Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Arguably one of the most exciting sub-stories of each basketball season—The climb to earn the highest individual honor the league offers in being named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA. Not only one of the most exciting, but also one of the most controversial. It seems that each year we witness a multitude of debate leading up to, and following the MVP decision. To be fair though, there are so many factors to be considered: How does one measure value? Is it the overall best player or the player who aids his team in winning the most? How many games did they play out of the 82? There is a new uprising of accessible sports betting that has intrigued me to how the MVP criteria correlates to the betting odds posted for each athlete regarding their chances to win.
With that being said, let's first look at our current MVP race and break down our Top 5 candidates purely based on the flow of averaged betting odds over the last two months. On Feb. 1st, Lebron James had the best posted odds at +350 after pumping in 46 points in a matchup at the very end of January. Nikola Jokic’s 47-point outburst and Denver’s dagger in Utah’s 11-game win streak, shifted him behind LeBron at +470. In third was Joel Embiid at +550, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1250) then James Harden (+4800). With Anthony Davis being ruled out until at least the all-star break, LeBron’s odds to win MVP shifted all the way to +175 around the middle of February. Around the same time, Embiid passed Jokic for second place as his odds moved to +325. Early March brought on a new front-runner in Embiid at +195 over LeBron (+255)—the race ensued with Jokic (+465), then Antetokounmpo (+1700) and Harden (+2150). Joel Embiid suffered a left knee bruise in mid-March, thus making LeBron the favorite once again at +155 but not for long; because just days later he himself suffered a high ankle sprain. So, with the top two contenders suddenly out of the spotlight, Jokic found himself at the top of the ladder with odds of +100. LeBron’s odds fell to +500 and Antetokounmpo moved to third at +775. As of the last week of March, Brooklyn seems to be focusing on building a finals-bound roster which in turn continues to dent Harden’s MVP chances although his carrying of the Nets without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving have ultimately aided him on a path of +700 odds. Jokic remains at the top with the best odds we’ve seen all year at -122, followed by Embiid (+650), Harden (+700), LeBron (+750) and Antetokounmpo (+825).
Noticeably, this is the tightest the race has been all season and with a month and a half left of action before the postseason, I have a strong feeling it will bring on a variety of unpredictable shifts in the current odds. Upon review, it will most likely come down to Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid in taking home this honor. If Embiid comes back from this injury playing like a man possessed, I find that his season narrative alongside his individual statline and the success of the 76ers will be more than enough to elevate the 27-year old Cameroonian to the top of the MVP ladder. Otherwise, I believe it is Jokic’s honor to lose at this point. He just recorded his 12th triple-double of the season as he continues to assert dominance not only by putting the ball in the basket, but also cleaning the glass and sharing the ball unrelentingly. As of now the eyes of the betting world ranks the race as follows: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, James Harden, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo.