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Should Nikola Jokic be heavy favorite to win NBA MVP?

We take a look at the updated MVP odds on DraftKings Sportsbook and whether or not there are any players who can catch the Nuggets center.

Should LaMarcus Aldridge be considered for the Hall of Fame?

The Denver Nuggets are 73% of the way through the regular season, and star big man Nikola Jokic has emerged as the frontrunner for this year’s MVP award. The Joker is the odds-on favorite at -250 and has leapfrogged early-season favorites like Joel Embiid (+450) and LeBron James (+1400). It’ll be hard for anyone to catch Jokic at this point, but let’s take a look at his case.

Two of the major factors people weigh when considering MVP candidates are consistency and contributing to winning basketball. Jokic is among the best at providing both. He leads all centers in minutes per game (35.4) and has played in all 53 of the Nuggets’ games. While Denver struggled early on in the season, the Nuggets have improved significantly in recent months, ranking fourth in the Western Conference with a 34-19 record. Jokic leads the NBA in win shares (11.7), according to basketball reference. No other player has more than nine. Embiid and James could give Jokic a run for his money if they were healthy, but both have missed significant time this year.

Embiid technically ranks second in points per game (29.4) and eighth in rebounds per game (11.1) but doesn’t qualify for either category because he’s missed 18 games. Despite Embiid’s injury problems, the Philadelphia 76ers sit atop the Eastern Conference. While he’s one of the most dominant players in the game when healthy, his case has been delegitimized by his team’s ability to perform at a high level without him.

James was the frontrunner around the time Anthony Davis suffered an Achilles injury during a loss to the Nuggets in February. The Lakers went on to lose five of the eight games that preceded the All-Star break. While Los Angeles returned from the break with a five-game winning streak, the Lakers have struggled since James suffered an ankle sprain against the Atlanta Hawks. They’ve gone 5-6 since James went down on March 20. He ranks inside the top 25 in points (25.4), rebounds (7.9), and assists (7.9) per game and made everything happen for the Lakers when they were the top seed in the Western Conference. Jokic has more impressive counting stats, however. Let’s take a look at the big guy’s numbers.

Jokic ranks inside the top 10 in points (26.2), rebounds (10.9), and assists (8.8) per game. Only New Orleans Pelicans PF Zion Williamson can top Jokic’s PER (27.00), and only Washington Wizards PG Russell Westbrook has more than Jokic’s 12 triple-doubles. Many argue the MVP award is narrative-driven. Seeing a center take home the hardware for the first time since San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan repeated in 2003 is a compelling storyline. Bigs don’t often facilitate and score on all three levels with elite efficiency like Jokic. A dark horse would have to go on a monstrous run in the back half of the season to close the gap.

NBA MVP Odds Update

Nikola Jokic -250
Joel Embiid +450
Giannis Antetokounmpo +1200
James Harden +1200
LeBron James +1400
Luka Doncic +1600
Damian Lillard +1600
Donovan Mitchell +8000
Stephen Curry +10000
Kawhi Leonard +10000
Devin Booker +15000
Chris Paul +15000

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