The 2020-21 NBA season is fast approaching with opening night less than three weeks away.
With not much time left before real games start up again, it's time to look at which players will be in the mix for the most prestigious end-of-the-season awards, and no honor is more sought after than Most Valuable Player.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has won the MVP in each of the last two years. The last player to win it in three consecutive seasons was Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, who took home the award in 1983-84, 1984-85 and 1985-86.
Antetokounmpo could certainly match Bird's feat -- he's by far the best and most important player on a Bucks team expected to once again finish atop the Eastern Conference standings in the regular season.
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The Bucks star will have plenty of competition for the award, however. Here are the latest betting lines for the 2020-21 NBA MVP award -- odds provided by our partner, PointsBet Sportsbook.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: +350
- Luka Doncic, Mavericks: +450
- Stephen Curry, Warriors: +600
- LeBron James, Lakers: +700
- James Harden, Rockets: +800
- Anthony Davis, Lakers: +900
- Kawhi Leonard, Clippers: +1200
- Kevin Durant, Nets: +1400
- Jayson Tatum, Celtics: +1400
- Damian Lillard, Blazers: +2200
- Joel Embiid, 76ers: +2500
- Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: +3000
- Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves: +5000
- Kyrie Irving, Nets: +6000
- Jimmy Butler, Heat: +6000
Celtics star Jayson Tatum being No. 9 on this list is pretty impressive and an obvious sign of the respect he's earned after a breakout 2019-20 campaign.
Tatum set career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks per game, while shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range last season. He led the C's with 23.4 points per game in the regular season and 25.7 points per game in the playoffs.
Tatum is the Celtics' best player offensively and he's become a very good wing defender, too, so he should get plenty of opportunities to make a strong case for MVP this coming season. It also helps that Boston is expected to be a top contender in the East following a trip to the conference finals in 2019-20.
No player on the Celtics has won MVP since Bird in 1985-86. Point guard Isaiah Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting in 2016-17 after he ranking third in the NBA in scoring and helping the C's secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
If Tatum stays healthy and the Celtics meet or exceed their regular season expectations as a team, it wouldn't be surprising if Boston's rising star was right in the middle of the MVP debate next spring.