It’s not a surprise to see Cleveland’s LeBron James as a favorite to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, but he has company at the top spot. San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard is also a 4-1 pick to win the award after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season.

NBA MVP

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard are both 4-1 favorites to win this season’s NBA MVP award. (Image: Getty Images)

Even more startling was that the Spurs small forward was ahead of the league’s superstar when the odds opened a few months ago. He was a 6-1 pick, while James began as 7-1. But Leonard is nursing a quad injury that kept him out Wednesday’s season opener and when he’ll return is still to be determined.

Kevin Durant was the preseason favorite at 4-1, but has slipped to third at 9-2. Last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook started at 7-2 and is now fourth at 5-1. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is next at 7-1, followed by Houston’s James Harden at 8-1 and Golden State’s Steph Curry at 12-1.

Wide Open Race

While the odds for what team will win the NBA Championship are pretty one-sided with the Warriors at 5-12, the contest for the league’s best player is more competitive and several players could walk away with the trophy.

If past winners are any indication of the future, you don’t have to be on the best squad to be voted No.1. In the last four years only Curry won the MVP while being on a championship team.

Curry has won the award twice, but is behind teammate Durant, who won in 2014 when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now that the two are teammates winning it again will be difficult for both.

Handicapping Contestants

One dark horse candidate is Boston’s Kyrie Irving. The guard went to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert over the summer and requested a trade. He was tired of being in the shadow of James and wanted to be the main man on a different team.

Now that he is with the Celtics he should have that opportunity. Before the trade he was 50-1, but leaped to 15-1 once the news of his moving to Boston was announced.

Though his departure also helps his former teammate. James will now be required to carry the load almost completely, which he has done easily in the past. He won the award twice with his current team and twice with the Miami Heat. Getting his fifth MVP would put him with Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.

Kareem Adbul-Jabbar has the most, being selected three times with the Milwaukee Bucks and three times with the Los Angeles Lakers.

It will be difficult for Westbrook to repeat. Last year he averaged a triple-double in points, rebounds and assists, but he was the leader on a team with no comparable talent. Now with the addition of former New York Knick Carmelo Anthony and ex Indiana Pacer Paul George, there are more players that will want to score.