- Embiid’s 40-point, 19-rebound performance vs. Jazz propelled him to the top of the MVP race
- James’ odds have drifted amid the Lakers’ recent struggles
- Jokic, Doncic, Harden still among frontrunners
For the third time already this season, we have a new frontrunner in the NBA MVP race. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has moved past LeBron James at BetOnline to become the new presumptive MVP favorite heading into All-Star Weekend.
Embiid is now listed at +190 at BetOnline to win the award for the first time in his career. James’ odds have slumped to +220 amid the recent struggles of the Los Angeles Lakers. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (+350), Mavericks star Luka Doncic (+1100), and the Nets’ James Harden (+1200) round out the top-five.
Embiid’s Dominant Campaign
Embiid has been dominant this season, so his rise to the top is not exactly a surprise. Embiid was incredible for the Sixers in their come-from-behind win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Embiid finished with 40 points and 19 rebounds in the 76ers’ overtime triumph, which helped propel him to to the top of the MVP market.
Embiid’s impressive display came at the expense of Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who has long been considered the game’s best defensive big man. Embiid drilled a stepback game-tying three-pointer to send it to overtime in the waning seconds and ultimately helped Philly outscore Utah 13-5 in the extra session.
The 76ers are now 24-12 on the year, which is good for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Wednesday’s victory was a statement game against a Jazz team that still owns the best overall record in the league (27-9). Philadelphia currently holds a half-game lead over the red-hot Nets for the top seed in the East heading into the All-Star break. Brooklyn has gone 9-1 over their last 10 games to close the gap, but Embiid has kept Philadelphia afloat at the top.
Following his massive game on Wednesday, the Kansas product is now averaging a career-best 30.2 points per game. Embiid is shooting the highest percentages of his career from the field (52.1 percent) and three-point range (41.6). For good measure, the big man is also contributing 11.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game.
LeBron’s downturn has coincided with a difficult stretch for the Lakers. James has posted his usual stellar individual numbers – 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.8 assists – but the reigning champions enter the break in wobbly form. Los Angeles is still 24-13 on the year, but they go into the hiatus having lost six of their last eight games.
Many expected LeBron to take advantage of the injury absence of Anthony Davis, but the Lakers’ struggles have ultimately wound up hurting his chances to win his fifth MVP trophy. The Lakers are now just fourth place in the Western Conference behind the Jazz, Suns, and Clippers.
James hasn’t won an MVP in eight years despite having been the best player in the league for the vast majority of that span. Voter fatigue is a factor when it comes to LeBron’s MVP candidacy on an annual basis these days. While he hasn’t won it in nearly a decade, the fact that Embiid has never won an MVP could wind up helping the latter’s chances of earning the hardware this season.
While Embiid has surged past James as of now, don’t be surprised if LeBron mounts a run of his own in the second half of the season. The break should help the King recharge his batteries, and the Lakers are a team that never stays down for long. Assuming Davis returns at some point before the end of the season, LA will likely be Finals favorites by the time the playoffs roll around.
Don’t count Jokic (+350) out of the race yet, either. The Nuggets have underwhelmed this season, but the big man is in the midst of a career year of his own. Jokic posted his 50th career triple-double earlier this week, which means he and Wilt Chamberlain are the only centers in NBA history to have achieved the milestone. If Jokic is able to drag his injury-riddled Nuggets to a respectable playoff seed, the Joker should earn a bit more MVP momentum by the end of the year.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …