The NBA has no shortage of player awards handed out throughout the course of the season, but the most prestigious – at least during the regular season – is the MVP Award for the league’s most valuable player. Having been won by international players for the past five years – after they’d previously only won it on four occasions since the award was introduced in 1955 – the betting markets are again headlined by those from across the pond, with no player from the USA paying less than $51 with most NBA betting sites at the time of writing. That’s no blight on players from the USA though; the seasons that many players from other parts of the world are having so far in 2023-24 are of an incredibly high quality, such that there are likely to be multiple players who don’t win this season who could very easily have won it in most others. The markets recently underwent a major shake-up with the news that previous favourite and reigning winner Joel Embiid will miss an extended period with a meniscus injury and will thus be ineligible, and on this page, we’ll take a look at the favourites who remain in the race to win this illustrious award, as well as what they’ll need to take it home.
NBA 2023-24 MVP Winner Betting Preview – Odds, Tips & Predictions
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
For much of this season, Nikola Jokic has been going toe to toe with Joel Embiid for MVP favouritism, but with the latter now out of the picture the Serbian’s chances of winning the award for the third time have increased significantly. But while Embiid’s injury has certainly helped his cause, it’s not as though he’s not doing more than enough to be a deserved winner regardless; as he has for the past four years, Jokic is putting up ridiculous numbers and leading the Nuggets to what looks likely to be another high seed and championship run. At the time of writing, Jokic is averaging 26.3 points per game on close to 60% shooting, 12.2 rebounds and 9.0 assists, continuing to highlight the fact that he is not just the best passing big man in history, but one of the best passers of all time, while also seemingly scoring at will when he needs to. Jokic takes what the game gives him; if he isn’t getting good looks, he has no issues doling out 15 dimes and taking only ten shots, but if he gets a favourable matchup he’s capable of putting up 40 points on very efficient shooting on any given night. Many felt that Jokic was hard done by in not winning a third consecutive MVP last season, though in part that was based on hindsight after he led the Nuggets to a championship in a dominant postseason performance. Regardless, with narratives invariably playing a big role in this award, he has that on his side combined with the fact that it’s hard to make a case that he is not the best player in the league, particularly with Embiid out. His odds aren’t particularly inviting, but there is a good reason for that.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s case for the MVP has gradually grown throughout the course of the season, and with Embiid’s injury he has slotted into second place in the betting with most betting agencies. And it’s completely deserved. Gilgeous-Alexander may be the most consistent player in the NBA; he is averaging 31.1 points on a career high 54.8% shooting, and there is not a whole lot of variance in how he gets to that average. As an example, in his last ten games at the time of writing he has scored between 31 and 34 points on all but two occasions. He’s also dishing out a career high 6.6 assists per game, and is unequivocally the primary reason for the Thunder’s rapid ascent up the Western Conference standings this year. He has been ably helped by some highly talented younger teammates such as Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, but without Gilgeous-Alexander this team would not be near the position in which it finds itself. His ability to get to the line and hit mid-rangers consistently make him incredibly difficult to guard, while he is also a quality defender; though it isn’t always the best way to quantify defence, his 2.3 steals are among the most in the league. There is no doubting that Gilgeous-Alexander is having an MVP worthy season, though having said that I would have some reservations about taking him at the odds he currently is at. That is no slight on him; he has been terrific and deserves to be in the conversation, but with Jokic putting up a near 27-point triple-double average on even more efficient shooting, and a couple of names below him really amping up, I tend to think he is more likely to get a whole lot of second and third place votes, rather than first place.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Since winning two MVP awards in a row, Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t exactly lowered his game, but the ascents of both Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have meant he has been relegated to third place in the voting over the past few years. This season has appeared to be unfolding in a similar fashion, but there is reason to think that the Greek Freak is starting to gear up for a serious run at what would be a third MVP victory. His numbers are as good as they have ever been; he is averaging 31.3 points per game – just a career-high above his 31.1 last season, but he’s doing it on an absurd 61.3% shooting – easily a career high. The 11.4 rebounds he’s grabbing per game is pretty on par with what he has delivered in recent years, while the 6.4 assists is the first time he has averaged over six in that stat category. He’s also continuing to be one of the best defenders in the league, and is the best player on the second best team in the Eastern Conference. What’s more, he seems to be hitting even better form as the season goes on. In his last nine games at the time of writing he is averaging 31.7 points on 63.4% shooting and a hugely impressive 8.11 assists per game. In that time he's notched up four triple doubles and been an assist shy of one on two occasions, and that kind of efficient, high volume scoring combined with some continually improving playmaking suggests that he is playing as well as he ever has. Never will Giannis be in the same realm as Jokic as a passer, but as a scorer he is currently as unstoppable as anyone in the league, his passing is improving drastically, and he is a substantially better defender than his fellow European. Given that he’s been bettered by a couple of players for three consecutive seasons now it’s easy to assume that the same will happen this year, but his case is growing by the day. The way he is currently playing, to me he is going to be a better chance than Gilgeous-Alexander by season’s end, and even if he has shortened significantly, the $7 on offer for him still looks like very decent value.
Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
If you’re looking for value in the MVP markets, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Luka Doncic. The Slovenian has been an offence unto himself for much of his six years in the NBA, but this season he has taken it to an entirely different level. Yes, his usage is absolutely through the roof courtesy of a team in which there is a huge drop off in talent after he and Kyrie Irving, who has missed a large chunk of the season to date. But the ridiculous numbers he’s putting up aren’t exactly empty; despite doing virtually everything on the offensive end for the Mavericks he has still been pretty efficient, with his 34.8 points per game (!!) coming off 48.9% shooting from the field and 37.4% shooting from three (and those are very, very difficult threes), while he is also grabbing 8.6 rebounds and a career high 9.6 assists. Basically, he’s averaging an efficient near 35-point triple-double. Irving has played just over half the games this season to date, and without him the Mavericks second best player is…Tim Hardaway Jr? Josh Green? Whoever it is, for all of their ability they wouldn’t be the second best player on many NBA teams. Despite that, the Mavericks have a better than .500 record and are right in the hunt for at least a play-in spot and potentially even an automatic playoff spot. Personally, I think there are better teams around them and they may end up battling to make the play-in tournament, and that will no doubt affect Doncic’s hopes of winning an inaugural MVP award. But the fact that they are in the hunt is largely on the back of him and what is an historically dominant season at the offensive end. He deserves more credit than he get for his uncanny ability to pick apart offensive defences as though he is playing NBA 2K. Team records generally do matter in the MVP conversation and that may be what costs him in the end, but if the Mavericks manage to hang around the playoff race and he continues to put up the kinds of games he has been throughout the course of the year, then to me he is the best value in the race.
