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NBA MVP Odds Update: Joel Embiid Holds Steady After James Harden Trade

After the addition of James Harden, Joel Embiid maintains his spot leading the race for NBA MVP. But Giannis Antetokuonmpo is gaining on him as the Bucks are red hot.
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NBA MVP Odds Update: Joel Embiid Holds Steady After James Harden Trade

After the addition of James Harden, Joel Embiid maintains his top spot leading the race for NBA MVP. Giannis Antetokuonmpo is gaining on him as the Bucks are red hot. Also, Ja Morant continues to slowly climb!

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5. Ja Morant (+1200, Last Week: +1600)  (Bet $100 to win $1200)

I'm not exactly sure why Morant's odds shortened this week other than the Grizzlies have won four in a row and continue to roll in the West. In January, Morant did have his best month of the season with 29 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. But he is settling back into his seasonal averages in February so far.

An encouraging sign for Morant is that even though he started his season with a 31% usage rate in October and November, it has increased every month since then and is 35.3% so far in February. If you can find futures bets on Morant SOMEDAY winning an MVP, I would take that bet in a heartbeat.

The Grizzlies are absolutely rolling right now and are the youngest team in the league. They also only have Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones as regular rotational pieces who are free agents so they are set through at least next season. Don't be surprised if you see Morant higher up this list one year from now.

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4. Steph Curry (+1000Last Week: +500) (Bet $100 to win $1000)

The top three contenders are widening the gap between their performance and Curry the last couple of weeks. In the end, it looks like oddsmakers are valuing the sheer dominance of the top three over the team success of the Warriors. And now Curry has a lot of ground to make up in just two months.

It doesn't help, of course, that Curry has seen a diminished role in the offense with the return of Klay Thompson. Curry's usage rate has fallen in three straight months. In January and February, he averages 22.3 points per game whereas he averaged almost 28 points per game in October thru December. His shooting percentages and efficiency have improved since the first three months, but the volume is lacking, especially in comparison to the next three on this list.

The other curious thing that hurts Curry's chances with voters is that he has really struggled (by Curry's standards) on the road this season. He averages two points less per game despite playing the same number of minutes and he is only shooting 40% from the floor. The value looks to be gone for Curry's chances as it would take a massive offensive eruption for him to move up this list.

3. Giannis Antetokuonmpo (+360, Last Week: +400) (Bet $100 to win $360)

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If Giannis plays the rest of this season like he has started February, we might as well start engraving his name on the award right now. In his five games this month, Giannis averages 30.4 points on 62% shooting, 11 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.2 blocks.....IN JUST 31 MINUTES PER GAME. Imagine if we ever got a game where the Bucks didn't blow out an opponent?

The Bucks are now 7-3 in their last 10 games and have risen to fourth in the East, just 1.5 games out of first. The Nuggets also hanging onto their spot and matching the 7-3 stretch is likely the only reason Giannis is not in second place here.

Embiid is going to get all the headlines the next two months as he develops his basketball relationship with James Harden. But it was the Bucks who smartly traded for just a backup center in playoff-ready Serge Ibaka. That may be the key piece Milwaukee needs to take down the whole thing again. If you're placing some MVP bets, I would allocate a significant chunk for Giannis and place it before the odds shorten even more.

2. Nikola Jokic (+340, Last Week: +330) (Bet $100 to win $340)

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Not much movement for Jokic over the past week, and perhaps' some of Giannis' gains are from Jokic's numbers not being as exceptional as they were earlier in the season. In February, Jokic is "only" averaging 23.5 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists - all of those numbers are down from the last two months.

Eventually, I believe that Giannis and Embiid will go mano-y-mano for this award because their teams will be dueling it out for the top spot in the East for the next two months. The Nuggets are most likely destined to hover around the play-in line this season unless they can get Jamal Murray back in a hurry.

Jokic does still lead the world in PER, Win Shares, and Plus/Minus so the advanced metrics still state he is the best player in the league. But will it be enough to average nearly a triple-double and drag Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris, and the rest of his team into the postseason? Will that net him a second straight MVP? It remains to be seen.

1. Joel Embiid (+230, Last Week: +230) (Bet $100 to win $230)

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Well, now we will see if Embiid has what it takes to continue his torrid stretch when he has another superstar around him who actually will be on the court playing. It's interesting that Embiid's line didn't budge at all after news of the trade.

If you are someone who believes another player that defenses must account for will be a good thing for Embiid you would expect his odds to shorten. If you expect that Harden will take away large chunks of usage, you would expect his odds to lengthen. But oddsmakers are just sitting on it right now to see how it plays out.

One thing is certain, however. Embiid is playing like an MVP. Over his past four games, he averages 32 points on 49% shooting, 12.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and more than one block per game. The 76ers lost a little ground to the Cavaliers and Bucks recently, but reinforcements are on the way. How the Embiid-Harden-Harris trio works out over these next few months will be the most interesting storyline in the NBA.


Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.


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