NBA MVP Odds Model Projections: Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo Rising
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets and Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.
2022 NBA MVP Odds
Consensus odds updated as of Jan. 26th.
I’m tracking the MVP race for the rest of the season using my model to determine if there’s value within the betting markets. And in this third installment, there’s been some movement among the top names with a few players falling out of the top five and new players entering. For more on the methodology, you can check out the first post here.
In my previous update, both the linear regression and logistic regression model pegged Stephen Curry as having the best value to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. A lot has changed since then with Curry slumping, Kevin Durant suffering an MCL sprain that will likely keep him out for at least four more weeks, and the Bulls slipping in the standings due to multiple key injuries.
At this point Giannis Antetokounmpo sits right behind Curry as a favorite in the betting markets to win the award however, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and the Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid have been the biggest risers in both the betting markets and our model for their chances of winning the award.
With the Warriors winning despite inconsistent play from Curry and none of the top-two seeds in each conference having a viable MVP candidate, this could be yet another year where were see an outlier winner from a team that doesn’t finish with a top two seed in their conference.
Here’s how the list is shaping up as of Jan. 26.
2022 MVP Model Projections
Here’s a look at the odds to win the NBA MVP award compared to my model’s projections. Reminder: This is a snapshot of the race at a given point in time, so these numbers will evolve.
2022 MVP Race
According to my linear regression model, which predicts the amount of voting shares each player would receive based on their individual statistics and team wins, Jokic is now the favorite to win the award.
When it comes to MVP voting, you often hear debates about what makes a player the most valuable. Aside from Embiid, Jokic has a case for being both the best player and a player who is most valuable for his team given their injuries.
Jokic is averaging 26.7 points on 57% shooting while also grabbing 13.9 rebounds, dishing out 7.6 assists and leading the league in nearly every advanced statistical metric. He currently has the highest PER of all time (33.2), he’s first in Expected Wins Added (15.6), box plus minus (14.3), offensive (9.6) and defensive box plus minus (4.7), win shares (8.5) offensive win shares (6), defensive win shares (2.8), win shares per 48 (.301) and value over replacement (5.6).
The biggest issue with Jokic’s MVP candidacy is if the Nuggets can win enough games. If Jokic can lead the Nuggets to the No. 4 seed in the West, it feels like he should be the MVP. The Nuggets are essentially playing with one hand tied behind their back without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. in the lineup along with arguably one of the worst benches in the league.
I’m not willing to buy in on this price given the Nuggets’ struggles, but he would be well deserving of the award should he win.
Antetokounmpo is quietly making his case for why he should win his third Most Valuable Player Award.
The entire Buckets Podcast crew is currently holding Antetokounmpo futures at +800 or better and we’ve seen his consensus odds drop from +900 on Jan. 5 to +320 as of Jan. 26. My colleague Brandon Anderson did a solid job at highlighting all the reasons why he checked all the boxes.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists and has been downright dominant in the month of January where he’s averaging 31.6 points on 52.6% shooting along with 10.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists. He is also first in fourth quarter points per game (8.5) according to NBA Advanced Stats.
Although the Bucks had a slow start to the season with injuries to Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis among others, this team is finally starting to get healthy. My linear regression model makes him second behind Nikola Jokic but it feels like this Bucks team needs to make a serious push in order for him to win the award.
Neither Antetokounmpo nor the Bucks have been much of a story this year coming off a season where they won the championship, have dealt with injuries and are just looking to get into the postseason healthy.
Joel Embiid has been one of the biggest risers in the betting markets as his odds have gone from +3600 on Jan. 5 to +350. Our model didn’t capture this value at all as the 76ers were just 21-16, fifth in the Eastern Conference at the time.
The 76ers are still sixth in the East with a 28-19 record but Embiid dominance can’t be understated. Embiid is averaging 29 PPG on 49.9% shooting along with 10.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. The 76ers are a whopping 10 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor vs off the floor.
In the 18 games Embiid has played since Dec. 16, he has scored fewer than 31 points just twice and he’s averaging 34.2 points on 54.6% shooting while grabbing 10.6 rebounds while dishing 4.3 and blocking 1.6 shots per game.
The 76ers have needed these performances and he’s led them to a 13-5 record during the time frame. Embiid leads the league in 40 point games with six and is second in 30 point games with 21.
