see, Bovada gives several star players at least a remote shot at snagging the award. And hey, in a constantly evolving NBA landscape, any of those guys could rise up the ranks with a monster season and make a case.

If we’re just basing the MVP case on who the best player is, LeBron James would probably win every year. And he’d love that.

But that isn’t what it’s all about. It’s about how had the best year, while also getting their team to new heights. Based on Bovada’s NBA MVP odds, here’s our favorite sleepers that truly could do that this year:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Jimmy Butler
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Damian Lillard

There are more NBA MVP sleepers to consider, but these are our favorite that not only sport fun odds, but could actually pull it off.

KAT was already a stud as a rookie with the T’Wolves last year, who put up 18 points and 10 boards per game with relative ease. Minnesota is trending upward, too, as they added head coach Tom Thibedaeu to lead a playoff charge. If KAT can put up well over 20 points and 10 boards per game en route to the Wolves getting back to the playoffs, he’s absolutely be in the NBA MVP conversation.

The case is pretty similar with Boogie and Lillard, who are the top stars on their respective teams. Lillard might have to do some seriously heavy lifting, though, since he already put up big numbers while keeping Portland in the playoffs last year despite losing big man LaMarcus Aldridge during free agency. If he can do that again and approach Stephen Curry numbers, he’d be in the mix for sure.

Cousins was already a monster last year, averaging nearly 27 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest. His main issue is the Kings aren’t very good and haven’t made the playoffs since he’s been around. New head coach Dave Joerger could help change the culture, though, and if Boogie can land in the playoffs with those insane numbers, he’d absolutely deserve some votes.

Butler is another NBA MVP sleeper to think about, as he’s been a beast the past two years but now won’t have Derrick Rose distracting him or Pau Gasol eating offensive touches. He has extra help with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade coming in, but he figures to be the team’s top scorer and best defender again. If he can raise his play and get the Bulls back to the playoffs, he’d be hard to knock as a 2016-17 NBA MVP candidate.

Best Bets

Realistically, this is a short race with some very familiar faces. Here are the guys we’re probably looking at for this year’s NBA MVP:

  • Russell Westbrook
  • LeBron James
  • James Harden
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kawhi Leonard

Don’t worry, I’m quite aware that I’m leaving the best Warriors players out. With the way that team is stacked now, I just don’t see how anyone over there puts up insane numbers individually, plus it will be hard to argue a Dub for MVP given how much help they’re getting.

James has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but it’s not the same and we all know he’s the best overall talent in the league. He’s going to be a very real threat to win it this year unless someone can pop up with ridiculous numbers and help his team to a huge year.

That puts Kawhi Leonard on the map for sure, but the three guys we need to focus on are Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Anthony Davis. The Brow was awesome for the second year in a row, but watched his Pelicans team crumble under a litany of injuries. If he can rise New Orleans from the ashes and get them back to the playoffs while putting up career numbers, he’s without a doubt an MVP threat.

The same goes for Harden, who bid Dwight Howard farewell after a losing season and honestly probably got robbed of the MVP two years ago. Now that he’s changing positions and taking on a new system, a dominant (and winning) season would be beyond impressive.

The guy that ultimately takes the cake, of course, is going to be Russell Westbrook. The walking triple-double is primed to put up the best numbers of his career and he very well could average a triple-double this season. If he comes remotely close to that and also can keep the Thunder in the playoffs after losing Kevin Durant, he’s the lock for this year’s NBA MVP award.

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