Jalen Brunson (New York Knicks)
Finally, an American! When this page was last updated, Jalen Brunson wasn’t even in the top ten in the betting markets, but now here he is, leading the way for the Yanks. And fair enough, too – he might not be quite at the level of Doncic, but his ability to manipulate opposing defences is pretty uncanny too. He can get the shot he wants when he wants despite his relatively diminutive stature, and hits them at a pretty high rate from all over the floor. Having jumped up to 24 points per game last season after averaging 16.3 the season prior – incidentally, when he was playing in Dallas alongside Doncic – he has taken things up a notch again this season, now averaging 27.2 points per game while shooting 48.1% from the field, 41.3% from deep and dishing out 6.5 assists. And those numbers aren’t really reflective of what he has been doing lately; in his last ten games he is averaging 32.9 points, and with Randle set to miss at least a couple of weeks through injury he will be required to continue with that sort of production to keep the Knicks in the top four of the Eastern Conference where they currently find themselves. Brunson has been brilliant this season and will likely have even better numbers by season’s end, though there is a reason that he is paying $51 to win this award. As good as he has been, he can’t realistically match the likes of Jokic and Antetokounmpo either in offensive production, or in the case of Giannis, defensive production – not even close. He’s a great player and who knows, maybe one day will be more seriously in the MVP conversation, but for this season it’s not really worth your money, despite the long odds.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
After the international dominated top end of the MVP betting markets, the Americans continue after Jalen Brunson, beginning with Jayson Tatum. Tatum is probably not having a season which could be argued to be as good as most of the names above; he’s averaging 27 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, all slightly down on his numbers from last season. But that is not really a slight on him; Tatum is part of an incredibly talented Celtics starting five, and though he is the best player he is not exactly in a position like that in which Doncic finds himself in which he is required to dominate his team at the offensive end of the floor. In reality Tatum has been really good this season, playing the role required of him and remaining the best player on probably the best team in the league without needing to put up enormous stats. Unfortunately for him, having been a little way behind the absolute best of the best for much of his career regardless, and this year having taken a very slight albeit still noticeable backward step in production, it’s hard to imagine him truly having a chance of winning the MVP. There is, however, one thing in his favour; he will be the best player on the team which will most likely win the most regular season games and enter the playoffs as championship favourites, and that is always a pretty nice recipe for MVP candidacy. That alone might make his very long odds worth at least a little flutter, but it does realistically remain difficult to see him going close based on his production relative to his competitors in this market this season.
Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)
The case for Kawhi Leonard to win this season’s MVP award is not all that different to that of Jayson Tatum. He simply isn’t putting up numbers which are comparable to Jokic and co, and the 24.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists certainly don’t sound like nearly enough to compete for this award. And they may not be. But the Clippers are absolutely humming along and have positioned themselves as a legitimate championship contender, and Leonard is their best player. Sharing the floor with Paul George, James Harden, and at times Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell, Leonard clearly doesn’t have to do everything, and he isn’t. But what he is doing is being incredibly efficient with the opportunities that he is given. He is shooting a career high 53% from the field and also a career high 45% from three over the course of the season, and since we’ve hit 2024 he has been even more efficient than that. So robotic is Leonard as a player that it feels as though he could just continue to average more points while being equally efficient, and though the reality is that he doesn’t need to, will not, and subsequently won’t likely go near the MVP award, he is having an underrated season and it wouldn’t surprise to see him snare a few votes as the best player on one of the best teams in the league.
Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns)
Speaking of players who could seemingly score as much as they want without compromising on efficiency, arguably the most complete offensive player in the history of basketball could relatively safely slot into that category. Kevin Durant has never been a player who seemed particularly bothered by statistics, and on a team on which he is sharing the floor with both Devin Booker and Bradley Beal that trait was always going to come in handy this season. Having said that, it isn’t as though he has completely sacrificed his offensive game; he is still averaging 28.3 points per game on 53.8% shooting and a career high 46.1% from long range, while also grabbing 6.3 rebounds and dishing out 5.7 assists. But unlike in other seasons in which he has seemed to score basically 28 points every single game, there have been plenty of occasions this season in which a teammate has got hot – typically Devin Booker – and he’s happily gone about having ten or 12 shots – hitting most of them of course – for 18 or 20 points. Equally, there have been nights where he’s gone off, most notably his back to back 40-point efforts in January, which have led to his near-30-point per game average. He is probably the best player on this Suns team, though Booker could certainly make a case, and they are starting to make a charge up the Western Conference standings. Likely, however, the presence of both he and Booker – and to a lesser extent Beal – on the same team means that Durant won’t quite do enough to get himself into the MVP conversation. His odds are really long and he’s probably a better chance than a couple of names above him on this list, but barring something extraordinary happening over the last couple of months of the regular season, his chances are probably close to nil.
Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
Now to Durant’s aforementioned teammate, and the man who, alongside his lanky sidekick, will play the most significant role in whether the Suns can fulfil their undoubted potential and make a genuine run at a high seed in the Western Conference and subsequent championship tilt. Booker has at times looked like the best legitimate guard in the NBA this season, with his at times unstoppable scoring ability now complemented by a significantly improved passing game. The 7.2 assists he is averaging per night is by far a career high, and he hasn’t had to sacrifice scoring to get there either; in fact, the 27.8 points per game he is averaging is equal with his career high, too, and has come as efficiently as ever in his career at 50% from the field and 38.7% from long range. When he gets hot, there is not a whole lot opposing defences can do, something he showed during a ridiculous run in late January during which he scored 52, 46, 62 and 44 within the space of six games. For him to truly get into the MVP conversation, however, he will have to have at least a couple more extended runs like that. He’s having a great season on a team which is beginning to look pretty dangerous, but like Durant, he is sharing the duties with at least one other star. That’s not necessarily the case for a few of the guys on the above list, many of whom are also putting up far better statistical seasons, so barring an incredible scoring run – which, to be honest, he is as capable of doing as anyone – he won’t be in the mix.
Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings)
Domantas Sabonis might not be an All-Star, but he is in the top ten candidates for the MVP according to betting sites, even if he is paying over $400 to win it. Realistically he’s not a chance, but that’s not to say his season hasn’t been fantastic. He is the Joker Lite, and that’s not a criticism. One of the best passing big men of all times, what Sabonis does down in Sacramento at times goes unnoticed, but he deserves plenty of attention for what he has done to help make the Kings relevant again. This is the best season of his career to date; he is averaging 19.9 points, a league leading 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists, and lately it feels as though he puts up triple doubles more often than not. Actually, it doesn’t just feel like it – he has 13 in his past 25 games and has gone close plenty of other times, and a number of those triple doubles have been huge ones. He is also scoring remarkably efficiently, putting up those 20ish points per game on 61.9% shooting from the field and an elite 43.4% from long range, albeit on relatively limited attempts. This guy is a bonafide star of the league, regardless of whether he gets the credit for it and whether he is legitimately in the MVP conversation.
The quality of MVP candidates at the moment is pretty unbelievable, with the rapid increase in quality of international players meaning that the NBA pool is a lot deeper than it has been previously. With Joel Embiid still in the mix the clear top five was all from overseas; he’s out of the picture now with injury set to cause him to fall beneath the controversial 65-game MVP threshold, but it still appears nearly certain that the winner will once again come from outside the USA. Jokic is the favourite for good reason, but at well under $2 he’s not the value pick. For me, both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic hold that title, and it’s Doncic in particular who appeals. His odds have drifted a little since the last time this page was updated despite his continued dominance, with 40-point games, triple doubles or both the nightly norm. His main concern, as I mentioned above, will be the Mavericks winning enough games to get him the votes, but at some point sheer production must begin to count for something if the team is at least a mid-tier playoff contender. Doncic looks likely to end the season averaging around 35 points and close to ten rebounds and assists, and all that in pretty efficient fashion. Those are simply crazy numbers, and though he’s got some serious competition, anyone averaging that and still paying $10 to win the MVP looks like pretty decent value.
NBA MVP awards by position
- Point guard - 11
- Shooting guard - 8
- Small forward - 9
- Power forward - 10
- Center – 29
NBA MVP History
- 2021-22 – Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
- 2021-22 - Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
- 2020-21 - Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
- 2019-20 - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
- 2018-19 - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
- 2017-18 - James Harden (Houston Rockets)
- 2016-17 - Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
- 2015-16 - Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
- 2014-15 - Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
- 2013-14 - Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
- 2012-13 - LeBron James (Miami Heat)
- 2011-12 - LeBron James (Miami Heat)
- 2010-11 - Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
James is a sports writer from Melbourne, and has contributed to a variety of publications covering a range of sports including basketball, cricket, Australian Rules, golf and surfing to name a few. An avid fan of all of the above and more, James’ downtime is spent falling ungracefully off his surfboard, turning over footies and playing an out of tune guitar.
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