NBA Midseason Futures: NBA MVP

We gave you Jokic last season at +450. Never Forget

The NBA MVP race always seems to come down to three things:

A fat offensive stat line
Staying healthy for 80% of the year
Voter Fatigue on certain players

Every year, these three things make-up 90% of what determines the NBA MVP. Take a glance back at the MVPs over the years and you’ll see all of them meet this criteria/ were chosen based on this criteria. This season’s MVP odds have already shifted numerous times. For much of the early season, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were atop the MVP lists. Since KD was injured, the race has completely opened-up.

As we mentioned on the teaser, we gave you Nikola Jokic last season on the February 12th article in 2021 at +450 odds. Of all the bets we listed, we advised you Jokic was the “Good Bet”. He ended up winning, so maybe we’re on to something here.

Odds via DraftKings

 

Joel Embiid +250

Joel Embiid is currently the MVP favorite at +250. Before you go drop all your coin on Embiid to win the MVP, go look back at his previous seasons and how healthy he stayed. Embiid is averaging career-highs in points, steals, and assists. However, he’s also never played more than 64 games (78%) in a single season. This is Embiid’s sixth year in the league and voters are eager to get him an MVP, but we still need him to stay healthy, and that’s the primary concern.

Statistically, Joel Embiid is 2nd in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). He’s having a career year in points and assists. His team is in the playoffs as of today. He was leading the MVP race last season with lesser numbers when he went down with an injury. Joel Embiid is doing all of this without Ben Simmons. That’s why he’s leading the odds this season and why it’s all dependent on his health this time around.

Verdict

Great odds, but Completely health-dependent bet – If Embiid manages to stay healthy (which is actually something he’s yet to do in a season), this award should be his. For the last few years, voters for this award have had heavy praise for Embiid. Without Ben Simmons, this team is in the thick of the playoff pack, sitting just three games out of second place in the East.

 

Nikola Jokic +400

We mentioned how “voter fatigue on certain players” is an important factor. If we are being honest with ourselves, Nikola Jokic might be the best offensive player in basketball right now. The problem is, he won the award last season. Unless he has a better season than he did a year ago, he probably doesn’t have a great shot at winning it again. In reality, Jokic only really won the MVP last season because other key guys were injured.

Verdict

Mediocre bet (insert Larry David’s uneasy gif) – The people responsible didn’t really want to pick Jokic last season. Giannis was the victim of voter fatigue and some other guys got hurt at the wrong time (Embiid). Do we think, even with a big bump in rebounding this season, Jokic really has a shot to win this again? The concern here are Steph Curry (+310), Embiid staying healthy (+250), and Giannis (+330) dragging the Bucks back to the top.

Giannis Antentokounmpo +330

With Giannis falling prey to voter fatigue last season, he finally reached the pinnacle of the sport. Giannis hoisted the NBA title last season, following a grueling postseason run. The interesting part of all this is, Giannis was shunned in the MVP battle last season because he had won the award the two prior seasons. The reasoning was voter fatigue and the lack of NBA titles. Now, Giannis makes a compelling case as to why he should still be considered amongst the frontrunners.

Statistically, Giannis is 3rd in PER. He’s top 7 in both points and rebounds and 20th in assists. He actually has more points and assists on average than in his first MVP season. Where he runs into trouble is, the team is 3rd in the division and he isn’t missing an important piece near the level Joel Embiid is. Even if their record is better than the Sixers (barely), the Bucks were a better team for his first two MVPs.

Verdict

The murkiest of murky bets – This is a big dice roll. As solid and amazing as he’s been, yet again, it really seems like he won’t be able to win this award unless the Bucks go on to finish the season with a substantially better record than the Sixers and the Nuggets. We know Giannis is a great defender (better than the others near the top of the odds, for sure) but MVP voters don’t really consider it as a critical factor.

 

Steph Curry +310

Steph Curry has a much weaker case than you may realize. What he has going for him is the second half of last season (the insane scoring run he went on) and the team’s drastically better record this season. Curry is just 23rd in PER. He’s currently having his worst full season shooting from deep (37%). Keep in mind, he’s never finished a season lower than 41% from three.

I’m not exactly a ringing endorsement for Curry this season and the reason is; the voters will have an a-ha moment when they’re looking at everything at the end of the season. Steph Curry does lead the league in plus-minus, but four other Warriors round-out the Top 25 and Lebron isn’t in there, so how credible could it be?

Verdict

Go ahead and burn your money now – I don’t like this one, straight-up. Curry is having his 5th or 6th best season as a professional, and his team is in 2nd in the West. Those are the simple facts. We are still jaded by the insane scoring run he went on last season and the hot start to this season, not realizing how significantly he’s cooled since then.

Ja Morant +1100

This may come as a major shock to some of you, but Ja Morant is statistically better across the board (in the major offensive categories) than Steph Curry right now. If you think Steph has value at +310, consider Ja instead. Here’s their big numbers:

Steph Curry: 25.8 PPG (41% FG & 37% from deep), 5.4 REB, 6.2 AST, 21.57 PER (23rd)

Ja Morant: 25.8 PPG (49% FG & 36% from deep), 5.9 REB, 6.9 AST, 25.37 PER (8th)

Now, some people will say, “But Steph leads the league in plus/Minus!” That’s cool and all but Lebron is nowhere remotely close to the top and yet 5 Warriors are in the Top 25 of that category. Plus/Minus is something some voters pay attention to, but I know many have publicly stated that plus/minus is kind of ridiculous, because it’s more dependent on how deep your bench is and how often you indulge in blowouts.

Ja Morant has been the emotional and physical support system for this young Grizzlies team. He’s a beacon of hope for the city, the fans, and his teammates. With a lesser known roster, Ja’s Grizzlies are now 3rd in the West, while the Warriors are just ahead of them in the Conference standings (2nd). The only knock on Ja is that the team started a winning streak while Ja was injured. That’s all.

Verdict

A deep sleeper pick with huge upside, but probably not realistic – Ja Morant is likely a year or two away from being a true contender for this award. Last night was a perfect example. The Grizzlies had a nationally televised game flexed out of ESPN to show the Knicks vs Heat. The Grizzlies game was excellent with at least two jaw dropping plays from Ja, while the Knicks game was like watching the remake of Island of Dr Moreau in a truck stop stall.

The point is, Ja is very young and in a small market with far less exposure than most NBA teams. That’s the biggest issue with Ja. If he were on a team like the Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, or 15 other bigger-market teams, he’d be closer to +350 in this MVP race. The upside is there for this bet (a late Grizzlies run and strong finish), but the odds aren’t in his favor for that.

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Author: Paula Dunn