NBA odds: Nikola Jokić new favorite to win MVP; Best bets to make now

We have a new name on the NBA MVP odds board at FOX Bet, as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić has overtaken Luka Dončić as the favorite to win the award.

I understand why he’s currently favored: The Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference, and Jokić has by far the best efficiency differential, which Cleaning The Glass has at a wild 23.9, meaning the Nuggets are almost 24 points better when Jokic is. on the floor than when it is not.

This might be the first time he’s the first name on my MVP ballot, but that doesn’t mean I expect him to win the award for what would be a third straight year. I wouldn’t bet your money or mine on that happening either because I don’t expect it to continue like this. Or that the 100 media who vote for the award—yes, I’m one of them—don’t take other factors into account when they fill out the ballots three months from now.

Let’s jump into the odds, plus my three favorite NBA MVP bets to make right now that have some value.

LeBron James scored a season-high 48 points

LeBron James scored a season-high 48 points

Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe discuss LeBron James scoring 48 points against the Rockets.

TOP 10 NBA MVPs (on FOX Bet)*

Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets: +162 (bet $10 to win $26.20 total)
Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks: +225 (bet $10 to win $32.50 total)
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: +500 (bet $10 to win $60 total)
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: +500 (bet $10 to win $60 total)
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: +1100 (bet $10 to win $120 total)
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: +1600 (bet $10 to win $170 total)
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies: +2500 (bet $10 to win $260 total)
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers: +3500 (bet $10 to win $360 total)
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors: +5000 (bet $10 to win $510 total)
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans: +6000 (bet $10 to win $610 total)

* Probabilities from 01/18/2023

RELATED: The full list of FOX Bet MVP candidate odds

Factor no. 1: The award would put the Denver big man alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird as the only players in NBA history to win the award three years in a row. That might not sound so terrible to you because of Jokić’s unique talent, but it would put him ahead of back-to-back winners Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I would suggest that from a historical perspective, Jokic has been the most dominant player in the league over the last three years, which is hard to reconcile with his poor postseason results.

Here’s what all these two winners have in common with Wilt, Bill and Larry: They’ve all won multiple rings. Here’s what makes Jokić an outlier among the two winners: He hasn’t come close to winning one yet.

I won’t hold that against him because I didn’t have him at the top of my ballot the previous two years, but I’m not convinced that most of my media peers don’t. Especially if there’s a case that Jokić isn’t as dominant individually as he was a year ago, and lo and behold, there is one.

Statistically, it has dropped in several categories. His field goal and 3-point shooting percentages are up, as are his assists, but his points, rebounds and blocked shots are down. And in the absence of an injury to Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. or Aaron Gordon, I don’t expect that to change. All of which suggests the Nuggets’ conference-leading record has more to do with the return of Murray and Porter, who missed a substantial portion of last season, than the improvement of Jokić.

The other element working against Jokic is that the East appears to be the significantly tougher conference, which will add value to finish there, which will add value to the MVP candidate leading this particular team. (Luka Dončić and Ja Morant’s MVP chances are similarly affected.)

While the Nuggets manage to maintain the best record in the Western Conference, the East is now the bigger beast. A 24-21 record in the West entering Tuesday earned the fifth seed and a guaranteed playoff berth (Dallas); in the East, it’s worth the seventh seed and a spot in the play-in tournament (Miami).

That’s why my top three smart bets to win this year’s MVP at this stage are all with the best teams in the East.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (+500 to win MVP at FOX Bet)

The Celtics are threatening to run away with the best record in the league, and while I think that’s a credit to the overall strength and balance of the roster, there’s no denying that Tatum is having his best season yet.

Anyone who follows the formula, Best Player + Best Team = MVP, would be hard pressed not to vote for him if the status quo remains. FOX Bet seems to agree, having moved their odds from +1300 in pre-season to +500 now.

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (+1100 to win MVP at FOX Bet)

I recommended Embiid as an MVP betting pick before the season, and I’m sticking with him, especially with the dividends that have increased since then (+1100 now, +500 then).

He’s neck-and-neck with Dončić for this year’s scoring title, and after a 9-9 start, the Sixers have gone 18-7 and appear to be gaining momentum.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (+500 to win MVP at FOX Bet

Another pre-season selection that is very much in progress. The Bucks are a threat to win the East in large part because of their third defense, and Giannis is far and away their most versatile defensive player, with big contributions from Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday. He also leads them in rebounds and goals, averaging a career high in the latter (31.0 points per game).

Jokić won last year, in part, because he kept the Nuggets going despite the absence of Porter and Murray; Giannis may have some of that sentiment working in his favor among voters, with All-Star guard Khris Middleton appearing in just seven games so far. At +500, betting on Antetokounmpo to win his third MVP is worth a splash.

Honorable Mention

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (+1600 to win MVP at FOX Bet)

With at least one voter announcing that he would not vote for KD no matter what he does this season because of the turmoil he inspired during the offseason that ultimately cost manager Steve Nash his job, I have no reason to believe that Durant can win. . Strictly speaking about What he’s doing on the court, though, which I think should top it, then he’s definitely in the mix.

Not only do the Nets have the second best winning percentage in the East, but Durant is shooting career highs from the field and the free throw line (and much better than when he won the 2014 MVP) . Even more notably, the Nets have suffered two double-digit losses since Durant tore a knee ligament after going 14-of-15.

It was my pre-season dark horse pick, and at +1600, it remains one now. If Brooklyn continues to falter without him and KD returns later to lead them to the best record in the East, it would make a compelling case that Durant deserves to be among the two-time MVP winners more than Jokić deserves to be among the three-peaters.

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” the story of NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds,” the story. of NBA center Yao Ming. He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @Rick Bucher.

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