Thursday, March 23 2023

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was cruising along as the NBA MVP favorite for two months. Smart bettors might have recognized that Joel Embiid wasn’t out of the race.

In a fairly stunning shift, Embiid moved past Jokic in the MVP race last week. And it isn’t even a fairly even race anymore. Embiid is currently -200 to win MVP at BetMGM, with Jokic at +275. Giannis Antetokounmpo is third at +375 and all others are at least 150-to-1. Sorry Jayson Tatum.

That’s a massive shift and a big gap between the top two candidates, and there’s not much time left in the season for it to change again. The MVP race might be over but not in the way we thought a couple weeks ago.

Nikola Jokic loses favorite status

Jokic took over as the betting favorite for MVP from Luka Doncic the week of Jan. 16-22 and held that spot until this week.

His odds rose to a point where it looked like a near-lock that he’d win a third straight MVP:

Jan. 18: +140

Jan. 24: -105

Jan. 31: +110

Feb. 7: -115

Feb. 14: -165

Feb. 21: -250

Feb. 28: -350

March 7: -400

March 14: -200

March 22: +275

When Jokic was -400, the implied odds of him winning MVP were 80%. But Embiid was also having a great season and he had one big thing in his favor: Jokic fatigue.

There have been only three players in NBA history to win three straight MVPs: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird. Do voters want to put Jokic in that group of legends? Maybe not.

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken over as the NBA MVP favorite. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken over as the NBA MVP favorite. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken over as the NBA MVP favorite. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Can Jokic catch Joel Embiid?

Jokic is averaging 24.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists. He has 28 triple doubles. The players who are second, third and fourth for most triple doubles this season have 28 combined. The Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference.

If you dropped into the NBA season right now and were told a center was 0.1 assists from averaging a triple double (let’s repeat that: a center is on the verge of averaging a triple double) on the best team in the Western Conference, you’d think it would be a unanimous vote for MVP.

But there just needed to be some excuse to give MVP to someone new, and the Nuggets’ recent losing streak opened that door. Embiid and his Philadelphia 76ers have been very good lately. Embiid is leading the NBA at 33.6 points per game and is also averaging 10.3 rebounds. The 76ers are the third seed in the East but making a push for the No. 2 seed with a shot at No. 1.

Embiid isn’t a bad pick. He’s a great player. But is he the right pick, or just the pick to avoid giving Jokic a third MVP in a row?

There’s a few weeks left in the season and the betting market doesn’t necessarily reflect what voters will do. But if the betting market is any reflection, Embiid has had a heck of a comeback and is on the verge of his first MVP.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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