NBA MVP Betting: Can Joel Embiid Defend the Crown?

Annie Nader
Annie Nader@ANader33
NBA MVP Betting: Can Joel Embiid Defend the Crown?

Predicting the next NBA MVP may seem like a fool’s errand. The range of eligible candidates, risk of injuries, and somewhat erratic nature of the voting criteria can send prospective bettors into a tailspin.

However, with the NBA season on the horizon, there are a myriad of factors we can look at to make this task less daunting.

Joel Embiid took home the trophy last season and could be primed to defend his title. Last year, he shot a career-high 54.8% from the field on a Philadelphia 76ers squad that boasted a 54-28 record (3rd in the NBA).

Though he will have to go up against the likes of Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic, all while navigating the volatile 76ers environment, Embiid will be in the MVP-conversation this year, should he stay healthy.

The Criteria

The NBA voting body is fairly fickle in terms of what they deem MVP-esque numbers. Last year, Embiid averaged a league-leading 32.1 points per game, but it would be negligent to claim this stat is what won him the hardware.

In fact, this instance was the first time in five years that the scoring champion won the MVP, including two seasons in which MVP Nikola Jokic didn't even rank in the top nine of all scorers.

Though a solid defensive bid couldn’t hurt a player’s MVP chances, these efforts are typically relegated to contention in the Defensive Player of the Year award, as evidenced by the recent MVP nods for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Player Impact Estimate (PIE), which measures all-around contribution to the game (as a percentage), seems to hold stark value in the eyes of the MVP voting body.

Seven of the last eight MVPs led the league in PIE (Nikola Jokic had a 20.1% PIE when he won this award in 2021, second to only Embiid’s 20.3%). The formula to calculate PIE is fairly dense, but it incorporates almost all statistical categories in the box score.

If we had to point to a stat single category that seems to make or break a player’s MVP chances, it would be PIE, and luckily for Embiid, he is the only player in the league to rank in the top five of PIE in each of the last five seasons.

Though there is usually a fair sense of unanimity, for voters and fans alike, regarding who should be crowned MVP (or at least be in the conversation), it has proven time and again to be somewhat of a relevancy award.

By early spring, the MVP contenders usually start to get whittled down to a smaller group (which, based on projections, Embiid should be a part of, if healthy) and from there, a keen eye is placed on the remaining candidates’ play.

Embiid rose to the occasion last spring, posting a 21.5% PIE (1st) in March and 22.3% PIE in April, and as aforementioned, eventually winning the MVP.

The same goes for Nikola Jokic in the 2021-2022 season. The Joker posted a 24.5% PIE (1st) in April of 2022, paving the path to his 2nd MVP win. While we can’t yet determine which most-valuable prospect will make a splash next spring, Embiid has proven that he is capable of stepping up to the plate.

Team performance is, of course, also a major factor in determining the league’s most valuable player. In the 21st century, the worst record that an MVP-winners’ team put up was 46-26 (Giannis Antetokounmpo on the 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks).

FanDuel Sportsbook currently sets the Philadelphia 76ers' 2023-24 win total at 48.5. If the Sixers play similarly to last season, the team performance aspect of the MVP award should only help Embiid’s chances.

However, the City of Brotherly Love’s offseason has been riddled with drama.Following a disappointing playoff run, the Sixers fired head coach Doc Rivers, and have since put former Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse at the helm.

Nurse led Toronto to a championship in 2019, and while he has the experience and proven results to get Philadelphia back on track, coaching transitions are rarely easy.

Last month, James Harden went on a bizarre rant against Sixers president Daryl Morey. Harden claimed that he will “never be a part of an organization that he’s (Morey) a part of” leaving a lot up in the air for Philadelphia as they enter the season.

The 76ers' volatility, both on and off the court, could repel the voting body from giving Embiid the MVP nod this season, especially given how peachy things look for MVP-favorite Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nugget squad.

Time will tell if Embiid, Harden, and the Sixers can get it together, but the voting body’s bandwidth for Philadelphia’s hijinks could be spread thin by the season’s end.

New Rules

This past April, the NBA and its players settled on a new collective bargaining agreement that will implement new requirements for season-end awards, such as Most Valuable Player. Beginning this season, players must participate in a minimum of 65 games (and play a minimum of 20 minutes during these games) in order to be eligible for season-end awards.

This does not bode well for Joel Embiid. Last year, he played in 66 games, barely crossing the game-minimum threshold. The year before that, he played in a career–high 68 games, the only other instance in his career in which he suited up for 65-plus games.

Based on this alone, it’s hard to vouch for Embiid’s award eligibility. The reigning MVP’s stiffest competition, Nikola Jokic, played in a career-low 69 games last season, and has proved to be an available and durable player.

In light of Embiid’s availability struggles, new head coach Nick Nurse assured that they are working on getting him to play more games this season. However, a potential increase in workload could very well affect Embiid’s on-court productivity, and puts him in a tough spot to defend his MVP crown.

Embiid’s current odds to win MVP this season are +850.

Further, his odds to average 32+ points per game sits at -170, a projection which will aid in boosting his already-stellar PIE.

Despite his MVP win last season, voting fatigue shouldn’t present a major issue, given that 7 of the last 14 MVPs have defended their crown in back-to-back years.

If the Sixers stud can follow up on his numbers from last year and stay healthy, he will be a major MVP-candidate this season.

Do you think you know which NBA players will take home hardware this season? Head over to FanDuel Sportsbook's NBA award odds market to bet any major season-long awards with America's Number One Sportsbook.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.