NBA MVP Rankings: Giannis Antetokounmpo should be getting more love, but it’s Nikola Jokic’s award to lose
With only a month left before the 2022-2023 regular season closes, the MVP race is still up in the air – or at least I think it should be. According to Caesars odds, Nikola Jokic is the clear favorite to win for the third time in a row, something that hasn’t happened since Larry Bird in the mid-1980s. I think he will win. But for now, it shouldn’t be a lock.
Below are my top five MVP rankings coming into play on Wednesday, March 8th.
1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Caesars lists Jokic as a -400 favorite. Joel Embiid is currently in second place with +425. This gap reflects a runaway race and while I do think Jokic is and should be the favourite, I don’t think it is. What transparent.
However, Jokic’s season is just incredible. I’ll keep repeating this because it’s crazy: this season he’s shot at least 50% from the field in every game except one. Think about it. And it’s not a slick, conservative scorer. The only reason this guy misses a chance is because he finds someone else, even better.
Jokic remains the leader in almost all complex additional indicators. The Nuggets, who are 27 points behind on 100 possessions when Jokic leaves the floor, are tied for the most wins in the league and narrowly missed out on first place in the West. The man averages a triple-double on 40 percent three-point shooting and 70 percent shooting accuracy. It goes without saying that no one in history has ever given such figures.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Jokic got a lot of MVP love last season for the work he did keeping Denver, who finished in 6th place with 48 wins, competitive despite the absence of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. with the best record in the league despite Chris Middleton only playing 22 games at a level well below his usual standard.
Giannis scored 30-plus points in three of his four games since the All-Star break. He had 33 rebounds and 15 rebounds against the Nets, leading the league for the eighth time this season, posting 30-15. He’s been picked up lately at the free throw line, where he’s 35-of-43 (81 percent) in his last three games. If he maintains his current record, Giannis will be one of five players in history averaging at least 30 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, plus he is a top-notch defenseman for a top-notch defense.
Bottom line: The Bucks have the best record in the league, despite their second-best player more or less not playing a role in the season as a whole. The lack of partners was the main argument in favor of Jokic last season, and Denver finished only with the sixth seed.
Even with the presence of Jrue Holiday, who was great and in terms of on-off actually means more to the Bucks than Giannis in 100 possessions, shouldn’t this story be as powerful a factor in the Giannis case as for Jokic? when we’re talking about the best team in the league that misses the All-Star Game for most of the season?
3. Joel Embiid, 76ers
Embiid (+425) is slightly ahead of Giannis (+600) as an MVP candidate according to Caesar’s odds, but remember that these odds reflect how betting has been done to date, and thus how the books will benefit the most in terms of encourage, or discourage future bidding, i.e. the odds board is not always synonymous with ranking candidates.
Indeed, my Embiid is slightly lower than Antetokounmpo, despite a slight discrepancy in the odds. This is a controversial argument. The Sixers have been through a lot of injury and Embiid, along with a lot of help from James Harden, has seen the Sixers through them all as the league’s top scorer (tied with Luka Doncic) and a defensive anchor for a top 8 unit that ranks in the top five with Embiid on floor according to Cleaning the Glass.
With Embiid on the court, the Sixers lead the opposition by 7.8 points per 100 CTG possessions. When he leaves, they are down 9.2 points out of 100. For reference, the Bucks are down 6.9 points out of 100 when Giannis is seated, according to CTG.
4. Luka Doncic, Mavericks
Take a look at all the advanced stats, RAPTORS, VORP, PER, WS, BPM, just about any of them, and you’ll see three names at the very top of all of them: Jokic, Embiid, and Doncic. This is not an accident. Doncic is tied with Embiid as the league’s top scorer and works with fewer supporting roster than any of the other top MVP candidates.
The Mavericks have been faltering on the line of play and have struggled lately. They didn’t see the push in terms of pure…