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Conference finals MVP prediction: Why LeBron James will add another trophy to his collection

We review the futures market for the Western Conference Finals MVP and detail our best bet to win the award.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after scoring during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Chase Center on May 10, 2023 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after scoring during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Chase Center on May 10, 2023 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)Read moreThearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

With the third round of the NBA playoffs set to get underway, it’s time to make a conference finals MVP prediction.

In the East, the Boston Celtics will have a home-court advantage against the Heat in their best-of-seven series. Boston is an overwhelming favorite at -550, while Miami is priced as a +390 underdog.

If we head to the West, the odds aren’t nearly as lopsided with Denver as a -155 favorite while the Lakers are priced at +130.

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I already took a shot with some NBA Finals exacta futures involving the Heat, so I’m less inclined to return to the well.

And given that Miami is already such a big underdog, I’m not entirely thrilled with the prices in the market to back a Heat player for MVP.

However, I do have my sights set on a player in the Western Conference finals. I’ll reveal who that player is as I outline their path to winning the MVP award.

Odds provided by FanDuel, current as of publish time and subject to change.

Western Conference Finals MVP odds

Nikola Jokic -145 / Anthony Davis +340 / LeBron James +340 / Jamal Murray +1600 / Michael Porter Jr. +11000 / Aaron Gordon +11000 / Bruce Brown Jr. +42000 / Austin Reaves +11000 / D’Angelo Russell +11000 / Dennis Schroder +11000 / Kentavious Caldwell-Pope +42000

Western Conference Finals MVP pick

  1. LeBron James +340

Western Conference Finals MVP analysis

Credit to FanDuel for offering odds on this many players, but the reality is that a superstar from one of the two teams will likely win this award.

But before picking an MVP winner, deciding which team will ultimately win the series would be best.

The Lakers have an excellent chance to pull off an upset.

The teams met four times during the regular season, with each winning two games. However, the Nuggets needed to win the final meeting to earn a split in the series.

Denver did so with a 122-109 home victory over a Lakers starting lineup of Max Christie, Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant and Juan Toscano-Anderson.

Beverley, Bryant and Toscano-Anderson are no longer on the team, while Schroder is coming off the bench in the playoffs and averaging 7.5 points in 24.3 minutes.

As for Christie, he’s played in just four minutes per game over eight playoff appearances.

Neither LeBron James or Anthony Davis played in that final regular-season meeting against the Nuggets. Moreover, this Lakers team is completely revamped from the one we saw in the regular season.

The Lakers have built a solid defensive team after making some critical moves at the trade deadline. Before the trades, the Lakers ranked 20th in defensive rating, according to But after bolstering the roster, the Lakers improved to third.

During the playoffs, Los Angeles ranks first in defensive rating, allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions.

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Why not Denver?

Denver was mainly able to get past Phoenix in the second round because the Suns’ lack of depth impacted their ability to make an impact defensively.

Phoenix was also a top-heavy team as its star players Devin Booker and Kevin Durant played extensive minutes due to a lack of production from the bench.

The Lakers won’t have that issue, as their bench averages 31.4 points during the postseason, while the Suns were second-to-last with 18.2 points per game.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has done an excellent job managing the minutes of James.

By surrounding him with a supporting cast of younger players, the four-time NBA champion hasn’t had to exert as much energy on the defensive end.

When the Lakers closed out the series against the Warriors in Game 6, we saw that James still had something in the tank after dropping 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

In this upcoming series, James is the player who will need to step up even more for the Lakers because Davis will have his hands full trying to defend Nikola Jokic.

In the three games against the Nuggets in which Davis and James both played, Davis averaged 18.3 points while James averaged 25.

Although both players shot below their regular-season average in those games, Davis was roughly 7.5 points off his average, while James was four points off his mark.

And if you look at their performances during the postseason, James (23.4) has a slightly higher scoring average than Davis (21.2).

Given that this Lakers team has a fighting chance against the Nuggets, I like their chances to pull off the upset with James being crowned the Western Conference finals MVP.

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