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2023/24 NBA MVP favorites: Jokic, Doncic top list

Will it be another Jokic vs. Embiid year, or can another superstar break the mold?

Joel Embiid is aiming to retain the prize after winning it for the first time last season, but there are no shortage of talents chasing him down.

With the Phoenix Suns building Kevin Durant's latest super team, the Golden State Warriors going all in around Steph Curry and the Denver Nuggets running it back, the top contenders have strong support.

Ahead of the 2023/24 season, here's an early look at the leading MVP contenders.

2023/24 Regular Season MVP - Latest Odds

Odds subject to change. Odds correct as of 6/27/23.

Nikola Jokic+475
Luka Doncic+500
Giannis Antetokounmpo+550
Joel Embiid+600
Jayson Tatum+850
Kevin Durant+1200
Stephen Curry+1400
Devin Booker+1800
LeBron James+1800
Trae Young+2000
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander+2200
Damian Lillard+2200

Can Embiid retain the crown?

A look back at the recent history of the MVP award could make a strong case for Embiid to lead the league again next term. Giannis Antetokounmpo won it back-to-back in 2019 and 2020, while Nikola Jokic claimed it in both 2021 and 2022.

However, it's worth noting that the MVP award isn't handed out on stats alone. The narrative around a player often swings it, which is why both Giannis and Jokic failed to win it for a third straight season despite arguably improving year-on-year.

Embiid is fresh off flaming out of the playoffs in the second round yet again. In the aftermath of another Philadelphia 76ers failure, there's a strong feeling that Jokic had a better case even before he won the NBA title. 

For Embiid to win it again at +600, he'd have to have such a brilliant year that voters forget the postseason negativity which has built up around him.

There's also a difficult path for both Jokic and Giannis, who would join an elite group of eight players to win three MVP awards. 

LeBron James was the last to do it, while it was Michael Jordan before him and it would take a huge season for either of those two-time winners to meet that standard.  

Can Booker and Durant stand out?

One of the most interesting moves in the early NBA offseason has come from Phoenix, who swapped Chris Paul and Landry Shamet for Bradley Beal. Beal links up with Durant and Devin Booker at the Suns, making up the fourth big three of Durant's career.

Durant and Booker are +1200 and +1800 respectively to win MVP next season, but it's hard to see either one of the pair standing out on the Suns. While Beal will be easily the third option, he's a 20-points-per-game scorer and that's going to split credit across the big three.

The only thing that could swing votes their way is if one of their stars has a long absence. If KD picks up another injury and Booker carries them regardless, he could be a contender, but the depth the Suns have sacrificed for this trio makes that look unlikely.

Tatum and Doncic ready for a jump?

One major change to the MVP race this season is the fact that players now have to meet a 65-game minimum to be eligible for major awards. 

That means individuals who miss 18 or more games could be out of the running, casting real doubt over ageing stars like +1400 Curry and +1800 James.

Instead, that should play into the hands of younger players who are the main star for their teams. The likes of Doncic and Tatum fall into this category, while they'd be first-time MVPs, so there's no pressure to live up to the greats.

Tatum found MVP form last season, averaging over 30 points per game for the first time in his career. He also played 74 of the Boston Celtics' 82 games, so he should easily hit the minimum number needed.

Tatum had to take a bigger role in the playoffs this year and with Marcus Smart departing for Boston, we should see him on the ball more. He has everything in his favour to win an MVP award and, at +850, he's still well-priced to win it in 2024. 

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