The MVP award is by far the most contentious in the NBA, although it’s important to note that very few players are often involved in these discussions. In some ways, we might have guessed that Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid would finish first and second by the end of the previous season. Prior to the start of the previous several seasons, two significant qualifiers have already reduced the field to a small number of contenders:
- Since Derrick Rose in 2011, every MVP winner has also been a First-Team or Second-Team All-NBA selection the season before.
- Since Steve Nash won the award in 2006, every MVP winner was under 30 years old.
Accordingly, this season’s field is limited to just seven candidates: Jokic, Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, and Ja Morant. Unsurprisingly, the four favourites are all included in that group when you check the odds at Caesars Sportsbook. Six of them have odds of at least 15 to 1. Booker has the best odds in that group at 30-to-1. Thereafter, the field ends. Only two more players remain when the odds are 50 to 1 or less.
Of course, if we restricted ourselves to the “All-NBA players under 30” club, we wouldn’t be betting responsibly, so let’s set down a few additional requirements before delving into the individual candidates:
The best skill is availability. No MVP has missed more than 11 games this century. Seventeen of the 23 champions participated in at least 75 games (or the equivalent in a shortened year). This criterion has perhaps been somewhat softened by load management, but over the previous two seasons, when Denver’s centre has played in 27 more games than Philadelphia’s, Jokic’s durability has been a huge talking point when contrasted to Embiid’s.
This honour goes to scorers. Since Kobe Bryant in 2008, Stephen Curry in 2015 is the only champion to average less than 25 points per contest. He had a reasonable defence: He played an average of only 32.7 minutes per game since his Warriors often destroyed opponents.
Putting Jokic aside, top seeded typically win this prize. The typical 21st century MVP won 61 regular-season games prior to Jokic winning from the No. 6 spot last season, and statistically, a 60-win team from any time in the 21st century had an approximately 38% chance of producing an MVP winner. Only three players since 2000 have won this accolade without competing for a top-three seed, and Jokic was one of them. Jokic is evidence that voters are willing to be open-minded about candidates on subpar teams, but it’s typically only in extreme cases. Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray played a total of nine games for Denver last season, yet Jokic still managed to win. Immediately following Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook won.
Winners in the past are frequently compared to their own prior achievements. A player’s second MVP award nearly often coincides with either a significant increase in victories or a notable statistical improvement. This has typically only been the case for players vying for their second MVP. Once a player gets two, people tend to judge him less harshly in comparison to his own standard. Perhaps Jokic is an exception. He will become the first player since Larry Bird to win three MVP awards in a row if he wins this season. Because neither LeBron James nor Michael Jordan have ever done it, some voters will compare Jokic to them rather than to the competition or even to himself.
And thus, with the field cut down to a pretty small number, let’s pick our best preseason bets to win the 2022-23 NBA MVP title.
- Luka Doncic
- Joel Embidd
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Nikola Jokic