Nuggets vs. 76ers Odds, Picks, Prediction: Will Joel Embiid Top Nikola Jokic in Battle of MVP Favorites?

Nuggets vs. 76ers Odds, Picks, Prediction: Will Joel Embiid Top Nikola Jokic in Battle of MVP Favorites? article feature image

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets talks with Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers.

  • The Philadelphia 76ers host the Denver Nuggets in this Monday night showdown.
  • In a battle of MVP favorites, will Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic prevail?
  • Our analyst breaks down the matchup, plus his prediction and top play, below.

Nuggets vs. 76ers Odds

Nuggets Odds+2.5
76ers Odds-2.5
Time7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the NBA regular season, the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Denver Nuggets in a matchup between two of the top MVP candidates in Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.

This marks the first time these two will meet since 2019 and with an MVP race that is neck and neck, this could potentially decide the winner of this award. Individual accomplishments aside, the 76ers come off a 116-114 overtime win on the road against the Orlando Magic on Sunday night while the Nuggets hope to bounce back after two straight losses to the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors.

Nevertheless, oddsmakers have installed the 76ers as 2.5-point home favorites with a total of 220.5. So where is the betting value in this matchup?

Will Embiid dominate and lead the 76ers to a win to all but clinch his first MVP Award or will Jokic drop another 30-point triple double and prove he's worthy of being the back-to-back MVP?

Let's analyze both sides and find out.

Jokic Having Historic Season for Nuggets 

The Denver Nuggets sit at 40-28, sixth in the Western Conference and two games behind the fifth seed Dallas Mavericks despite the absence of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

A big reason why is the stellar play of Nikola Jokic, who is having arguably one of the best individual seasons in NBA history and has a case for being both the best player in the league and the most valuable player to his team given their injuries.

Jokic is averaging 26.1 points on 57.3% shooting while also grabbing 13.8 rebounds, dishing out 8.1 assists and shooting 34.9% from behind the arc while leading the league in nearly every single advanced statistic.

  • Player Efficiency Rating:  32.50 (best ever)
  • Win shares: 12.6
  • Offensive Win Shares: 8.8
  • Win Shares Per 48: .299
  • Box Plus Minus: 13.9
  • Offensive Box Plus/Minus: 9.2
  • Defensive Box Plus/Minus: 4.6
  • Value Over Replacement Player: 8.1

Given the lack of depth on this team, it's tough for it to remain competitive when Jokic isn't on the floor. The Nuggets are a whopping +16.3 points per 100 possessions better with Jokic on the floor vs. off and you could argue they'd be a lottery team without him on the roster.

Despite this, the Nuggets are 11th in Net Rating (+2.6), 10th in Offensive Rating (113.3) and 14th in Defensive Rating (110.9) so they can compete with the best teams in this league. Their starting lineup with Monte Morris-Will Barton-Aaron Gordon-Jeff Green-Nikola Jokic is in the 71st percentile among all NBA lineups with a +11.4 Net Rating, scoring 122.8 points per 100 possessions while giving up just 111.3.

The Nuggets issues arise when they go to the bench and given the absences of Murray and Porter Jr, there aren't many answers.

Although Barton returned to the lineup Saturday night, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury, injuries continue to leave this Nuggets team shorthanded. Gordon is questionable for tonight's game with right foot soreness, previously missing Saturday night's 127-115 loss against the Toronto Raptors.

Should he miss tonight's game, Jeff Green, JaMychal Green and Zeke Nnaji would see more time. However, this would put them at a disadvantage against Tobias Harris. The Nuggets are just 18th in opponent midrange shooting percentage (42.5%) and they'd need to slow down both Harris and Joel Embiid in this area.

The Nuggets will have some issues defensively in this matchup dealing with James Harden, Embiid and Harris as they're just 19th in Defensive Rating (115.6) when playing teams with a top 10 offense. Despite that, this is a game where I expect them to score efficiently.

Even with Embiid at center, Jokic shouldn't have any issues scoring inside the paint as the 76ers are allowing teams to score a whooping 65.9% at the rim. The Nuggets rank just 18th in pace (97.8), however they're ninth in transition offense (3.0), facing a 76ers team which struggles to defend in that area and may have tired legs on a back-to-back.

