In the grand scheme of things, MVP awards are largely meaningless. Last year, Giannis Antetokounmpo was awarded his second consecutive Maurice Podoloff Trophy remotely in Athens, weeks after his team was eliminated in the second round by the Miami Heat. However, when you can throw down some hard-earned shekels on who will win the award, the race takes on a whole new meaning.
This year’s MVP race has been incredible. There are seven players with legitimate cases to win the award, and if you speak to anyone with a ticket on one of those seven men, you will likely hear an impassioned case as to why they deserve the title of Most Valuable Player. So, let’s evaluate those cases.
I have led the charge on James Harden’s candidacy this season, but I am not so close-minded that I refuse to see the path for each player to win the award. In fact, on Thursday night my colleague Tim Murray asked me who the MVP would be if the season ended that day, and my answer was quick: Joel Embiid. But, the season does not end today.
Harken back to the 2018-2019 season: James Harden went on a torrid stretch of 25 games in which he averaged 41.9 points per game while shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and 37.1 percent from deep. His odds to win the MVP sky-rocketed to as high as -500 to win the award. Yet, it was Giannis who would ultimately hold the award by season’s end.
With a deep field, and so many of them bunched together, it would not be a shock to see a player come from the pack and win this race, so let’s evaluate each case up this point. I've listed players in order of the shortest odds to win the award. Please note, the price next to each player is the best odds found, and where you can find those odds, should you want to place a wager.
Joel Embiid (+ 250, BetMGM)
Embiid is the best player on the best team in its conference. It’s a pretty simple qualification, but it is the most obvious one for a MVP candidate. Not only do the 76ers currently hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but without Embiid they have been a mess. Philadelphia is 1-5 this season in the games he did not play, and struggles in his minutes on the bench. According to Cleaning The Glass, when Embiid is on the floor Philadelphia outscores opponents by 10.9 points every 100 possessions. But, when he rests the 76ers are outscored by their opponents by 8.5 points every 100 possessions. He is, quite literally, one of the most valuable players to his team in the league.