NBA MVP Odds: Jokic Looking Like Winner

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets dribbles the ball in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 30, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Image Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

NBA awards bettors are learning a lesson: Every game counts. And it’s a tough lesson for bettors who backed Joel Embiid in the NBA MVP odds market — and thought they had a sure winner.

The Philadelphia 76ers star was the clear NBA MVP favorite a little more than six weeks ago. However, current odds reflect the emerging consensus that Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic will claim the honors for a second straight season.

Although just four games remain in the regular season, bettors still can get in on the NBA MVP odds action ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale — be it laying the price with Jokic or taking a chance on Embiid. Or maybe rolling the dice with Milwaukee Bucks star (and two-time MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo at a healthy long-shot price.

With the season winding down, takes one last look at the NBA MVP odds race.

2021-22 NBA MVP Odds

Player NBA MVP Odds
Nikola Jokic -275
Joel Embiid +200
Giannis Antetokounmpo +650
Devin Booker +8,000
Luka Doncic +12,500
Ja Morant +15,000
Kevin Durant +25,000

Odds from BetMGM as of 3 p.m. ET on April 7.

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Biggest Liability Hurdle Cleared?

Joel Embiid (right) dribbles the basketball with his left hand while defending Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (left) uses his left forearm to keep Embiid from driving to the basket
Image Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Jokic’s surge up the odds board certainly helps BetMGM’s risk room, which reported this week that Embiid was its biggest liability in the NBA MVP pool. The 76ers center is taking 18% of all MVP bets and 29% of money. Jokic is right behind at 16% of bets and 25% of money.

The last time visited the NBA MVP race Feb. 23, the top three candidates were the same as today. However, Embiid was the +125 favorite at BetMGM, followed by Jokic at +275 and Antetokounmpo at +375. At that point, 20% of the tickets and 25% of the cash was on Embiid, while Jokic was at 14.3% tickets/12% money.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry also was in the MVP mix in late February at +1,100 odds. At the time 14% bets and 19.3% cash at BetMGM were on the 2015 and 2016 MVP winner. However, Curry has been sidelined since March 16 because of a foot injury and fallen out of the race. He still represents 12% of bets and 11% of money in BetMGM’s NBA MVP Odds pool, but that cash is safely in the sportsbook’s pocket now.

Stats Tell Several Stories

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots the ball in the second half against the Orlando Magic
Image Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo can all make a statistical case for the award. Heading into Thursday’s action, Jokic is the only one among the trio to rank in the top 10 in the league in points (27.0, ninth), rebounds (13.7, second) and assists (7.9, eighth). No player has ever averaged 25-13-7 over a season, according to ESPN.

Jokic also gets the nod as the top player in the league based on two advanced metrics: PER (Player Efficiency Rating) and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). Antetokounmpo is second in both, and Embiid is third in both.

Embiid leads the league in scoring at 30.4 points per game and is fifth in rebounding (11.6. boards per game). Antetokounmpo is third in scoring (29.9) and sixth in rebounds (11.6).

As for team success, there’s little separating the three in the standings. The Bucks and 76ers are tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference at 49-30, but the Nuggets are only two games worse at 47-33, good for sixth in the Western Conference.

Voters Call the Shots

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic handles the ball against the Atlanta Hawks
Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As with wagering on individual awards in all sports, bettors must remember that they’re not handicapping whom they think should take home the hardware. They’re handicapping the voters and the choices they will make.

With that in mind, Jokic’s status as the odds-on favorite becomes even clearer. In a recent ESPN media poll, Jokic received 62 out of 100 first-place votes. Embiid got 29, and Antetokounmpo got nine.

Translation: Unless something dramatic happens between now and Sunday, laying the price with Jokic might be the only way to go.