NBA MVP Odds: Joel Embiid Stands Tall As Clear-Cut Favorite

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid reacts to chants of MVP from the crowd during a game against the Orlando Magic
Image Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is still in the midst of its annual way-past-midseason All-Star siesta, so it’s an ideal time to take a gander at the latest NBA MVP odds. And here’s what that gander reveals: With less than seven weeks remaining in the 2021-22 season, this year’s award is Joel Embiid’s to lose.

Thanks to his stellar play — as well as his ability to stay on the court — the Philadelphia 76ers’ center is the overwhelming favorite to win the honor. But that doesn’t mean the handful of MVP candidates chasing Embiid can’t catch him. 

After all, when the season resumes Thursday, every team will have 20-plus games remaining on their schedule. That’s plenty of time for the contenders — three of whom have MVP pedigree — to close the gap. It’s also plenty of time for the oft-injured Embiid to strain, sprain, or break a body part.

With an assist from BetMGM sportsbook data specialist Drew O’Dell, breaks down the current NBA MVP odds and action.

2021-22 NBA MVP Odds

Player NBA MVP Odds
Joel Embiid +125
Nikola Jokic +275
Giannis Antetokounmpo +375
Stephen Curry +1,100
Ja Morant +1,400
DeMar DeRozan +2,200
Devin Booker +2,200

Odds via BetMGM and updated as of 4 p.m. ET on Feb. 22.

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Meet The Clubhouse Leader

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid tries to grab a rebound against the Atlanta Hawks
Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Just how dominant has Embiid been this season? He’s averaging a career-best 29.6 points per game, putting him just ahead of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.4) for the league lead. He also ranks eighth in rebounds (11.2 per game) and 11th in blocked shots (1.4 per game). And he’s dishing out a career-high 4.5 assists per contest.

Furthermore, the 7-footer is shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range. That’s just off last year’s career-best numbers of 51.3 percent and 37.7 percent. Perhaps most important of all, Embiid has remained on the court for most of the season. Since a nine-game injury absence that sidelined him in November, the former Kansas star has played in 36 of a possible 38 games.

During this stretch, Embiid has logged 25 double-doubles (including 14 in his last 17 contests). He also has two dozen games of 30-plus points (including eight 40-point games and one 50-point effort).

Throw in the fact that the 76ers (35-23) have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference — without a single contribution from the disgruntled-and-now-departed Ben Simmons — and it’s easy to understand Embiid’s lofty position atop the NBA MVP odds board at BetMGM. After opening the season as the co-second choice with Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant at +700, Embiid is all the way down to +125.

The latter number is interesting for this reason: Prior to the 76ers shipping Simmons to the Nets on Feb. 10 for James Harden, BetMGM had Embiid’s MVP odds at +210. The day after the trade, Embiid dipped to +200. So it’s clear the betting market believes the addition of Harden, the 2018 MVP who is expected to make his Philly debut this week, will strengthen Embiid’s grip on the hardware.

Meet The Decorated Contenders

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

Aside from Embiid, only two players have MVP odds in the single digits. And together, those two players have won the last three trophies: Denver Nuggets center/reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Bucks’ Antetokounmpo, who took home the award in 2019 and 2020.

Jokic — who comes out of the All-Star break riding a 12-game double-double streak that also includes eight triple-doubles — is averaging 26 points, a career-high 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per contest. The 6-foot-11 Serbian opened the season at +1,600 on BetMGM’s MVP odds board. He now slots behind Embiid at +275.

Antetokounmpo’s 29.4 ppg average is just a tick off his career-high of 29.5 in 2019-20. Underscoring the dominance: The Greek Freak has recorded 31 double-doubles and four triple-doubles in 49 games. Antetokounmpo opened the season as the third choice at BetMGM and remains there. However, his odds have shrunk considerably, from +800 to +375. 

The only other viable contenders are Golden State Warriors guard (and two-time MVP) Steph Curry, and precocious Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant. Curry — who is averaging 25.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per contest — opened at +900. At one point early in the season, Curry occupied the top spot in the NBA MVP odds market. However, he’s now at +1,100.

Morant has dropped from +5,000 to the +1,400 fifth choice, thanks to a sensational third season. The 2019 No. 2 overall pick is putting up career-high numbers in points (26.8), rebounds (5.8), steals (1.2), and field-goal shooting (49.5%). It’s worth noting that Morant is currently listed at -400 on BetMGM to win Most Improved Player. BetMGM has reported that Morant has seen a whopping 49.3% of the betting handle for this award. 

Another contender who had been steadily climbing up the MVP odds board is now off that board entirely: Chris Paul. The Phoenix Suns point guard opened at 100/1 at BetMGM and was sitting at +2,500 exactly a week ago. However, Paul fractured his right thumb Thursday and is out six to eight weeks.

Ticket Takers And (Possible) Money-Makers

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry drives toward the basket against the Sacramento Kings
Image Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Much to the chagrin of the folks in BetMGM’s risk room, bettors have been jumping on Embiid’s ever-growing MVP bandwagon. The No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA draft is the runaway leader at BetMGM in both ticket count (20.3%) and money (25.3%).

Ranking behind Embiid in tickets are Jokic (14.3%), Curry (14.0%), and Morant (8.5%). Curry, who was at the top of the money board at BetMGM as recently as Feb. 8, is now second in handle at 19.3%, followed by Jokic (12.0%) and Antetokounmpo (9.9%).

BetMGM customers also have started taking a liking to Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan, who is now fifth in ticket count (7.6%) and seventh in money (5.0%). Despite those numbers, DeRozan’s MVP odds are actually up a bit from an opener of +2,000 to +2,200.

Still, BetMGM’s O’Dell is hopeful that DeRozan — who is averaging 37.6 points over his last eight games — stays hot and runs down Embiid over the final weeks of the regular season. And if not DeRozan, well, pretty much anyone else.

Said O’Dell: “DeRozan, Morant, Jokic — all would be better outcomes for the book than Embiid or Curry.”