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Embiid now odds-on favorite for NBA MVP over Jokic

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With a little more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, the tide is turning in the NBA MVP race.

Embiid fans had a legitimate argument last season about the big man’s MVP worthiness. He led the league in scoring, and he led the Sixers to 51 regular season wins, three more than Jokic’s Nuggets. But Jokic claimed 65 of 90 first-place votes on the way to his second straight MVP award, with Embiid finishing second for the second straight season. But even though Jokic is playing at a largely similar level this season, his grip on the trophy looks to be slipping.

Not so long ago, it seemed like a lock that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic would walk away with his third straight MVP, but Joel Embiid has come on like a freight train in the last month to overtake Jokic in the eyes of oddsmakers.

On March 5, Jokic was a -390 favorite (according to PointsBet) to win what will be referred to, beginning this year, as the Michael Jordan Award. That’s an implied probability of 79.6 percent. Embiid was a distant second, tied with the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, at +600 (14.3% probability). But Embiid’s game has hit another gear lately, averaging 36 points a game over his last nine games. In fact, in that span the big man is scoring at better than a point per minute pace.

(All odds courtesy PointsBet)

NBA MVP Odds on March 1

•    Nikola Jokic -390

•    Joel Embiid +600


NBA MVP Odds as of March 15

•    Joel Embiid -115

 

•    Nikola Jokic +160


Perhaps the very moment things changed was last Friday night, when Embiid led a furious comeback against Portland. Down 13 with less than six minutes left, the Sixers came back to win, punctuated by Embiid hitting the game-winner with 1.1 seconds left.

It definitely hasn’t hurt Embiid that the Sixers have been the best team in the NBA record-wise since December 6, when they lost to the Rockets to even their record at 12-12. They are 34-10 since, but that really didn’t move the odds in a big way until recently, when Denver hit their roughest patch of the season, and Jokic along with it.

The Nuggets have lost four in a row, including a loss to the Spurs, who are actively trying to lose games. Along the way, Jokic has been struggling to score; in his last nine games, he has failed to reach 20 points five times. But while Jokic is still doing everything else at the offensive end you come to expect from him, the team results haven’t been there lately.

This certainly isn’t a prohibitive lead for Embiid. In fact, this could lead bettors to rush to bet Jokic, as these are the best odds they have seen in months, if not all season. And quite a bit can happen with both players over the next three-plus weeks. But the way things are trending, Embiid could wrestle away the MVP in the dying moments of the season.