Before the NBA broke for the All-Stars game in early March, four-time MVP winner Lebron James was the slight +200 favorite to win the award this season. Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid, who coming off a monster 40 point and 19 rebound game in the 76er’s win over the Utah Jazz back on March 3, was a close second at +225.
This charged suddenly. In his first game after the All-Star break, Embiid injured his knee in a win over the Washington Wizards. and hasn’t played since. Embiid’s odds fell to +600, dropping him behind Utah’s Nikola Jokic who saw his odds improve to +200.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won the award in 2019 and 2020, ranks fourth.
Sports Betting in California
Last December, gaming advocates successfully submitted a petition to the State of California to legalize sports betting through ballot voting. This happened with the support of Native American casinos; long-time gambling businesses that have in the past opposed the expansion of gambling beyond reserved land.
According to information at Betting.us, sports betting in California is strictly limited to betting at racetracks and Native American casinos. Unlike many states, California has yet to expand its sports betting laws nearly two years since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.
This means there are no legal online gambling options in California, though some bettors in the state still place bets through offshore online sportsbooks and casinos.
NBA MVP Odds
Lebron James (+170)
Lebron James hasn’t won the MVP trophy since 2013, but right now, with Anthony Davis missing a considerable amount of time due to an ankle injury, James has shown his mettle. The 36-year-old, 17-season veteran James is averaging 25.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game.
Last week James registered back-to-back triple-doubles, and in doing so becoming the oldest player in NBA history to accomplish that feat. He’s had five triple-doubles this season and led the Lakers to a four-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break. Along the way, he played in his 1,305 NBA game passing Andre Miller and is two games away from passing Buck Williams and moving into the Top-20 all time.
To get the MVP nod, James will need to stay healthy and the Lakers will need to finish with a solid record. Getting Davis back in April will go a long way to achieving both, and oddsmakers have him as the slight favorite as we head into the second half of the season.
#2: Nikola Jokic (+200)
Serbian big man Nikola Jokic’s value started to rise at the start of the season and has just snowballed with every Nugget win. Denver currently has the fifth-best record in the Western Conference, and Jokic has easily been their best player.
Named the Western Conference Player of the Month in January, Jokic is making a strong argument he deserves the award. The second-round draft choice in 2014 is averaging 27.1 points per game, 11.1 rebounds, and 8.6 assists.
Jokic leads the entire NBA this season in double-doubles (36) and a 31.81 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). Should Denver continue to win, perhaps leapfrogging the struggling Lakers, he may find enough MVP votes to take the award.
#3: Joel Embiid (+600)
At the start of the NBA season in December, Joel Embiid ranked fourth in terms of the MVP debate. Then as the season progressed and his stats improved, bookmakers started to pay attention to him.
Embiid has been averaging 32.6 minutes, 29.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists this year leading the 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference. It doesn’t stop with offense either. Embiid is also a front-runner to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Should Embiid returns to form after recovering from his injury, expect his odds to shorten. Right now he may be a good dark horse value bet at +600.
#4: Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1500)
The list of players who’ve won the MVP award twice in a row is short. Just 12 players have won in back-to-back years since the trophy was first awarded in 1956 to Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks. The list of players who’ve won the award three times in a row is even shorter; Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird. Antetokounmpo could possibly be the fourth.
After a slow start, Antetokounmpo has been heating up. Going into this week, the power forward out of Athens Greece has scored 31 points or more in seven of his last 10 games. He’s averaged 29.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game which is just off his MVP season last year where he averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a game behind the Nets with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, just three games behind Philadelphia. They have won six-straight and Antetokounmpo has figured in prominently in all of those wins. He’s currently a +1500 underdog to win the MVP but may be a smart bet if he continues to finish strong.
#5: Luka Doncic (+1500)
What’s not to like about Luka Doncic? The fast-rising star out of Ljubljana, Slovenia has been turning heads and opening eyes since he played his first game as a 21-year-old in 2018. The question is, why hasn’t his name been mentioned in the MVP race more?
Doncic’s numbers are there. This season he’s averaging 26.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists while the Dallas Mavericks jockey for a spot in the playoffs. Recognized internationally for his offensive skill, Doncic has shown marked improvements on the defensive side of the ball this season.
The odds are long and probably will get longer when Embiid returns from injury, but at 15-1 Doncic is an intriguing MVP candidate wager.