Tatum, Antetokounmpo Atop Both ESPN MVP Poll And Betting Markets

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on December 16, 2022 - Last Updated on December 19, 2022

ESPN released its first NBA MVP straw poll, with several more to follow in the coming months. This polling queries actual MVP voters, giving real insight into where the race for the newly christened Michael Jordan Trophy stands.

Bettors can use this poll to help dig up potential value in NBA MVP odds. For instance, last year, one could still find decent odds on Nikola Jokic even as late as February, despite the fact he was polling a close second to Joel Embiid. Jokic kept up his monster production in the sprint to the finish and won the award fairly comfortably.

Let’s see how NBA MVP polling and odds compare and find out if anything stands out.

Clear Top Two In Polling

We’ll start by looking at the top five in the polling. Coincidentally enough, these were the only five players to draw first-place votes in the poll.

PlayerPolling PlacePolling PointsBest Betting OddsApprox. Betting Market Rank
Jayson Tatum17591
Giannis Antetokounmpo26872
Luka Doncic33923
Stephen Curry42507
Nikola Jokic51955

Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo comprise a clear top two in the polling, well ahead of Luka Doncic in third. Whereas Tatum (84) and Antetokounmpo (74) made it into the top two of the vast majority of the ballots — the polls reaches 100 voters — Doncic only showed up in the top two 20 times.

That doesn’t track with the market at all, suggesting Doncic is overvalued. The market has Doncic almost even with Giannis. His team is struggling despite Doncic’s best efforts and does not appear on track for a top-four seed in the Western Conference. The majority of MVP winners come from a highly-seeded playoff team.

Stephen Curry is a bit of a special case. The polling rightfully gives him credit for the tremendous season he has put together — only the surging Anthony Davis has scored more points per possession — but he just went down injured. He will reportedly miss “a few weeks.” Between that and the games he’s already missed/will miss due to the team’s ongoing rest program, he might suffer in final voting from lack of volume. The market reflects that expectation.

Finally, two-time defending winner Nikola Jokic. He has also been tremendously efficient. If he keeps this up again, he may once again charge late and overcome voter fatigue. The Nuggets sit third in the West and are a real threat to grab the top seed. That would go a long way convincing voters. The market certainly isn’t ruling him out.

Other Players Of Note

Zion Williamson

  • Polling: 8th
  • Market: ~6th,

The polls are lukewarm on Williamson but the market is decidedly spicier. The Pelicans have climbed the standings with a recent hot streak, including a two-game sweep of the formerly top-seeded Suns. Williamson made headlines (and some enemies) with a brash, flashy dunk to punctuate one of those wins.

Two keys for Williamson will be staying healthy, and the Pelicans maintaining and probably even improving upon their current No. 2 seed. He’s a master of efficiency but his defensive metrics have never graded well. So, he needs teams success to make up for his lack of two-way appeal.

Kevin Durant

  • Polling: 7th
  • Market: ~10th,

It’s hard to find fault with anything Durant has done lately. After a moribund start to the season, the Nets have won eight of their last 10 and have a top-four seed.

Durant himself is posting his usual sparkling numbers: 30/6.7/5.5 on 56/35/92 shooting splits. The Nets rank a surprising 11th in defensive efficiency, a strong number for a team that often plays small, defensively challenged lineups. Durant is a huge part of that.

Anthony Davis

  • Polling: 12th
  • Market: ~9th,

A couple of weeks ago, one could have bought some Davis stock around 80-to-1. He’s been arguably the best player in the league since LeBron James went down injured, necessitating a bigger role on offense for Davis.

The problem for Davis, of course, is the Lakers aren’t even currently in the play-in picture. Davis barely registered in the voting despite the recent market support, garnering just four fifth-place votes (that’s as far down as the polling goes). He’ll need his team to win games in a hurry, because he has a ton of ground to make up and likely has moved far from the area where he has betting value.

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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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