By Henry Monness
With the All-Star Game now in the rearview mirror, we have officially reached the proverbial ‘homestretch’ of the NBA regular season.
As we inch closer to the postseason, many questions still remain unanswered, especially when it comes to the 2021 MVP race between Lakers forward LeBron James and Sixers center Joel Embiid.
According to sportsbooks, there is no clear-cut favorite as of right now, although Bovada currently gives James slightly better-implied odds than Embiid to take home his fifth-career MVP.
James is the betting favorite at +175, while Embiid is right behind him at +185.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic appears to be the only other player in the picture per Vegas, as he’s listed at a meager +450.
The Case for LeBron James
It’s been just another day in the office for LeBron in 2021, averaging a shade under 26 points per game to go along with 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists.
He isn’t exactly hitting the gaudy assist numbers he had last season (10.2 apg), but he’s played a lot more off the ball with the addition of newly-acquired point guard Dennis Schroeder.
Leading his Lakers to a modest 24-13 start to the season, James has been without All-Star center Anthony Davis for 14 games and counting, as the forward has been sidelined with an Achilles injury.
Despite that, LeBron’s Lakers are well positioned to finish out the regular season with a top-4 seed and are still just 3.5 games back of the West-leading Utah Jazz.
His efficiency has been spectacular once again, shooting over 50% from the field for the 10th time in his illustrious career.
In what may be his last real shot at the MVP award, LeBron’s story might be too enticing for the NBA to deny the king.
+175 might be stealing here.
The Case for Joel Embiid
Embiid has put together the best season of his young career, averaging a whopping 30.2 points to go along with 11.6 rebounds and MVP level defense.
It’s hard to discount the gaudy numbers he’s putting up on a nightly basis, as he’s willed the Sixers to the top of the Eastern conference at 24-12.
On pace to play all but a small number of games, Embiid’s health has finally been in order, as this has plagued him throughout his career.
If he can continue the torrid pace he’s on, it’d be extremely difficult to dismiss how dominant he’s been on both sides of the floor, and he should get a number of MVP votes regardless of how LeBron and the Lakers finish the season.
The path for Embiid is pretty cut and dry, if his Sixers finish atop the Eastern conference, and he stays healthy, then his case for the league’s most valuable player is as good as any.
+185 seems more than reasonable.
Longshot: Steph Curry (+1800)