For the third straight season, it looks like the NBA MVP race is a battle between the league’s top two centers: Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid.
In the previous two seasons, Jokic and Embiid finished No. 1 and No. 2 in MVP voting and this season was following the same trend. Jokic had been the favorite for much of the regular season, but as of Thursday, Embiid has emerged as the favorite at DraftKings sportsbook with fewer than than 15 games left in the season.
Here’s a look at how the MVP odds for the top-five players on the board have shifted in less than a month.
NBA MVP Odds — Top 5 Candidates
|Current Odds||Odds at All-Star Break|
At the All-Star break, Jokic’s -250 price equated to roughly 60% implied odds that he would win his third straight MVP award.
At the time, the Nuggets had the third-highest win percentage in the NBA, the best offense in the league and a five-game lead in the Western Conference. The 76ers had the fourth-highest win percentage, the sixth-best defense and were three games off the lead in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Jokic was averaging a triple-double over that 51-game span — 24.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 10.1 assists — while shooting 63.2% from the floor and 39.1% from beyond the arc. Embiid was the second-leading scorer in the NBA (33.1 points per game), shooting 53.7% from the field, 35.5% from 3-point range and 85.8% at the free-throw line with 1.5 blocks.
In the short span since the break, Jokic has been nearly as efficient as a scorer and he’s up to 14.1 rebounds over a 10-game sample. Embiid has taken over the top spot in per-game scoring is up to 2.5 blocks per game.
The comparisons have become even more granular, though. On March 10, Embiid hit the go-ahead bucket to beat the Portland Trail Blazers after a 39-point performance. Two days later, Jokic missed a potential game-winner against the Brooklyn Nets, despite putting up 35 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists.
Team performance appears to be the biggest factor in the change in odds. The Nuggets are 5-5 since the break with a -2.3 Point Differential (19th) and the 76ers are 8-3 with a +7.9 Point Differential (second). Embiid’s current price gives him roughly 45% implied odds to win, while Jokic’s implied odds have fallen to 34% since the break.
In an eerily similar scenario reminiscent of last season, the race between the NBA’s premier big men could come down to a head-to-head matchup in the final stretch of the season. The Nuggets and 76ers have one remaining game against each other on March 27 in Denver. Embiid and the 76ers won the first meeting in Philadelphia in January.
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