There’s a week and a half left in the NBA regular season, and the MVP race is still wide open. Some talking heads are throwing around names like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker, Luka Doncic and Ja Morant, but if you trust in the betting odds, the MVP race is a two-horse race.
Joel Embiid has been the MVP favorite since late January. His odds to win MVP reached -185 just a few days ago at BetMGM. It seemed like his award to lose. However, over the last 24 hours, Nikola Jokic has taken over as the new favorite to win MVP.
Jokic is the reigning MVP
In 2021, Nikola Jokic took the MVP from Joel Embiid with a late season push after Embiid dealt with some injuries down the stretch. It appears that another late season push from Jokic might steal another potential MVP from Embiid again this year.
Jokic ranks 10th in points, 8th in assists and 2nd in rebounds on a per-game basis. He’s the only player in the NBA to rank top-ten in all three categories. Jokic has 19 triple-doubles and 61 double-doubles on the season, far and away the most in the league in both categories.
Jokic’s Nuggets are 45-31, good for sixth in the West. Denver is currently two games clear of the play-in tournament. Outside of Jokic, nobody on Denver is averaging over 15 points per game. The Nuggets have been without two of their top three players for most of the season in Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray.
It’s basically been a one-man show in Denver this season, and Jokic has put the Nuggets on his shoulders and put them in a good spot. Jokic is currently a -120 favorite to win the NBA MVP.
Embiid is also deserving
Anytime someone spends two months as the MVP favorite, there’s no dismissing the fact that they’re a worthy MVP contender. Embiid is averaging 29.9 points per game, tied for the second highest mark in the league with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Only LeBron James is scoring more points per game on average.
Embiid isn’t only a scorer. He averages over 11 rebounds a game, ranking 7th in the league in that category. His player efficiency rating ranks third in the league. Embiid has 35 games this season where he scored 30 points, which is the most in the league.
Embiid’s 76ers find themselves in the crowded group atop the East. They currently sit in fourth place, but they’re just 1.5 games behind the Miami Heat, who currently sit in first place. Embiid is currently +100 to win the NBA MVP.
Why the change?
Anytime the odds change, we need to figure out what the main impetus for the line movement is. Sure, Jokic is a deserving MVP candidate and you wouldn’t get an argument from most people if you had him as your pick to win MVP. But why did Jokic become the favorite overnight after two months where the market decided Embiid was the consensus favorite?
ESPN.com ran a straw poll where they polled 100 media members from across all 28 markets in the NBA. In that straw poll, Jokic received 62 first place votes compared to just 29 for Embiid.
When you consider that the MVP award is decided by media members, you can see why the results of this poll would have a serious impact on the betting market. ESPN’s final straw poll of the season has correctly predicted the last four MVP winners. I don’t think the timing is a coincidence, and the release of the poll was probably a big part of the reason why Jokic is now the betting favorite to win MVP.
NBA MVP odds
These are the current betting odds at BetMGM for NBA MVP:
Source: Yahoo Sports