A third of the way through the NBA basketball season, the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves on top of the Western Conference standings at 18-8.
The Pelicans have won seven straight, and nine of their last 10 games. Their seven-game win streak includes two wins over the Phoenix Suns and one win over the Denver Nuggets. During this stretch, there has been no question who the best player on the team is – Zion Williamson. And as a result, his MVP odds are rising.
Zion Williamson over his last 7 games:
35 PTS – 9 REB – 4 AST – W
35 PTS – 7 REB – 4 AST – W
29 PTS – 10 REB – 5 AST – W
25 PTS – 6 REB – 4 AST – W
30 PTS – 15 REB – 8 AST – W
33 PTS – 10 REB – 5 AST – W
23 PTS – 8 REB – 8 AST – W
MVP Talk pic.twitter.com/ugqlNaaef2
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) December 11, 2022
The often-injured star has health on his side this year and is finding the game legs that got him drafted No. 1 overall just a few short years ago. Although a relatively short sample, he has had one of the best stretches of his career as a professional, and he recently cracked the NBA’s top 10 list on its weekly updated MVP tracker. The league’s official MVP tracker isn’t the only place he has drawn attention to himself. Slowly but surely, his MVP odds are rising across the major sportsbooks, seeing lines as high as +2000, up from the +4000 odds some sportsbooks had him at earlier this year.
Current MVP Odds
|Zion Williamson MVP Odds (12-13-22)||+2500||+2000||+3500||+3300||+2000||+3000|
Currently, Williamson’s season averages are 25 ppg, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists on 60% from the field. That line doesn’t blow you out of the water, but watching his impact on games lately does, especially considering the Pelicans are missing a 20 ppg scorer in Brandon Ingram the last seven games. If he continues to excel, his odds are likely to grow by the week.
What Zion Can Control
The Pelicans must significantly overachieve in the regular season. The major sportsbooks had them listed at 45 wins to start the season. Getting 55 to 60 wins on the year with Williamson leading the way is a loud beacon for his case. Whether or not they get there is, in large part, based on his play and availability. If achieved, he is sure to garner the bulk of the praise.
Williamson also needs to get his point per game average up to 27 or higher. Only two players have taken home MVP honors the last 12 years averaging less than 27 ppg – Steph Curry in 2015, and Derrick Rose in 2011. Both, however, led their teams to 60-plus wins.
Another important stat he needs to elevate is his rebounding total. Although on the shorter side for his position, he is dominantly built compared to his NBA peers, checking in at 284 pounds. Rebounding is essential for his case as a dominant power forward in the league. Finishing with at least eight per game will boost his chances, as the vast majority of power forwards who have earned the award recently averaged at least eight.
What May Work in Favor of his MVP Odds
There are players ahead of Williamson in the MVP race who have some things that may sway voters in a different direction come time to cast their ballots.
Tatum is having a stellar season after coming off a disappointing end to his season last year in the Finals. However, his running mate Jalen Brown is arguably having an MVP campaign himself, averaging 26 ppg and shooting better than 50% from the field.
Doncic leads the leagues in ppg, and he is fourth in the league in assists per game. However, his team isn’t particularly good at the moment. They are currently eighth in the West and don’t seem to be showing signs of figuring things out. It will take an amazing run for them to finish with a record strong enough for Doncic to overcome his peers for MVP honors. As great as his numbers are, he doesn’t have a triple-double-like story line for writers to lean into, similar to Russell Westbrook’s MVP season when he won the award as a sixth seed.
There are other players with higher MVP odds than Williamson than just those listed above. However, Tatum and Doncic are two of the biggest obstacles obstructing the path of Williamson shocking the basketball world after returning from a year off due to injury.
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Icon Sportswire Photo/Brian Rothmuller