Joel Embiid catches Nikola Jokic as favorite for NBA MVP

ByDavid Purdum ESPN logo
Thursday, March 16, 2023

The betting odds to win MVP of the NBA regular season moved dramatically this week at sportsbooks, with 76ers star Joel Embiid catching Denver's Nikola Jokic, the longtime favorite, in what's turning out to be a close race.

Embiid moved from a 2-1 underdog to an odds-on favorite Wednesday. Jokic had been the clear-cut favorite since Feb. 1 at sportsbooks and, earlier this week, was listed at short as -350 at Caesars Sportsbook.

The odds began to shift Tuesday, after the Nuggets lost at home to Brooklyn. By Thursday, Jokic and Embiid were co-favorites, each -105 at Caesars. Embiid is the outright favorite at other sportsbooks, including DraftKings and PointsBet.

"Money dictates price, and clients have been betting Embiid," Kevin Lawler, head of trading for PoinstBet, said. "Time will tell if they are right."

Jokic's slide in the MVP odds coincides with the Nuggets' recent struggles. They lost their fourth in a row Wednesday and have seen their hold on the top seed in the Western Conference trimmed to 4.5 games over the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies.

Jokic has put up big numbers during the Nuggets' slump. He had a 35-point, 20-rebound triple-double in the loss to the Nets and has averaged 29.5 points and 14.8 rebounds during the team's four-game losing streak. But the betting public believes that the MVP race is tightening and becoming a three-man race.

Over the past week at Caesars Sportsbook, 85% of the bets and 79% of the money wagered on the MVP market has been on Embiid, who leads the league with 33.5 points per game. Jokic, on the other hand, has attracted just 6% of the bets 2% of the money since last week.

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged the consensus third choice, behind Embiid and Jokic. Antetokounmpo's MVP odds also improved this week, moving from a 9-1 underdog to 3-1 as of Thursday at Caesars.

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