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NBA MVP Race: Best Bets, Tips & Long Shots To Back

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com

Mark Strotman  | 15 mins

NBA MVP Race: Best Bets, Tips & Long Shots To Back

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The last few MVP races haven’t been all that exciting. In 2021, Nikola Jokic rightfully earned the award but also won a war of attrition with Joel Embiid and LeBron James suffering significant injuries that took them out of the running. Giannis Antetokounmpo made the jump to superstardom in 2019 and 2020, earning 78 and 85 first-place votes, respectively, as a back-to-back winner. Even James Harden in 2018 earned 86 first-place votes over LeBron James.

What has wound up being a runaway award over the last handful of years will not be the case in 2022. We’re seeing the usual suspects at the top of this year’s list of potential winners, but as the NBA hits the midway point of the season there is no clear NBA betting frontrunner that appears to be pulling away from the pack.

In a wide-open NBA with some monster lines being put up by the league’s elite each night, this will be one of the tougher races to handicap in recent memory. That also means, of course, that there’s plenty of value to be had at sportsbooks and betting sites before one or two players potentially distance themselves from the pack.

We’ll break down what the race looks like as of Wednesday, who we feel has the best chance of taking home the hardware in June, and a potential long shot that you’ll want to grab before his NBA odds shorten.

Embiid Co-Favorite In Latest NBA MVP Odds

PlayerOdds To Win NBA MVP
Joel Embiid +300
Giannis Antetokounmpo +300
Stephen Curry +350
Nikola Jokic +400
Ja Morant +1300
Kevin Durant +3000
Luka Doncic +3500
Devin Booker +4000
DeMar DeRozan +4000
LeBron James +4500
Chris Paul +5000

Odds via DraftKings and accurate as of Jan. 26. New users who sign up can grab the latest DraftKings promo code to earn a 20% deposit match bonus worth up to $1,000.

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Joel Embiid

Odds: +300

Last year’s runner-up was on the fast track toward his first MVP before a left knee injury cost him 10 games in March. So what has he done for an encore in 2022, all without Ben Simmons? How about nearly identical numbers in points (28.0 this year vs. 28.5 last year), rebounds (10.6 vs. 10.6), assists (4.2 vs 2.8), and blocks (1.4 vs. 1.4). If he should have won it last year with those numbers, what’s keeping him from doing so in 2022?

Make all the Simmons jokes you like, but the reality is Embiid is carrying the Sixers toward the top of the Eastern Conference without an All-NBA defender and one of the league’s best passers. A nine-game absence due to COVID protocols has been Embiid’s only shortcoming this year, so it’s hard to pin that on him. Might a top seed in the East cement Embiid’s legacy and earn him his first MVP award? It feels like a matter of when, not if, for the big man.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Odds: +300

How good is The Greek Freak? He was First Team All-NBA last season, won the Bucks their first championship in 50 years…and has improved on his numbers in 2022. His 28.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists are a tiny step down from his gaudy MVP numbers in ’19 and ’20, but we won’t hold that against him. He’s moving up in these rankings of late because the Bucks are moving up in the East standings: Milwaukee dealt with injuries and COVID protocols early in the season (they started 6-8) but have since been the East’s best team in terms of both wins and net rating.

Unsurprisingly, that starts with Giannis, who since Christmas Day is averaging an otherworldly 31.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bucks vault to the top of the Eastern Conference standings by season’s end, which would put Giannis squarely in the heart of MVP conversations.

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Stephen Curry

Odds: +350

If you subscribe to the theory of the best player on the best team (sorry, Suns) deserving this award, Steph Curry is your choice. Curry played in just five games in 2020 and then, despite leading the league in scoring, dragged Golden State across the finish line in a disappointing 15-win season. But he and the Warriors are back in 2022: Curry is averaging a healthy 26.4 points and 6.1 assists for a Golden State team that looks to be in championship form (despite some recent struggles with Draymond Green out of the lineup).

Curry has cooled off some in January and his NBA MVP odds have taken a hit because of it—Kevin Durant had overtaken him as the favorite before his knee injury—but last Thursday’s 39-point effort reminded everyone what the Splash Brother is capable of when he’s feeling it. He’ll be near the top of this list on betting apps all season.

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Nikola Jokic

Odds: +400

Has a reigning MVP ever gotten such little attention? The Serbian big man is averaging 25.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists while shooting 57% from the field. As of this writing, he has posted three straight triple-doubles, the latest of which was a 49-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist outing over the Clippers. The only other player with three straight triple-doubles while shooting 50% from the field? Wilt Chamberlain. Oh, and did we mention that Jokic is doing all this with his two best teammates (Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.) sidelined?

Voter fatigue is a real thing working against Jokic. But then again, there have been repeat MVP winners (Giannis, Curry, LeBron x2) four times in the last 13 seasons. And Jokic is certainly worthy of being in this conversation once again. If Denver can find a way into the top-4 in the West, it’d be tough to not give MVP to the Joker.

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Our NBA MVP pick

Nikola Jokic

Jokic’s numbers aren’t getting enough love. He’s posting numbers that we’ve never seen before (even from Giannis), and he’s doing it without his two top teammates. The Nuggets should be counting Lottery balls, and because of Jokic they’re in the heart of the Western Conference race. Repeat winners are becoming common in this race, and it’ll happen again in 2022.

NBA MVP Long Shot To Back

Ja Morant

If you’ve read this far, you’re a big enough NBA fan to know what Ja Morant (+1300) is doing. It’s not all that dissimilar from what Derrick Rose did when he won his first MVP title in his third NBA season. If there’s no clear-cut favorite on the NBA futures market, giving it to the new kid on the block could be the way voters go.

About the Author

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com
Mark Strotman
Mark is a veteran sports betting journalist who has covered the Bulls and the NBA since 2012. His work has appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune and Yahoo Sports. He regularly provides NBA betting picks, as well as in-depth sportsbook reviews and the latest promo codes for all the major sports gambling operators, including Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and more.