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Are Sportsbooks Buying Jimmy Butler’s MVP Hype?

Butler isn’t the favorite for MVP — not every sportsbook even has him on the board — but his odds have improved dramatically in a short period.

Jimmy Butler had another strong game Tuesday night as the Miami Heat has moved into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference, and his Most Valuable Player candidacy is gaining steam.

Bettors at FanDuel have knocked his odds down from 85-1 to 30-1, with four odds adjustments having been made since the preseason. In the latest adjustment, he went from 49-1 on Oct. 31 to his current odds of 30-1.

This came after Dallas coach Jason Kidd called the Heat “the best team in the league right now” following Miami’s 125-110 victory over the Mavericks in a nationally televised TNT game.

FanDuel currently lists Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors as co-favorites at +500, followed by the Nets’ Kevin Durant at +550 and Dallas’ Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavs at +800. Another six players – Nikola Jokic, Paul George, LeBron James, James Harden, and Damian Lillard — have shorter odds than Butler, who currently ranks 18th by bet count and 17th by handle(the amount of money wagered) at FanDuel, company spokesman Kevin Hennessy told Boardroom.

“Jimmy Butler is the leader of the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat and it’s no surprise that his odds have moved steadily in the first month of the NBA season in the MVP market,” Hennessy said Wednesday. “His play has been incredible in moving his odds from 85-1 to +3000 today.”

By comparison, DraftKings Sportsbook and Caesars list Butler at +4000, BetMGM has him at +3000, Bet365 has him at +2800, and WynnBet has knocked him all the way down to 10-1. Betway has him off the board.

Clearly, the sportsbooks are not of one opinion on this 12-year veteran.

Butler, who earned NBA Player of the Week honors last week, had a bad shooting night against the Mavs by his recent standards, going 4-11 to knock his season field goal percentage down to 51.3%, which still ranks 30th in the NBA and is third among small forwards behind only Mikal Bridges of Phoenix (56.9%) and Norman Powell of Portland (51.2%). Butler went to the free throw line 17 times against Dallas, making 15, and had another three steals to remain in second place in that category leaguewide with an average of 2.9, trailing only George’s 3.0.

FanDuel NBA MVP futures odds entering Nov. 4 games

The Heat also have the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Tyler Herro, who scored 25 points in 35 minutes Tuesday and has eclipsed 20 points in five of Miami’s seven games. Herro has 157 points off the bench in the season’s first seven games. According to the Heat, that’s more than any player has scored coming off the bench since 1975, when the NBA began tracking starter vs. bench splits.

Herro’s Most Improved Player odds also are relatively short at +1200, trailing only the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant (+350) and Mikal Bridges of Charlotte (+600). 

At BetMGM, spokesman John Ewing said Stephen Curry had received the most support in terms of tickets bet, capturing 12.5% of all wagers cast. In terms of handle, the biggest share is on Nikola Jokic of Denver, last year’s winner, at 15.9%. Jokic also represents Bet MGM’s biggest liability.

Of course, the season is not even 10% complete, and a million things can happen to change the equation. Two years ago, LeBron James appeared to be gaining ground on Giannis Antetokounmpo when the pandemic caused the abrupt postponement of the regular season until the season resumed in a bubble outside Orlando.

Last season, Joel Embiid of the 76ers was a frontrunner for a notable stretch, but injuries reduced his number of games played to 51, relegating him to a second-place finish behind Jokic.

“We still have him at 50-1 and have been taking some action on him lately, and we moved him down from 100-1,” Jeff Sherman of LVSportsbook said of Butler’s market. “With the addition of Kyle Lowry, the coaching they have there, and their defensive philosophy, as the leader of the team he may not show his value purely in points scored, but if that team finishes ahead of Milwaukee and Brooklyn that will certainly help his chances,” Sherman said.

So it is still too soon to wrap our arms around anyone in any of the awards races and call that fellow a “lock.” But what we are seeing with Butler is a groundswell of support that is moving his odds dramatically, and the folks who got their tickets in on Butler a couple weeks ago are no doubt bragging about it to their friends.

So stay tuned on that one — and on Rookie of the Year.

Currently, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes is +360, the Rockets’ Jalen Green is +370, and Cleveland’s Evan Mobley is +380 — a virtual three-way tie. Right behind them is Cade Cunningham of the Pistons, the overall No. 1 pick in the draft, at +430 despite his 2-14 shooting performance (including 0-9 from 3-point range) in Detroit’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night. 

Fan Duel has Josh Giddey of the Thunder No. 1 in both tickets and handle. Green is No. 2 in both of those categories, while Pacers guard Chris Duarte (+1000) is third in bet count (total tickets) and Mobley is third in handle.

FanDuel NBA Rookie of the Year futures odds entering Nov. 4 games

Again, there is a long way to go. But with sports gambling becoming legal in more and more states — New York will be online by the end of the year — the way bettors react to player performances stands to be followed more closely than ever before. That’s what happens when sports betting becomes a national phenomenon rather than a Nevada phenomenon, so get used to it. Brace yourself.

And if you do gamble, choose wisely.

And right now, Butler for MVP at +3000 is going to look like a bargain if the Heat run the table in a difficult upcoming six-game stretch against Boston, Utah, Denver, the Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz, the final four of which will be played on the road.

With that in mind, let’s see what those odds are sitting at when Miami returns home on Nov. 16.