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NBA MVP odds: Picking the best bets for basketball’s most prestigious award, from favorites to long shots

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The MVP award is by far the most talked about in the NBA, but it’s worth noting that this debate tends to involve a very small number of players. By the end of last season, the race was almost exclusively between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, but to some extent we could have predicted this even before the opening. Two major qualifiers have reduced the number of candidates to the last few seasons:

  • Every MVP since Derrick Rose in 2011 has been selected as a First Team or Second Team NBA player the previous season.
  • Every MVP winner since Steve Nash in 2006 has received the award before their 30th birthday.

So by that logic, we only have seven viable candidates this season: Jokic, Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Jason Tatum, Devin Booker and Ja Morant. Unsurprisingly, when you raise the odds on Caesars Sportsbook, you will see that all four favorites fall into this group. Six of them are 15-to-1 or better. The highest odds in this group belong to Booker: 30 to 1. The field breaks off from there. Only two other players are even 50-to-1 or lower.

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Of course, we won’t bet responsibly if we limit ourselves solely to the All NBA Players Under 30 Club, so let’s lay out a few other criteria before diving into specific candidates:

  • Accessibility is the best ability. No MVP of this century has missed more than 11 games. Of these 23 winners, 17 have played at least 75 games (or equivalent in a shortened year). Workload management has likely softened that standard somewhat, but Jokic’s resilience has been a major topic of discussion compared to Embiid over the past two seasons, when the Denver center played 27 more games than Philadelphia.
  • This award goes to scorers. The only winner since Kobe Bryant in 2008 to score less than 25 points per game was Stephen Curry in 2015. He had a pretty good excuse: his Warriors were knocking out opponents so often that he only averaged 32.7 minutes per game.
  • Apart from Jokic, this award usually goes to the top seed. Before Jokic won from 6th last season, the average 21st century MVP had won 61 regular season games, and statistically, a team with 60 wins at any point in the 21st century had an estimated 38 percent a chance to produce Winner MVP. Jokic was only the third player since 2000 to receive this award without playing for a top three spot. Jokic is proof that voters are willing to keep an open mind about candidates from the lower teams, but this usually happens under extenuating circumstances. Jokic won with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. after playing just nine games for Denver last season. Russell Westbrook won right after Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City.
  • Previous winners are generally ranked against their own past performance. When a player wins their second MVP award, it is almost always accompanied by either a significant statistical improvement or a significant jump in wins. Historically, this has only been true for players looking for their second MVP. Once a player has two, they tend to be judged less aggressively by their own standard. Jokic may be an exception. If he wins this season’s MVP, he will be the first player since Larry Bird to win three in a row. Neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James has ever done this, and therefore there will be voters who will judge Jokic not by the field or even by themselves, but by James and Jordan.
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So, with players down to a relatively small group, let’s make our best preseason bets to win the 2022-23 NBA MVP award.


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Luka Doncic

DAL • PG • 77

MVP odds +475


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Joel Embiid

FI • C • 21

MVP chance +550


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Giannis Antetokounmpo

MIL • PF • 34

MVP odds +650


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Nikola Jokic

B • C • 15

MVP odds +800


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To begin with, I bet on Doncic, but I would not advise you to do the same. I bet on him in June when his odds were around 600. Now he’s a +475 favorite, but I think he’s less likely to win the award today than I was three months ago. While the absence of Jalen Brunson puts a huge strain on the scoring and reinforces the storytelling, Spencer Dinwiddie is a much less capable backcourt partner for Doncic than Brunson. Playoff lineups featuring Doncic and Brunson scored almost 115 points per 100 possessions. Swap Brunson for Dinwiddie and that number drops to around 109. Dinwiddie’s erratic throw will rob Doncic of space, and Jason Kidd looks set to make matters worse by releasing JaVale McGee in center. Dallas advanced to the Western Conference Finals by surrounding Doncic with shooters and wings. Now they are doing the exact opposite. Eventually they will understand it. What it’s time to bet on Doncic, and then his chances will be more favorable.

Four other players are available at odds of 10 to 1 or less. I must say right away that Kevin Durant (+900) does not suit me. Forget the trading risk, which is significant, and remember that he only played 90…


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