NUGGETS

MVP odds shift wildly in favor of Jokic after Embiid’s bizarre week

Jan 30, 2024, 1:57 PM

Nikola Jokic is seeking to become the ninth player in NBA history to capture the league’s MVP award three times in his career, and his odds of doing it look a lot better after the past week.

NBA MVP odds have shifted dramatically since Saturday morning when Joel Embiid was the favorite with -100 odds. In the ensuing hours, Embiid was shockingly ruled out of the MVP duel against Jokic in Denver and the Philly big is questionable on Tuesday, where he could miss his third game in a row. Embiid, picked up a knee injury late last week against the Pacers, giving a sour ending to a week that saw him score 70 points in a game.

The most recent injury for Embiid is having a massive impact on his MVP chances thanks to the NBA/NBAPA’s new CBA ,which entails that a player has to clear 65 games played to even qualify for postseason awards. He’ll need to play in 32 of the 76ers last 37 games, including Tuesday’s, to even be eligible for MVP and All-NBA teams. Embiid has fallen all the way down to fifth-best odds, at a long +1,000—showing fans do not believe he can play the minimum amount of games. Last year Embiid won the award without the rule in place, playing in only 66 games, by far the lowest for an MVP in a non-lockdown season since media began voting on the award.

As of Saturday, Embiid had only played in 12 road games this season—three of which were against teams above .500. That mark, muddies his league-best 36 points per game on 65% true shooting, while sixth-best 11.4 rebounds a contest and adding a 25th-best 5.8 assists a night.

Now Jokic is by far and away the MVP favorite at -110. Denver’s big controversially finished runner-up to Embiid last season and then went on to win the title. Having played 14 more games this season, Jokic is the leader in win shares at 10. The Denver big has scored the fourth-most points total this season, has thrown the third-most assists and has snagged the third-most rebounds in the league. His averages come out to 26.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game—all in line with his MVP-caliber seasons of the past few years.

The last ESPN Straw Poll about six weeks ago, which asked a bunch of actual MVP voters and people who fit the billing of voters to decide on the award, had Embiid as the frontrunner. The order from that straw poll into the odds have shaken up a bit. Now, pacing behind Jokic is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at +250, the two will match up for a final time in the regular season on Wednesday. After SGA is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic tied at +600.

Jokic and Antetokounmpo squared off to some fireworks on Monday, if either of the two is named the league’s best player this season they’ll join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as three-time winners.

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