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Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic: Who Is the NBA MVP Favorite?

News, Sports Betting

The NBA regular season is winding down and it now appears as if it’s a two-man race for MVP. For much of the season Nikola Jokic was the favorite to win MVP. However, Joel Embiid had a monster month of March and moved ahead of Jokic in the odds. Embiid missed a potentially massive head-to-head showdown with Jokic on Monday. So who is the favorite?

Right now at FanDuel Sportsbook, Jokic and Embiid are co-favorites to win the MVP award at +105. The only other candidate in the conversation is Giannis Antetokounmpo who is +650. Giannis was slightly behind Embiid when the month began, but his candidacy is starting to fade.

The reason Jokic and Embiid are co-favorites likely has something to do with ESPN’s MVP straw poll. The poll is usually a sharp predictor for who is going to win the award and, buddy, the margin is RAZOR thin.

The new poll was released this morning and Embiid outpaced Jokic by just two points 790-788. However, Jokic received two more first-place votes. Giannis is third in the poll with 612 points. He could get back in the race, but the Bucks have a three-game lead for the top seed in the Eastern Conference so there’s also a chance the Bucks might opt to rest him towards the end of the season so he’s fresh for the playoffs.

Embiid and Jokic both received a first, second, or third-place vote from all 100 voters. Giannis received top-3 votes from 97 voters. He got two fourth-place votes and a fifth-place vote. It’s easy to presume that whoever voted him fourth gave third-place votes to Jayson Tatum, but I’m really curious to know what player someone voted fourth ahead of Giannis.

Nikola Jokic Looking To Join Elite Company

Jokic is looking to make history as the fourth player in NBA history to three-peat as MVP. Bill Russell did it in 1961-63. Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1966-68. Larry Bird did it in 1984-86. In the years since, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Giannis all won back-to-back MVPs but none were able to bring home the third.

This is the third year in a row that Jokic and Embiid are battling for MVP. Two years ago Jokic bested Embiid by 385 votes. Last year the margin of victory shrank to 169 votes. The most recent straw poll suggests the vote will be even closer this year. 

The closest NBA MVP race ever was in 1989-90 when Magic Johnson beat Charles Barkley by 22 votes. It was the only MVP race in which the winner did not get the most first-place votes. If ESPN’s straw poll is any indication we could be headed for a similar outcome.

Author: Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.