Joel Embiid Has Passed Nikola Jokic in the MVP Race

A few weeks ago, a third straight MVP for Nikola Jokic was thought to be all but in the bag.

But as of March 16, Joel Embiid had overtaken Jokic in the MVP race. Sportsbooks now have him as the favorite, and by a fair margin:

He’s -250 at FanDuel, while Jokic has plummeted to +380. So Embiid is now a pretty significant favorite to win this MVP with 12 games left in Philly’s season, and 11 games left in Denver’s season.

The Sixers have been great for the past few months, while the Nuggets have faltered as of late. Denver is 5-5 in their last 10 games, while Philly is 9-1.

So 36-11 over their past 47 games, better than a 76% win rate (which over an 82 game season projects to a 63 win season). Given Philly’s 48-22 record, it means they started out just 12-11.

Philly has been red hot, Denver has kind of cooled off, and now Embiid is the favorite to win MVP.

This is a great example of why people probably shouldn’t have freaked out over the prospect of Jokic winning his third straight MVP when the season was only 2/3 of the way complete. Things can change, and things have changed.

But I’m going to go back to what I wrote the other week about why Jokic was seemingly a lock to win his third straight MVP: he was, at the time, leading the league in PER, and the league-leader in PER has won the MVP award the past 7 seasons in a row.

However, now Embiid has surpassed Jokic in PER, narrowly, and it coincides with Embiid passing Jokic in the MVP race:

Embiid is in the lead in PER, 31.7 to Jokic’s 31.5.

Luka is in third place at 29.5.

This is a big part of the reason the betting odds have shifted.

I’m telling you, these award voters rely heavily on the advanced metrics, PER in particular. It is not a coincidence that the last 7 MVPs have also been the league leaders in PER, and it is not a coincidence that right around the same time Embiid pulled ahead of Jokic in PER, he also pulled ahead of him in the MVP betting odds.

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