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2023 NBA MVP race: Odds and best bets for Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and more

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Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is an NBA MVP frontrunner
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) looks to pass the ball against Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (5) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The 2022-23 NBA season is now halfway done, and we’ve seen some major shifts in the NBA MVP race. 

Below, we’ll show you the pre-season odds compared with the odds as of January 29th and discuss why the lines have moved as much as they did. We’ll also go over some of our favorite bets based on the value you are getting at those odds. 

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Current NBA MVP Betting Odds

PLAYER JAN ODDS Pre-Season ODDS

Nikola Jokic

-125

+1000

Joel Embiid +300 +500
Luka Doncic

+600

+450

Jayson Tatum +850 +1200
Giannis Antetokounmpo  +1300 +550
Ja Morant

+3000

+1400

All odds courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook, which you can visit here

What Makes an MVP?

Before we get into the potential contenders, let’s look quickly at a few facts about recent MVPs.

  • Fourteen of the past 15 MVPs have scored at least 25 points per game.
  • 16 of the 23 MVPs from 2000 on have played on a number one-seed
  • Four of the remaining seven MVPs played on a number two-seed
  • 19 of the 23 MVPs from 2000 on have been 28 years old or younger

 

Favorites

At the beginning of the season, you could have gotten Nikola Jokic at +1000 and we urged you to take advantage of that. Now he’s at -125, which is a MASSIVE difference. In the article, I said: “If Jokic continues to play that well and the Nuggets are one of the best teams in the West, are people really going to vote for somebody else just because they don’t want him to win again? I can’t see it, so I’d be placing a vote on Jokic with these odds for sure.” 

Well, the Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference and Jokic is averaging 25.1 points per game, 11.0 rebounds per game, and 9.9 assists per game. The two-time MVP seems like a lock to claim the trophy again unless an injury causes him to miss time and allow others to close the game. 

Joel Embiid (+300) is the biggest mover of late. When the weekend started, Embiid had the fourth-best MVP odds in the NBA at +700, but he was masterful against the Celtics in a huge game, scoring  28 points in the second half to finish with 47 points in a 126-119 win. He added 18 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks which the Sixers moved to 32-16, just two games behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

However, the reason Embiid’s odds aren’t currently better is the same reason I can’t advise you to bet on him: missed games. Embiid has already missed 12 games this season, and he seems all but certain to miss a few more. No MVP since Bill Walton in 1978 has missed more than 11 games, so it’s hard to think Embiid can keep taking games off and beat Jokic. 

Luka Doncic (+600) was the pre-season betting favorite at +450, so he’s seen a little knock from those earlier odds. The Mavericks star is averaging 33 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game, but the Mavericks are struggling to a 26-25 record. As we mentioned above, MVP’s team to play on one of the top two seeds in the playoffs, so unless the Mavericks go on a major run, it’s going to be hard to see Doncic claiming the NBA MVP. 

 

Contenders 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1300) has seen a big hit from his +500 pre-season odds and a big reason for that has been missing games with his sore left knee. When he’s on the court, he’s been great, averaging 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, while shooting over 50% from the field. It’s an incredibly impressive season, but given the missed games and the fact that the Bucks are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference, it’s hard to see him winning the award over Embiid or our final player unless Milwaukee goes on a strong run to end the year. 

Jayson Tatum (+850) has had a nice rise from his preseason +1200, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s averaging 31.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game for the best team in the Eastern Conference (as of now). Even though he struggled a bit at the end of a surprising loss to the Knicks, which saw him drop below Embiid in the MVP race, Tatum remains a good bet to be in contention given Boston’s record and his all-around game. If Jokic were to miss time, Tatum could easily emerge as a challenger along with Embiid. 

 

Pre-season Staff Picks

Staff Picks for NBA MVP

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For more NBA coverage, like this NBA MVP article, visit amNY Sports

Jayson Tatum is an NBA MVP dark horse
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) and guard Kyrie Irving guard Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in New York.AP Photo/Mary Altaffer