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As we come out of the NBA All-Star break, it's a great time to start looking at some NBA futures, including odds to win NBA MVP.
Reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic is the heavy favorite to win this award for the third straight year, but what if he doesn't? What if he gets hurt? What if "voter fatigue" sets in and those picking the award decide they want someone new -- or more accurately, someone not Jokic -- to win this year's award? What if the aliens who created this triple-double machine call Jokic back to the mothership before the season ends? If so, there would be some real value on the board. Here is who our experts like to possibly upset Jokic for the 2023 NBA MVP award.
While this is Jokic’s award to lose at the moment, it’s difficult to ignore what a force the Greek Freak has been this year. As one of the league’s top defenders, Antetokounmpo is also averaging 31.8 points (third in the NBA), 12.2 rebounds (second) and 5.4 assists, and led Milwaukee to a 41-17 record at the All-Star break without a healthy Khris Middleton and deep supporting cast. When looking at the MVP award, I typically try to envision what a team would look like without the player. The Nuggets would stink without Jokic. The Bucks would stink without Giannis. The other players with the shortest odds (Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant) all have co-stars to rely on, so I’ll automatically dismiss them. Jokic, Antetokounmpo and Doncic (before Kyrie Irving arrived) have been the frontrunners in my eyes all year long and now it’s a two-man race in my opinion. At this price, taking a shot on Giannis and a magical second-half run makes a lot of sense.
Giannis is in the top of the pack in multiple categories this season, as he is third in points with 31.8 points per game and second in rebounds at 12.2 per game. He also scored 30-plus points in three of his last four games before the All-Star break. He continues to dominate, has won this award twice before and has a real shot to give Jokic a run for his money for MVP.
Though Giannis likely represents better pure value at +1000, take Jokic off the board and Embiid becomes the favorite to win MVP, in my opinion. Giannis has the slight edge on Embiid in rebounding and assists this season, but Embiid holds the advantage on Giannis in defense (1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game), scoring (33.1 ppg, second behind Doncic) and scoring efficiency when you factor in his superior 3-point (35.5%) and free-throw (85.8%) shooting percentages. And don't forget that Giannis is dealing with a wrist injury coming out of the All-Star break. While I don't expect this to happen (and certainly won't root for it), Embiid would be the bigger beneficiary of a Jokic injury or snub and would look like amazing value at +600 if Jokic was out of the picture.
Giannis presents the most value for the players that have a (somewhat) realistic shot on the MVP board right now. As long as his hand injury doesn’t keep him out too long, the Greek Freak’s stock should continue to rise. He’s led the Bucks to 12 straight wins and has Milwaukee positioned just a half-game back from the Celtics for first pace in the East. He’s averaging 31.8 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists this season and he’s done that with a supporting cast that’s dealt with plenty of injuries this season. If he can get back into the lineup quickly and continue to elevate the Bucks as the postseason nears, I like his odds to win MVP at +1000.
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