Just a few days before the Lakers were crowned NBA champs a week and a half ago, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was honored with his second straight NBA MVP award. It was the fourth time in the last dozen years that a player has won the award in back-to-back seasons, and the oddsmakers are predicting the Greek Freak to do it again, with 888sports listing him as the early co-favorite alongside Luka Doncic at 7.00 odds. Bill Russell (1961-1963) and Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1968) are the only players to have ever won the award thrice straight, though LeBron James came close earlier in this decade when he won four MVPs in five seasons. Considering Giannis and the Bucks’ less-than-impressive display in the playoffs last season along with the fact that there have been a lot of rumblings about the reigning MVP possibly wanting out of Wisconsin, becoming the first guy in over 50 years to win three straight MVPs doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for Antetokounmpo. The other early co-favorite on 888sports, however, looks poised to take the award home in 2021. The Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, who had himself a breakout year last season, also has 7.00 odds to win MVP, and unlike Giannis, the stars seem like they’re aligned for the 21-year-old. There were a handful of young players that seemed like they had taken a big step from March, when the league went on hiatus, to when it returned in August. Many said they had treated the four months off as another offseason, which means these young phenoms had just gained an extra year in their development. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray in their seven-game duel, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker and others all seemed to have taken the next step, but it was Doncic who was head and shoulders above the rest. During the regular season Doncic put up 28.8 points on 46.3 percent from the field, in the bubble seeding games he was going for 30.0 on 47.9 percent, and in the playoffs he nearly carried his team past the L.A. Clippers with 31.0 on 50 percent shooting from the field. It was clear that the young Slovenian had vastly improved from March to August, as evidenced by two triple-doubles and two 40-point games against the two supposed ‘best perimeter defenders in the game.’ Not to mention his legendary game-winner in Game 4 which capped off a 43-point, 17-rebound, 13-assist win for the youngster. Doncic is without a doubt the safest MVP bet you can make. He’s on a winning team, he doesn’t have another superstar to steal votes away, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see him average 30 points and a triple-double next season as he turns the Mavs into a top three or four seed and his potential comes into full bloom. Behind the co-favorites at 8.00 odds sit a pair of NBA champs in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but considering how good both are, they will likely cancel one another out as they did in 2020. Steph Curry is back and once again leading the Golden State Warriors without Kevin Durant, making him an intriguing play at 11.00. Kawhi Leonard (13.00), Durant (17.00), and Jimmy Butler (21.00) follow him on the list. Tied with Butler at 21.00 are my two favorite long shot bets in Damian Lillard and James Harden. Both consistently score a ton of points and lead their teams to the playoffs, so if they’re supporting casts can stay healthy and make the Portland Trailblazers or Houston Rockets, respectively, a top two or three seed in the West, they could have a great shot at taking home some MVP hardware. If you want to go in for a safe future bet here, Doncic at 7.00 odds is the no-brainer play. Curry offers an interesting secondary option at 11.00 and Harden and Lillard at 21.00 are nearly too much value to pass up. If you want to go with a big ol’ long shot, Joel Embiid at 41.00, Donovan Mitchell at 51.00, and Devin Booker at 61.00 could prove profitable.