Embiid has been doing this despite a max salary sitting at home in Benjamin Simmons. Similar to Jokic, Embiid’s candidacy faces of the challenge of whether the 76ers can win enough games. The 76ers are just one game back of the Brooklyn Nets for the Atlantic Division and the third spot in the Eastern Conference.
If Embiid can stay healthy, with the injury to Durant, the Bulls and Cavaliers slipping due to injury, he has a real chance of winning this award particularly if the 76ers can find a trade partner for Simmons.
Kevin Durant was in the midst of an MVP caliber season and would likely be the favorite to win the award at this point if he hadn’t gone down with a sprained MCL on Jan. 15.
Nonetheless, Durant who was on pace for his fifth scoring title, leading the league in scoring at 29.3 points per game while shooting 52% from the field has saw his odds drop from +210 on Jan. 5 to +3500 today as he’ll miss the next six weeks. With Durant missing a significant amount of time and the Nets likely to be cautious with his return, he’s all but drawing dead to win this award.
Since both of my models heavily weigh points per game and seeding, Durant along with Harden are both seen as having a decent chance of winning, primarily because the Nets are are currently among the top two in the Eastern Conference. Durant will fall out of this but it remains to be seen if Harden can raise his stock in the absence of Durant for six weeks and Kyrie Irving only playing road games.
When the Warriors were flying high, Curry was the favorite to win MVP, however, it would be an understatement to say his play has slipped recently. He’s he’s arguably having one of the worst slumps of his career. While he’s averaging 26 PPG, he’s shooting a career low 41.6% from the field and 37.6% from behind the arc.
The month of January has been particularly disastrous for Curry’s MVP candidacy as he’s averaging 20.8 points while shooting just 35.9% and 29.9% from 3-point range. Curry’s advanced statistics are also lacking when compared to his peers, as he’s just 27th in PER (21.67) and ninth in win shares (5.9).
His consensus odds have slipped from +135 on Jan. 5 to +300 as of Jan. 26. Curry’s gravity still generates open looks for his teammates and thus the Warriors are still scoring 115.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor vs 103.7 with him off (+11.5), so he is having a huge impact on this team even if his traditional and advanced statistics don’t back it up. The biggest case for Curry is that he has by far the highest plus-minus in the league this season, at +439.
Many would argue that Curry can’t and won’t continue to shoot this poorly and this could be the ideal spot to buy low on his MVP futures. With the MVP race being wide open, he’s just a few big national television performances away from taking control of the MVP race again. If you can get Curry at +300, it wouldn’t be a bad bet.
As was the case with Steve Nash in our outliers section, point guards who aren’t huge scoring threats will never be fairly priced by my MVP model, which places a huge emphasis on points. Still, Paul is one of the highest impact players in the league.
Chris Paul is averaging just 14.4 points per game along with 10 assists, but he remains one of the highest impact players in the league. The Suns are scoring 116.6 points per 100 possessions with Paul on the floor and 108 with him off it (+8.6). Paul is clearly the best player on a 27-9 Suns team with the best record in the NBA.
Because of the Suns record and seed, my logistic regression model which predicts the probability of whether each player will win or lose, actually gives him the best chance of winning the MVP over any other candidate based on past results. My linear regression model which predicts the amount of voting shares each player would receive based on their individual statistics and team wins, has him behind Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Durant, Curry and Harden.
The biggest issue Paul is facing is the lack of flashy numbers in addition to playing with Devin Booker who is the team’s leading scorer at 24.5 PPG. Still, Paul is the Suns’ best player and deserves the bulk of the credit for this team’s success.
A big part of Paul’s MVP case is the Suns’ record in the clutch, as they’re 16-3 in games with a point differential of five or fewer points in the last five minutes of a game. Paul should be getting more respect than the market is giving him and he may be worth a flyer at +6500 to win the award.
If no one else truly emerges, he could win the MVP in what could be seen as a lifetime achievement reward.
In our last update, our model gave DeMar DeRozan a good chance of winning however we didn’t see it happening.
As we said before, for Derozan to have a legitimate shot at winning MVP, the Bulls would need to finish as the No. 1 seed and he’d have to overcome the impact of his teammate Zach LaVine who is also having a stellar season, averaging 26.3 points per game along with 4.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds.
His advanced metrics are lacking compared to his peers, so Derozan was fighting an uphill battle. The battle has gotten even tougher with the Bulls suffering injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso among others. With the Bulls slipping, my model no longer as Derozan as a top tier candidate for MVP.