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Joel Embiid has surpassed Nikola Jokic as odds-on NBA MVP favorite

Joel Embiid has surpassed Nikola Jokic as odds-on NBA MVP favorite

Exactly one month ago, sportsbooks viewed Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as "a lock to win his third-straight MVP" (as we covered in this space). By March 5, Jokic's odds were -500.

Now, against all odds (literally), there's a new favorite in the NBA's Most Valuable Player race.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is now the front-runner to win this season's MVP award on numerous sportsbooks. SportsBetting.ag lists Embiid as a +110 favorite, while Jokic has moved to +150. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only other player on the board at +340 odds.

As of January 16, Embiid's MVP odds were +1800. At one point in November, they were +2000!

How has Embiid managed to surpass Jokic as the MVP favorite?

Since the NBA All-Star break, the 29-year-old is averaging 35.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.5 blocks, 1.0 three and a steal, while shooting 55.9% from the field, 35.7% from three-point range and 85% from the free-throw line.

The 76ers are currently the hottest team in the NBA, winning six straight games (and 12 of their last 15 contests). Philadelphia has climbed to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, putting them just one game back from the second-seeded Boston Celtics and three games back from the top-seeded Bucks.

Embiid has had some monster performances that have certainly helped his MVP candidacy too.

In late January's head-to-head match-up against Jokic, Embiid finished with a ridiculous 47 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 4 threes while leading the 76ers to a 126-119 victory. (Jokic had 24 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 threes and 7 turnovers).

Last night in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Embiid had 36 points, 18 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 2 threes. On March 4, in a win against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, Embiid had an efficient 31 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 threes. In the first game after the break, Embiid had a 27-point, 19-rebound, 6-assist, 6-block, 1-steal outing in a victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Jokic has won back-to-back MVP awards, so it's possible that voter fatigue could also play a factor and help Embiid. If Jokic wins the award, he'd become just the third player in NBA history to win three-straight MVP awards, joining Larry Bird (1984-1986), Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1968) and Bill Russell (1961-1963).

Embiid has never won the MVP award, but he finished as the runner-up in each of the last two seasons.

MVP isn't the only award race that's relatively wide open heading into the final month of the NBA season.

Bucks center Brook Lopez is now the odds-on favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, surpassing Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. In the first week of February, Lopez had +1400 odds; now, he's at -160 (while Jackson has the second-best odds at +140). Heat big man Bam Adebayo (+2000) and Antetokounmpo (+2000) are long shots, but they're still on the board.

Meanwhile, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon (-145) and New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (+130) are battling for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

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