Nikola Jokic Vs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander In ESPN’s Latest NBA MVP Poll

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Written By Mo Nuwwarah | Last Updated
nba mvp odds

ESPN released its second NBA MVP straw poll of the season, meaning the race has come into sharper focus. And that race appears to be of the two-horse variety at this time. Two-time winner Nikola Jokic has a decent but not nearly an insurmountable lead over longshot candid Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. With both the Nuggets and Thunder jockeying for top seeding in the West (1/2 game apart as of Feb. 13), whether either can claim the No. 1 seed may ultimately decide the NBA MVP winner.

A reminder: this poll reflects the opinions of actual MVP voters. Therefore, bettors can use this information to gain insight on where the award is headed and find potential value in NBA MVP odds. Let’s see how NBA MVP polling and odds compare and find out if anything stands out.

Jokic Garners 69 Of 100 First-Place Votes To Lead Gilgeous-Alexander

PlayerPolling PlacePolling PointsBest OddsApprox. Market Rank
N. Jokic18891
S. Gilgeous-Alexander27092
G. Antetokounmpo33913
L. Doncic42604
K. Leonard51755

Note that Joel Embiid has fallen off the ballot as he’ll miss the necessary games played threshold as detailed here. Jokic and Gilgeous-Alexander are on track to check that box without a sweat.

The Serbian garnered 69 of 100 first-place votes, with Gilgeous-Alexander earning 24 of the remaining 31. He held a large lead in second-place votes but was inexplicably left off one ballot.

Not a whole lot separates the two statistically. Jokic has a small lead in the catch-all PER stat and is close to averaging a triple-double at 26.3/12.2/9. Gilgeous-Alexander is scoring more points with a 31.1/5.6/6.6 line and actually doing so more efficiently, per Cleaning The Glass’ points per shot attempt (131 to 130.6). Given Jokic’s positional advantage playing closer to the basket, that’s a tremendous feat.

The teams’ respective finishes in the Western Conference figure to come into play. The Thunder currently lead the Nuggets by 1/2 a game and have the No. 2 seed. They also have a better efficiency margin, and it isn’t close (+7.8 to 3.5), indicating they may have more staying power.

Basketball Reference’s projections like Jokic’s chances by some margin. However, keep in mind that while Jokic has a solid lead in the voting at the moment, that could easily change. As ESPN noted in their article accompanying the poll, the second-place February poll finisher has overtaken the leader and won each of the past two years. In at least one of those cases (last year), the gap between the top two was larger than the one Gilgeous-Alexander would have to overcome.

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Other Players Of Note In NBA MVP Race

Giannis Antetokounmpo ()

Giannis is on a tear statistically, ranking only behind Jokic and Gilgeous-Alexander in PER. He’s having a similar season to Jokic statistically, returning to his high-efficiency ways after something of a down season by effective field goal percentage last year.

Unfortunately for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, their season has hit a bit of a rut as they struggle to find stability in the coaching staff. Dismissing Adrian Griffin has not had the hoped-for effect. The team has slid to the No. 3 seed behind the white-hot Cavs, although there have been some encouraging signs in the film.

Antetokounmpo probably needs his team to go on a heater and challenge the Celtics for the No. 1 seed in order to boost his candidacy. With an 8 1/2 game deficit, there’s a long way to go.

Luka Doncic ()

Doncic finds himself in a similar boat to that of Antetokounmpo. Despite another monstrous season statistically (34.3/8.8/9.6 while likely to lead the NBA in scoring), Doncic’s team has struggled.

The Mavs have a perfectly fine 31-23 record, but that’s only good for a play-in spot in the rugged West. Granted, they’re only a game out of fifth, so that could change quickly. Getting healthy would help greatly. Doncic himself has missed time, as has Kyrie Irving, but both are healthy, and the team has gotten a five-game winning streak going.

Still, it’s hard to see a way Doncic could overtake Jokic and Gilgeous-Alexander as they have comparable statistical seasons but lead their teams to top seeds.

Kawhi Leonard ()

Leonard may have the most interesting potential as a longshot candidate. The Clippers have been arguably the best team in the NBA since finding their footing after the James Harden deal. They are challenging for the No. 1 seed in the West, 1 1/2 game behind the Timberwolves, although a blowout loss to them on Monday hurt the cause.

Leonard himself just completed a scalding-hot stretch. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, he became the first player ever to average 25 points on 55/50/90 splits over any 30-game stretch.

Given that Leonard has the biggest defensive impact of any of the candidates, he could build a case if he stays on the court. He has appeared in 48 of the Clips’ 52 games and is actually playing back-to-backs.

Again, he likely needs to lead his team to the top seed. But that looks more than realistic, given the Clippers’ current positioning and recent pace.

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