Russell Westbrook has 13 triple-doubles already, and he unloaded for 46 points and 11 rebounds Monday versus Atlanta. But he's far from a shoo-in for MVP.
Fresh odds from BookMaker.eu show the race tightening. While Westbrook is a -150 favorite (risk $150 to win $100), James Harden and LeBron James have moved within striking distance.
|Odds to win NBA MVP
| Russell Westbrook
| James Harden
| LeBron James
| Kevin Durant
| Stephen Curry
| Chris Paul
| Kawhi Leonard
The major offshore sportsbook lists Harden at +250 (risk $100 to win $250), James at +300.
Here is a look at each contender, with their updated odds from BookMaker.eu and expert analysis from CBS Sports NBA Writer Matt Moore:
RUSSELL WESTBROOK, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, -150: Without Kevin Durant alongside, the 28-year-old has carried the Thunder to a 16-12 record. He leads the league in scoring (30.9), ranks second in assists (10.9) and 13th in rebounding (10.5).
Westbrook has not missed a game, and he's played over 35 minutes a night.
"Just the fact that he's doing so much is one thing, but it's also really apparent that without him, the Thunder would be terrible," Moore said. "That bolsters his case. However, it's also important to remember that you have to win games. If you don't win 50 games, it's really hard to win MVP. This could be a special year, but the Thunder have been all over the map with their win profile. They're just as likely to lose to the Pacers as beat the Clippers."
JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON ROCKETS, +250: Playing the best basketball of his career, Harden has the surprising Rockets at 21-8, the West's fourth-best record. He leads the league in assists (11.7) and ranks fifth in scoring (27.8) while playing nearly 37 minutes per game.
Harden's assists and 8.1 rebounds per game are easily career highs. Coach Mike D'Antoni has tweaked Harden's game, enabling the 27-year-old to reach a new level. Houston saw its 10-game win streak snapped in a two-point home loss to the Spurs on Tuesday.
"I like Harden so much, especially at +250," Moore said. "The Rockets are legit, even without Clint Capela. They took the Spurs to the wire without their starting center, and they're already through the hardest part of their schedule. Harden's playing better defense, which helps take the stink off voting for him."
LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, +300: Will the King grab his fifth MVP award? He has the Cavs (20-6) leading the East yet again, on course for another Finals trip.
Shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from deep -- both above his career norms -- James is averaging 25.4 points, 9.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He played a whopping 47 minutes in Tuesday's 114-108 win over Milwaukee.
Coach Tyronn Lue smartly has rested James twice this season. Along those lines, Moore believes James "is just not going to play enough games" to take the award.
KEVIN DURANT, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, +750: Fitting in well with the 25-4 Warriors, Durant leads the team with 25.4 points per game and is grabbing a career-high 8.4 boards per game. He's lighting it up from 3-point range (40.6 percent, compared to his career average of 38.1) and shooting 53.9 percent overall.
It's clear Durant is enjoying life with Golden State, as he repeatedly talks about the team's "togetherness" and "selflessness."
"Durant's case, if he were on any other team, would be air-tight," Moore said. "He's got the stats, he helps the Warriors win the most, he's great on both ends, his efficiency is through the roof, they're the best team in the league, everything. But the voters just aren't going to be able to get past the fact that he has all that help."
STEPHEN CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, +2,000: The reigning two-time MVP could be fresher for the postseason thanks to Durant's arrival. Curry is averaging 33 minutes, down from 34.2 last season.
Hitting "only" 40.4 percent from deep, a career low, Curry has time to get back to his sharpshooting self. His scoring is down to 24.7 per game after he averaged 30.1 last season.
CHRIS PAUL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, +2500: With Blake Griffin undergoing knee surgery Tuesday and slated to miss 3-6 weeks, it will be up to Paul to keep L.A. (21-8) near the top of the West.
At age 31 Paul is not slowing down. He continues to do it all for the Clippers, averaging 17.6 points, 9.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals. This is probably L.A.'s best chance for a ring before the championship window closes, and Paul knows it.
KAWHI LEONARD, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, +3000: Averaging a career-high 23.9 points, the 25-year-old Leonard will make a strong case if San Antonio edges Golden State for the best overall record. Currently, the 23-5 Spurs are 1.5 games behind.
The reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year continues to hone various aspects of his game. He's dishing out a career-best 3.0 assists and shooting a career-high 91.6 percent from the foul line.
Moore loves Leonard at this price.
"He's efficient with great advanced metrics for the analytics wonks," Moore said. "He's a gamer who's no-nonsense for the former players and old-school journalists. He's a great story as a guy who just works hard for those who love a good narrative.
"He's the best one-on-one defender in the game, a two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year. He has the total makeup. The Spurs are going to keep winning regular-season games, and if they hit 65-plus wins, without the kind of superstar talent of Golden State?
"I like his odds."