PointsBet is calling the NBA’s race for Most Valuable Player in favor of James Harden.
The Houston Rockets shooting guard has been nigh unstoppable this season, at one point requiring a quadruple team to prevent him from scoring 30 points in a 33rd straight game. His latest feat was a game-winning stepback-jumper over Kyrie Irving AND Jason Tatum during a 42-point game against the Celtics on Sunday.
PointsBet immediately paid out all bets made on Harden to win NBA MVP.
🚨NBA MVP EARLY PAYOUT ALERT🚨— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 3, 2019
We've seen enough here at PointsBet HQ. That stepback over Kyrie & Tatum was from a 2 Time MVP Winner...
If you backed Harden for MVP - We have just PAID YOUR BET as a WINNER; 4 months prior to the announcement. #Rockets#NBA#SportsBettingpic.twitter.com/m7WvztsnDN
The shot in question, as well as reasoning from PointsBet CEO Johnny Aitken:
CEO Johnny Aitken - "After Harden dropped 40+ in another nationally televised game, I thought 'enough is enough - Harden is going to win MVP again.' We decided to pay out all Harden MVP Bets early; continuing to give back to our clients."— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 4, 2019
Relive that stepback #NBA#SportsBettingpic.twitter.com/qIwpnvnvZQ
Though the MVP award is handed out in four months, PointsBet is calling it in favor of Harden. Interestingly, they haven’t shut down the market on betting on the MVP race, as Harden remains the favorite at -125.
Harden isn’t even the only player being offered at under even odds, as Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently being offered at -110. Behind him Paul George one of the best players in the league following the All-Star break, sits at a distant +900.
Harden might still not be named MVP, leaving PointsBet looking a bit foolish for paying out so early, but there’s every chance that PointsBet is simply trying to build some new fans in an increasingly crowded field of online sportsbooks in New Jersey.
It’s not even their first player-friendly move this week. Beginning in Week 4 of AAF action, PointsBet offered to pay out any moneyline bets made if a team scored 14 unanswered points. Doesn’t matter if they win, they just need 14 unanswered points.
It’s a promotion that PointsBet seems to be turning into their trademark. The week prior, PointsBet offered to pay out all moneyline bets on NHL teams that were leading by two goals at any point during Feb. 24 games.
Of the six NHL games that night, four paid out early, and all four of those leading teams went on to win. However, the Rangers/Capitals game was in danger of going the other way when the Rangers came back from two goals down to force overtime.
In addition to score-based early payouts, most bookmakers slashed odds on the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series after Bryce Harper signed with the team. PointsBet froze odds instead. The Phillies remain at +1500 to win the World Series at PointsBet.
Paying out bets early isn’t uncommon, but it hasn’t been the most successful gambit for bookmakers recently.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, infamous for their antics and online presence, paid out bets in late August for former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho to be the first Premiership boss fired this season. Then Fulham and Southampton both fired their managers before Mourinho got the boot.
Closer to home, FanDuel Sportsbook decided after Alabama’s untouched regular season that they would cruise to a national title, and paid out futures on 'Bama to win the title a month before the College Football Playoff championship game. Clemson then manhandled the Crimson Tide in Nick Saban’s biggest defeat as Alabama head coach.
If history is anything to go by, it’s time to bet on anyone else to win the NBA MVP race. However, it does seem like James Harden is a near lock to claim his second MVP in a row.