The Utah Jazz entered Sunday’s road-visit to Denver riding an 11-game winning streak with an NBA-best 15-4 record.
Thanks to Nikola Jokic, the Jazz left the Mile High City with their first loss in nearly a month.
The Joker was at his best Sunday afternoon, racking up a career-high 47 points with 12 rebounds and five assists in Denver’s 128-117 win over Utah, lifting the Nuggets to 4th in the Western Conference and putting Jokic right in the thick of what figures to be one of the tightest NBA MVP races in recent memory.
The Nuggets shot an incredible 80-percent from the floor in the first quarter on Sunday, converting on all eight of its 3-point attempts, with Jokic being the catalyst for the quick start with 22-points in the opening quarter.
Jokic had 22 in the first quarter. He's had enough. pic.twitter.com/ILm579kouf
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) January 31, 2021
It was the latest encounter between the best offensive center in the game and the widely-considered best defensive big in the NBA in Rudy Gobert, and as recent history has shown us, Jokic once again had the upper-hand against the two-time defensive player of the year.
Jokic's last five vs. Gobert and Utah going back to last year in the playoffs.
29.4 PPG, 9 RPG, 8 APG. https://t.co/9nNRhd25jU
— Josh Eberley🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) January 31, 2021
Even though there has not been an MVP-winner from the center position since Shaq brought home the 2000 NBA MVP award, you would be remiss not to consider the 25-year-old big man as a strong threat to take home his first-ever MVP award.
Nikola Jokic has recorded 19 straight double-doubles to start the season. Since 1976, Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo (19-straight, 2019-20) are tied with the 2nd most double-doubles to start a season, trailing only Bill Walton (34 straight, 1976-77). pic.twitter.com/d8pfJCqXfr
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) January 30, 2021
The King Still Sits on his Throne
For the second consecutive week, LeBron James fits himself atop the MVP odds board at +350.
Despite the Lakers dropping back-to-back games against the 76ers and Pistons, King James still chipped in roughly 27-points per game last week including a 34-point effort in their loss to Philly.
Lebron is still considered the odds-on favorite to be the NBA MVP, in large part because of how he is still his dominant self even at age-36 in his 18th season in the league.
LeBron James this season
Making a MVP case in Year 18 pic.twitter.com/wmXOPktGET
— Top Ball Coverage (@TopBallCoverage) January 26, 2021
Lebron is currently shooting a blistering 41-percent from three-point range, which would be the best percentage of his career, and the Lakers have shown no signs of a hangover following their march through the NBA bubble.
The MVP is widely-considered Lebron’s to lose, but Nikola Jokic is suddenly making the conversation much more interesting than it was a few weeks ago.
Luka’s MVP Odds Continue to Slip
Entering the first week of February, the Mavericks (8-12 overall) find themselves in the middle of a five-game losing streak and losses in 8 of their last 10 games.
Despite Luka Doncic posting a very respectable split of 27.4 ppg/9.2 rpg/9.4 apg, the Mavericks performance on the floor is slowly tanking the MVP odds of the preseason odds-on favorite.
Luka Doncic in the last 6 games:
🟦36 PTS 11 AST 9 REBS
🟦26 PTS 8 AST 5 REBS
🟦35 PTS 16 AST 11 REBS
🟦30 PTS 6 AST 4 REBS
🟦25 PTS 7 AST 6 REBS
🟦29 PTS 7 AST 8 REBS (today)
The Mavs have lost 5 straight games 😬😬😬 pic.twitter.com/mYUzQLxPLb
— Elite Media Group (@TheEliteMedia_) January 31, 2021
This week Luka finds himself tied for third with 76ers center Joel Embiid at +550, but as the Mavericks slump continues the odds continue to plummet for the explosive 21-year-old do everything guard.
The Mavs struggles have little to do with Luka’s struggles, but Dallas may need to make a trade (Bradley Beal anyone?) to not only salvage Doncic’s shot at an MVP but the Mavericks season as a whole.
A turnaround could be in the cards soon enough, however, as the Mavs begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday with games against the likes of Minnesota, Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans.
Should the Mavs still find themselves as a sub .500 team after their homestand, Luka’s MVP odds may drop even further.
MVP Sleepers to Consider
For the most part, the race for MVP looks like it is shaping up to be a three-man race between LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, and Joel Embiid.
However, that pesky load management may rear its ugly head regarding the chances of Embiid, especially when directly comparing him to Jokic who logs extensive minutes every time the Nuggets take the floor.
Load management is also the only reason why Kawhi Leonard remains a 40/1 longshot to win MVP despite the Clippers owning the best record (16-5 overall) in the NBA after roughly 20 games of the season.
Kevin Durant (+600) also figures to have MVP votes cannibalized from both load management and the presence of stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden in the same starting five. Defensively, the Nets are abysmal which also hurts Durant’s chances of winning his second MVP award.
That leaves your most likely suspects of climbing into the MVP conversation as Stephen Curry (+1400) and Damian Lillard (+2500).
Behind Curry’s play, the Warriors have been a one-man army for most of the season and enter the first week of February with an 11-9 record and the 8th playoff spot in the West.
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 28, 2021
Meanwhile, Dame Dolla and the Blazers find themselves currently in the 7th playoff position out west, with Damian Lillard once again doing Damian Lillard things, the latest showcase being Lillard drilling two 3’s in eight seconds to beat Chicago 123-122.
Here's how Damian Lillard's game winner sounded on the Chicago Bulls broadcast pic.twitter.com/Wo4XK3DLrz
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) January 31, 2021
Should the Mavericks continue to struggle to send Luka Doncic further down the odds board, you could very well see one of these two guards ascend into consideration to win MVP.
NBA MVP Odds as of February 1, 2021
Odds Courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook as of February 1, 2021
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