NBA

NBA MVP Futures Update: Jokic…or Someone Else? What History Tells Us

Nikola Jokic is the favorite right now, but other players offer better value. Are any worth a closer look?

February 23, 2024

The NBA MVP picture has gotten muddy since the All-Star Break. Originally, the league was ready to crown the reigning MVP Joel Embiid with his second award in as many years, and he had the stats to back it up. Unfortunately, a knee injury has taken him off of the court and ruined his chances of winning.

The next logical option is two-time MVP winner Nikola Jokic, and he still remains the favorite in the market at the time I’m writing this (-133 on Tipico Sportsbook). But why does it feel like the tides are turning on Jokic?

Who Is Winning The Race?

As I mentioned, Nikola Jokic is still the favorite to win the NBA MVP. And if you ask the casual fan, most would probably say Jokic should win it if the season ended today.

On February 13th, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps conducted his annual straw poll that asks 100 “NBA insiders” who they would vote for to win MVP. This poll often causes a shift in the betting market because many of the participating insiders vote for the award at the end of the season, giving you a look at their reasoning before the season ends.

The results of this poll, however, nearly mimicked what we saw in the market at that time; Jokic took over 2/3 of the first place votes, while the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+195) took the second-most votes. The NBA’s week-by-week MVP ladder also agrees with this polling. Many parties are in agreement that Jokic should be the favorite in the market.

What The Poll Says Goes. Right?

Despite the strong polling for Jokic, historical data on who has won the MVP tells us that not everything is as it seems in this market. To put it simply, the MVP winner is someone who has a great amount of individual success, and whose team also totes one of the best regular season records.

History also tells us that voters get bored of giving the award to the same person every year. Only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird have won MVP three years in a row, Bird being the last one to do it in 1986. Why is this important? Because the voters decided not to add Nikola Jokic to that club just last year, when many believed his season was better than Joel Embiid’s, with Jokic’s Nuggets taking the top seed in the West, while Embiid’s Sixers only managed the 3 seed in the East.

FINDING VALUE IN OTHER NBA AWARDS FUTURES BETS

And you can already see NBA pundits looking around to see who else is out there. In Bontemp’s straw poll, Luka Doncic (+600), Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1100), Jalen Brunson (+8000), and Anthony Edwards (+20000) also received first place votes. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Brian Windhorst  both went on TV after the All-Star Game and made impassioned cases for Jayson Tatum (+3500). Sure, they had some airtime to fill with the lack of games being played, but it does show that voter fatigue is starting to leak out into the mainstream media.

Not to mention the current state of the Nuggets. Again, the MVP is a player on one of the best teams in the league. The Nuggets are currently the 4th seed in the West, with three games against the Timberwolves, and one against the Thunder and Clippers, all of which they trail in the standings. If the Nuggets falter in those matchups and land as a 5th or 6th seed, will voters still want to give Jokic the award?

So If Not Jokic, Then Who?

The easy answer here is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA). He is probably having a better season than Jokic already, but lacks big market media coverage playing in Oklahoma City. SGA is the best player on an exciting young team that could make a run for the top seed in the Western Conference.

However, at +195, the opportunity to bet SGA isn’t the most exciting one in the market right now. Myself and many others would have him as the MVP if we ruled out Jokic completely, but if you’re looking for more value than this, there are plenty of other longshots to consider. The case for SGA gets harder if the Thunder don’t take the top seed, and the race is tight with the T-wolves and Clips. If you think that the Thunder absolutely need to be the top seed for SGA to win, you probably should just bet them to get the top seed at +290 on Tipico instead.

If the Mavericks, who have the 10th-easiest schedule down the stretch, find themselves among the top four seeds in the West, Luka Doncic could make a lot of sense.

And Jayson Tatum is the best player on the best team in the league with plenty of public support, but his odds sit at 35 to 1. If the voters start buying into the narrative, you could get a great longshot price there. He will need to get hot down the stretch to improve his individual statistics to be taken seriously, though.

The last player I can even make a remote case for is Jalen Brunson. He received an MVP vote in the straw poll, and the Knicks have a legitimate chance to end the season as one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference. If his price was as low as SGA’s or Jokic’s, I wouldn’t advise it, but at +8000? That’s an easier pill to swallow. 

Sam Bloomquist
Sam Bloomquist is Tipico's Social Media Manager.
MORE FROM Sam