NBA MVP Odds: Has Embiid Finally Overtaken Jokic? It’s Razor Thin

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on March 30, 2023
NBA MVP odds

ESPN released its third and final NBA MVP straw poll of the 2022-23 season and things have changed considerably. After the last poll showed Nikola Jokic in clear command of the MVP race (and NBA MVP odds), he’s now neck and neck with Joel Embiid in the home stretch. Embiid actually surpassed him for first place, but by the narrowest of margins. And Giannis Antetokounmpo is close enough that it wouldn’t be unthinkable he could win with a late surge.

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, Embiid Neck And Neck

There’s essentially no separation between Jokic and Embiid in the final poll courtesy of Tim Bontemps:

PlayerPolling PlacePolling PointsFirst-Place VotesBest Betting OddsApprox. Betting Market Rank
Joel Embiid1790401
Nikola Jokic2788422
Giannis Antetokounmpo3612183

For reference, last time out, Jokic was about 400 polling points clear of Antetokounmpo and Embiid. The race looked all but over with the Nuggets cruising a No. 1 seed and Jokic putting up another season of savage numbers.

What has happened since? Well, let’s look at the case for each man.

Nikola Jokic

Nothing has really changed for Jokic. He still has basically identical averages and shooting splits as when we last ran this story: 24.9/11.9/9.9 on 63.4/39/82.3 shooting. That’s obviously tremendous, and FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR ratings have him lapping the field.

The Nuggets, however, have stumbled a bit down the stretch. They remain all but certain to have the No. 1 seed, but that very certainty likely contributed to some late season malaise. After being around eight games up with 20 play, they sleepwalked through a few games and lost five of six. Jokic himself appears content to coast and has openly said he doesn’t care whether he wins MVP, which may turn some voters off. At the time of writing, the team seems to be considering sitting him for an upcoming game.

Any further resting down the stretch bodes ill for his chances of a three-peat.

Joel Embiid

The 76ers were surging and looked to have moved into contention for the No. 1 seed. That fueled a jump to where Embiid was briefly the clear favorite.

However, they have crashed back after losing four out of five games. Embiid himself missed one of those losses, a game against Denver that could have served as a crucial final head-to-head showdown between the two. At this point, it looks nearly certain the Sixers will wind up as the East No. 3 seed, though it’s worth noting there’s a reasonable chance they will finish with a better record than the Nuggets. Currently, the Nuggets have a one-game lead in the win column and two in the loss column.

As far the numbers go, Embiid does not compare particularly favorably to Embiid. He has the scoring edge (33.2) but trails big in assists (4.2). The efficiency drops off starkly, with Embiid sitting on 54.4/34/85.6 splits.

Defense, however, counts in Embiid’s favor for most voters. While some advanced metrics like Jokic’s work there, most observers consider Embiid the far more impactful defender.

Unlike Jokic, Embiid has been vocal that he feels he’s gotten short-shrift in the voting in recent years. Expect him to push hard for the award down the stretch.

Any Case For Giannis?

Quietly, stealthily, as debate rages around Jokic and Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo has built a case.

First and perhaps foremost, anecdotally, it seems like most dialed-in NBA observers consider Antetokounmpo the best basketball player on the planet. If there’s a close race, with three men each putting up monster numbers, some voters may default to that.

As far the numbers go, he has the raw production to match both centers but suffers in the efficiency department. His 55.3/28.5/64.8 shooting numbers represent a sizable drop-off from the others. The free-throw shooting in particular was an early story and it has not really recovered.

However, where Antetokounmpo has a clear case is the old “best player on the best team” voting shortcut. That has earned many a player an MVP, with the likes of Derrick Rose and James Harden some recent examples of MVP winners who got the hardware over arguably more productive and/or more efficient players thanks to team success. Milwaukee has 55 wins and looks like the clear-cut top overall seed despite a pretty lukewarm commitment to the regular season. They have the No. 1 defense in the NBA per Cleaning The Glass and Antetokounmpo will and should get a large amount of credit for all of this team success.

NBA MVP Remains Up In The Air

Overall, it seems each man still has a legitimate chance to win.

When handicapping this race, it’s so close that any one massive game could leave the final, lasting impression in the minds of the voters. Given that, it does seem like Embiid should have the slight edge given that he seems to be the one pushing hardest for it. Jokic has absolutely no care, and Antetokounmpo just took a rest game. The Bucks are multiple games up and may have nothing to play for in the very last games.

However, “numbers” voters are going to gravitate toward Jokic. And “team success” voters will pick Antetokounmpo. So, good luck parsing how NBA MVP odds and voting will shake out as the season draws to a close.

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Mo Nuwwarah Avatar
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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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