Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant's injury rattles MVP odds

Lance Pugmire
USA TODAY Sports+

A knee injury rocked Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant’s bid to recapture the NBA MVP award for the first time since 2014. Durant sprained his knee Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans and could be sidelined for a month or more. 

As he rehabilitates from a sprained left MCL, Durant's former Golden State Warriors teammate Stephen Curry has seized the favorite’s position at many sportsbooks, including Tipico Sportsbook. 

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Tipico dropped Durant to its fourth choice at +1200 while Curry, who became the NBA’s all-time three-point shooter earlier this season, rocketed to a strong +150 position. 

Just behind Curry are 2019 and 2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks at +320. The NBA champion is followed by defending MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets at +600 while Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is tied with Durant at +1200. 

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) leaves the game after injuring his knee during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

Durant and Curry teamed for back-to-back NBA titles in 2017 and 2018, with Durant winning NBA Finals’ MVP in both seasons after Curry had won league MVP in 2015 and 2016. 

Durant currently leads the league with 29.3 points per game, contributing 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the Nets. 

Curry averages 26.1 points and six assists for the Warriors, who trail the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference standings. 

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While Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists, Jokic is outdoing him on the boards (13.9 rebounds per game) and averaging 25.3 points and 7.4 assists. 

Others in the race include Memphis’ Ja Morant (+1300), LeBron James (+3000), Demar DeRozan (+3000) and Phoenix’s Devin Booker (+5000). 

Durant’s time on the sidelines is the critical issue in whether he can recapture the front-runner's role. 

“Whenever you have an injury like this and you lose that amount of time, it’s quite big,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading at Caesars Sportsbook, said. “Other players are going to get the opportunity to pass you up if you’re not playing. And when he does come back, will he be restricted leading up to the playoffs? That’s the tough part of betting these awards markets. Injuries just play such a huge role.” 

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant

Caesars had Durant at +175 when he was injured. The Nets started a 14-game run that includes 11 road games and lost at Cleveland Monday. Nets teammate Kyrie Irving, who can only play road games for the Nets because of his COVID-19 vaccination rejection, scored 27 points. 

Nets teammate James Harden might raise his MVP profile during Durant’s absence. Harden is currently a +7000 offering at Tipico. 

A best-case scenario for Durant could see him return following the All-Star break in February. 

Curry has dealt with his own aches and pains leading to a competitive race for the sport’s ultimate individual honor. 

“There’s a lot of other players getting into the mix like Ja Morant and Joel Embiid," Pullen said. “You can’t slip up. There are just too many good players in this league. (But) it wouldn’t take much for Curry to solidify his favorite status. All it takes is a couple monster games.” 

The game’s ultimate sharpshooter is being pressed by the supremely athletic and clutch Morant and NBA’s leading big men. Embiid started the season, without holdout teammate Ben Simmons, as a 50/1 MVP pick. 

“If you played a good series of games, you’re going to get noticed,” Pullen said. “It may seem like a limited amount of games, but that’s all it takes for people to jump back on the bandwagon, especially one of the top players in the league like Embiid.” 

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