- After suffering a hamstring injury, Brooklyn Nets star James Harden is now third in the MVP odds
- Joel Embiid, who just returned from injury, has surpassed the Beard and now sits at +450
- Is Nikola Jokic the clear-cut favorite or does Embiid, Harden, or another longshot offer value? Read below
With just over two months left in the NBA season, the MVP race is heating up. However, it’s taken several hits, with the likes of LeBron James, Joel Embiid, and now, James Harden getting hurt.
Meanwhile, Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic has stayed healthy and led his team to a 31-18 record, good for fourth in the Western Conference. The Serb is currently the frontrunner to win the prestigious award, but can he fend off Embiid and Harden?
NBA MVP Odds
|Player||Odds at FanDuel|
Odds as of April 6th
On March 29th, Embiid was at +600 odds. Jokic continues to shorten, going from -118 just over a week ago to -145 currently.
Can Harden Stay in The Race?
It’s no secret that Harden is one of the sole reasons Brooklyn continues to win basketball games, despite the lengthy absence of Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving has also missed time due to various off-court issues, leaving the former Rockets star to carry the load.
Unfortunately, he and KD have essentially switched places. Durant is expected to finally return to the court for the first time in almost two months, while Harden goes on the shelf for a minimum of 10 days with a hamstring injury of his own. It doesn’t seem to be serious at this point, but it could hurt his MVP chances.
With Durant back in the lineup, there will be fewer touches. Harden’s playmaking abilities will still be key to the Nets, as he’s averaging over 11 dimes per contest, but the scoring opportunities won’t be there at the same rate. When Harden played alongside Durant, he averaged 23 points per game in 14 appearances. In 20 games without him? The Beard averaged 28.
Since acquiring Harden from Houston, Brooklyn has gone 26-7. Needless to say, his presence has been heavily felt as they surge up the Eastern Conference standings. But Durant’s arrival is not good news for Harden’s MVP hopes.
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Time Off Could Hurt Embiid
Embiid has played just twice since returning from a knee issue and was in pole position to win MVP before getting hurt. He’s played in 33 of Philly’s 51 games and if the big man features in the remaining 22 contests, that would mean Embiid plays just 55 times.
Only one MVP ever has played fewer games (49) and won the award and that was Karl Malone in the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 campaign. Despite Embiid’s dominance this season with averages of 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists, it going to be tough to make up for lost time when the Joker is showing out on a nightly basis.
Jokic Leading The Way
Jokic continues to prove why he’s deserving of winning his first-ever MVP award. The Nuggets’ center hasn’t missed a game all season while averaging 26.3 points, 11 boards, and 8.6 assists.
Jokic is arguably the most well-versed big in the association. The 26-year-old is also shooting over 40% from downtown and close to 60% from the field. What separates Jokic is his ability to facilitate. Here’s clear proof:
Nikola Jokic recorded his 81st career 10-assist game on Sunday, passing Wilt Chamberlain for the most by a center in NBA history.
He had 12 assists in the 2nd half, tied for the 2nd-most in any half this season and tied for the most in any half in his career.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 5, 2021
Producing is one thing, but staying healthy throughout the course of an entire season is extremely important in the MVP race. Jokic has done just that so far. It’s no surprise he’s running away as the favorite.
Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is a bit of a longshot in the sportsbooks, but he’s definitely in the conversation. Dame is the NBA’s second-leading scorer with 29.8 points per game while also dishing out 7.8 dimes. Lillard has been a huge reason the Blazers have remained in the playoff race while CJ McCollum missed substantial time with a foot injury.
He was also second in NBA.com’s latest MVP ladder, leading his team to a four-game winning streak at the tail end of March.
Jokic is Best Bet Currently
Jokic’s numbers have been down slightly over his last four games, averaging around just 20 points. But, he is still making an impact on the glass and as a distributor and it’s only a matter of time until Jokic finds his scoring touch again.
I don’t see Embiid catching the Joker given the number of games he missed, while Harden won’t have the freedom to score at will with Durant back.
Pick: Nikola Jokic (-145)
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