Overall, I expect the Nuggets offense to show up here but the question is can they get enough stops to pull off the win.

76ers Also Reliant on Embiid

The Philadelphia 76ers have their big three in Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tobias Harris after trading Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond at the deadline. The results have been solid with the 76ers going 6-2 SU, ranking 8th in Net Rating (5.2) behind an Offensive Rating of 116.6 and a Defensive Rating of 111.4. However, the 76ers are just 4-4 ATS during this time frame so although they are winning games, they aren't covering many big numbers.

As a whole, the offense has been carrying them and outside of their 129-100 loss against the Nets and last night's 116-114 victory over the Orlando Magic, the combination of Embiid and Harden has been all but unstoppable. A big part of that is how often the duo go to the line as they're averaging a league leading 28.8 FTA per game since the All-Star break.

With Embiid and Harden on the floor, the 76ers are outscoring teams by a whopping +15.5 points per 100 possessions with an Offensive Rating of 123.2 and a Defensive Rating of 107.7.

Even more impressive is that this 76ers team doesn't have a ton of shooting surrounding Embiid and Harden since trading Curry. The 76ers are just 11th in 3-point shooting percentage (35.6%) since the break with Georges Niang and Tyrese Maxey being the biggest catalysts for open 3-point attempts generated by Harden.

Embiid is averaging 29.8 points per game, and he is on the verge to becoming to first center to lead the league in points since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 when he won his first and only MVP. Along with his 29.8 PPG on 48.4% shooting, Embiid is also grabbing 11.3 rebounds and dishing 4.4 assists.

The 76ers are still 10.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor vs. off the floor, which is a testament to how much he’s carried this team without the services of Ben Simmons, who sat the entire season as he waited to be traded. We should see a tremendously motivated Embiid knowing that he was an injury away from his first MVP award last season and could wrap up the award this season with a big performance tonight. The Nuggets are dead last in field goal percentage at the rim (68.5%), so expect a huge scoring output from Embiid tonight.

Harden has yet to find his footing with the second unit yet as the 76ers are being outscored by -3.4 points per 100 possessions in lineups with Harden and no Embiid. While the 76ers are scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions, they're giving up 124.3, which tells us how much the 76ers miss Andre Drummond as a back up center. Still, I can't help but think that the 76ers second unit with Harden at the helm has an edge over this Nuggets bench which has struggled all season.

The 76ers have been elite offensively but the defense has been problematic since trading for Harden. While the numbers have the 76ers ranked 12th in Defensive Rating (111.4) since the All-Star break, it's obvious that this team isn't elite defensively. They particularly struggle in transition where they're 25th in opponent points per 100 possessions (3.1) and they often struggle to give second and third effort on plays. Nonetheless, the 76ers will go as far as their offense can carry them.

Nuggets-76ers Pick

While the matchup between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid takes center stage as we look to see who will gain a leg up in the 2022 MVP race, we can't neglect that this is a matchup between two elite offenses. This total is sitting at 220, which is on the lower side for two offenses this good.

The 76ers are playing on zero days rest so that transition defense, which has struggled, isn't likely to improve in this spot. The 76ers allow 109.5 points per 100 possessions this season but on zero days rest they're giving up 111.6 so it's clear the defensive effort and focus isn't there when this team is tired.

Still, there's a strong motivational factor here for Embiid looking to get his first MVP and play well against a center in Jokic who he hasn't faced since 2019. Harden is a true wild card here as well as the Nuggets have no one capable of defending him and we've seen him put up some monster numbers against this team over the years. He's averaged 28.1 points, 7.7 assists and 5.9 in the 29 games against the Nuggets when he was with the Rockets. We could see him put Jokic in the PNR and exploit this matchup.

Overall, I'm expecting a high scoring game with both teams scoring efficiently, however I think there's a small edge on the 76ers.

This line opened 76ers -3 and has since been bet down to -2.5, but Aaron Gordon is questionable for this matchup which could be an issue with an already shorthanded Nuggets team. While I don't typically like to play on teams who are on a back-to-back after and overtime game, the 76ers have simply been the better team since the All-Star break.

With Harden being a wild card and the Embiid motivation, I think this is a good spot to buy the 76ers at a cheap price. I'll take the 76ers in a high-scoring game.

Picks: Over 220.5, 76ers -2.5

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