Due to a shift in MVP quotas, Joel Embiid wins against Nikola Jokic and LeBron James’ record hunt

One of the many great things this NBA season is showing us is how much a week of basketball can do. Not just in terms of wins and losses that move the standings, but also in terms of the stories surrounding specific teams and how fluid the end-of-season awards races can get.

This week I can’t help but reflect on the Timberwolves’ impressive growth and a fantastic fight in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Movement of MVP ratings

First let me say that Saturday’s clash in the City of Brotherly Love between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid was fantastic (side note – big weekend for Philly Sports). It feels incredibly rare that we’re able to snag two Superstar players – let alone MVP candidates – who are both healthy and available to play and put on a show at the same time. Not long after the final beep, some of my key takeaways from the game included how quickly narratives can shift and how much weight a given game can carry in the public eye.

A week ago at this point, Embiid was in fourth place on BetMGM with +800 MVP odds (+1100 a week earlier). Seven days later, his +260 odds are only behind Jokic’s +110, which has dropped from -105 over the week. What caused the change? Three Denver losses and two Jokic DNPs could play a small role. Or how about Embiid’s mediocre (by his standards) 26-point, 10-rebound outing against the Nets? Unlikely. And suppose you’re not convinced that either of them moved the needle. In that case, you certainly won’t be discussing the impact of Embiid’s 47 points and 18 rebounds in Philly’s comeback win over the Nuggets last weekend on national television. Bettors saw, bettors reacted and sports betting reflects this.

But are the ups and downs of a single game or two enough to get the sports betting lines moving? It goes without saying that movement isn’t necessarily going to sway the opinions of those who really have a say in the MVP race. For bettors, however, timing is everything, and by simply paying attention to the schedule’s marquee matchups and their results, you can get a feel for the best times to beat the odds movement and find the best value.

LeBron’s quest for the scoring title

From a surprise trade for Rui Hachimura to the return of Anthony Davis to plenty of late-game incumbent discussions, a lot has happened in Laker Land over the past few weeks. Possibly lost in the shuffle is how the Lakers have recovered reasonably well from a grueling start to the season that was likely to get worse following Davis’ foot injury. And as the Lakers continue a playoff push, LeBron James’ quest for the all-time record will surely be the talk of the next handful of games.

James started just 117 points away from climbing past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for first place on the all-time scorer list on Tuesday. Obviously the question is not so much a question of if, but when this will happen.

Except for last night’s Lakers game against the Brooklyn Nets, for which James didn’t get dressed, there are three other games scheduled this week – Tuesday in New York, Thursday in Indiana and Saturday in New Orleans. While another record-breaking NBA performance at Madison Square Garden would be awesome, that’s not happening. Go ahead and cross Tuesday off the list of James’ potential record dates, and Thursday too. Could Saturday be the day? That would require him to average 39 points per game over the next three games, which isn’t crazy considering James has four 40-point games this month, including one last week against the Clippers, against which he officially had a 40 – Scores game owns every NBA franchise.

While it’s possible to pass Abdul-Jabbar this week, I’m betting my money on LeBron making history once the Lakers return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

T’Wolves on the rise

The Minnesota Timberwolves should take another step forward after their expectation-setting 2021-22 season. Anthony Edwards’ rise in Year 3 should match Ja Morant’s as he would take the lead of a legitimate title-fighting team and slowly push his way into future territory. Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert would form a unique twin-tower lineup that would challenge the rest of the NBA. Minnesota would become a defensive juggernaut with Gobert as an anchor alongside powerful fullbacks like Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson and Edwards. It was all part of a plan that would get these Timberwolves into conversations about being the best team in franchise history. Instead, almost halfway through the regular season, none of those boxes were ticked.

KAT’s injury, Gobert’s less-than-expected impact on defense, and Edward’s inability to feel comfortable on offense with Gobert’s presence left Minnesota floating at the bottom of the Play-In tournament spots. And at perhaps the lowest point of the season, the T’Wolves carried six straight losses and a 16-21 record into 2023.

But that seems a long time ago now. In the new calendar year, the T’Wolves have the third-best win ratio in the league (11-5), which was largely a collective effort. Minnesota has the fifth-best defensive rating (112.0) in the NBA this month, with some recent outstanding defensive performances against the league’s elite offense (Memphis and Sacramento) standing out. Not surprisingly, the uptrend includes individual excellence from the aforementioned Gobert, McDaniels and Anderson.

Speaking of Edwards, the latest play by him and D’Angelo Russell deserves kudos. D-Lo has been loudly scoring just over 19 points per game this month with 46.7/ 46.3/ 87.7 shooting splits as the trade deadline neared. Anderson’s game is a little quieter, but his influence doesn’t go unnoticed as he continues to help close games at both ends of the floor. Meanwhile, Edwards is reaching the superstar level we all expected him to reach much earlier in the season. They combine it all and Minnesota suddenly looks like the team thought many, including me, after excitedly suggesting that Chris Finch’s roster would be a sleeper to win the Northwest Division.

Minnesota is now 8.5 games behind conference-leading Denver in the division, but the Timberwolves are back on Jan. 27-26. February in the middle of the playoff race. The Timberwolves open February with three straight home wins before a tough five-game road trip. Will we get the Timberwolves of January that seem to have turned the corner?

(Photo by Joel Embiid: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

https://theathletic.com/4142968/2023/01/31/nba-mvp-odds-jokic-embiid/ Due to a shift in MVP quotas, Joel Embiid wins against Nikola Jokic and LeBron James’ record hunt

Russell Falcon

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