National Basketball Association

NBA MVP Watch: Injured James Harden, LeBron James slipping out of contention

April 12

The injury gods giveth, and the injury gods taketh away.

A week ago, James Harden had vaulted up to second in the NBA's regular-season MVP odds as a handful of other favorites for the award were out of action because of injury.

Now, Harden is on the mend, and his prolonged absence seems to have soured the oddsmakers ⁠on the Brooklyn Nets superstar's shot at taking home the hardware. Meanwhile, another injured superstar, LeBron James, saw his odds drop to where he's now tied for fifth with Luka Doncic at +1700.

Then again, those odds can improve just as quickly as they dropped over the course of a week.

According to FOX Bet's insights, here are the top MVP favorites, with a breakdown of each candidate's stats as of Monday morning, recent play and what's on the horizon.

1.  Nikola Jokic -200

Per-game stats: Points: 26.2 (12th) | Assists: 8.8 (fourth) | Rebounds: 10.9 (11th)

How it's going: Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets rolled through the week, earning wins against the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs (twice!) before laying an egg against the Boston Celtics on Sunday. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Nuggets, a stretch in which Jokic averaged 22.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists.

What's up next: Denver travels to face an injury-riddled Golden State Warriors team on Monday before returning home to host the Miami Heat on Wednesday. Then they're back on the road to take on the Houston Rockets on Friday.

What people are saying: "He’s incredible. You’ve got to give him his credit. He’s a hell of a player, hell of an IQ, hell of a skill set ... You’ve got to be a fan of his game. He makes it look easy. When you have a big that dynamic, it makes it hard to beat." ⁠— Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan via Tom Orsborn

2. Joel Embiid +350

Per-game stats: Points: 29.4 (third) | Rebounds: 11.1 (10th)

How it's going: Joel Embiid is back in business in a big way for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has played in four games out of a possible five since his return from injury, averaging 25.0 points and 8.0 rebounds as he rounds back into form. The Sixers are 3-1 in those four games, with wins against the Minnesota TimberwolvesBoston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder.

What's up next: The Sixers wrap up a four-game road trip with a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. A pair of blockbuster matchups are on the docket after that, with the Nets and LA Clippers coming to town Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

What people are saying: "The combination of power and skill on the perimeter, I think it's the closest I've seen in one player to Hakeem Olajuwon." ⁠— Tim Legler, SiriusXM NBA Radio

T-3. Giannis Antetokounmpo +1100

Per-game stats: Points: 28.8 (fourth) | Assists: 6.2 (T-19th) | Rebounds: 11.4 (tied-seventh)

How it's going: An ailing left knee kept Giannis Antetokounmpo out of this past week's games, bringing him to a total of five missed in a row dating to April 3. His Milwaukee Bucks lost three of the four played this past week, taking losses against the Golden State WarriorsDallas Mavericks and Charlotte Hornets before rebounding with a blowout win against the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Even so, the Bucks' big man made his presence felt off the court.

What's up next: The Bucks have a two-game road trip to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday and the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday before they return home for a Saturday tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies.

What people are saying: "He did some stuff at shootaround, so I think he's in a good place and making progress, but won't play tonight." ⁠— Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer on Antetokounmpo's status via Eric Nehm

T-3. James Harden +1100

Per-game stats: Points: 25.2 (18th) | Assists: 10.9 (first) | Rebounds: 8.0 (T-28th)

How it's going: Harden has played just four minutes in April as he deals with a hamstring injury. In the Nets' previous two games without him, they won big (a 28-point triumph against the New Orleans Pelicans) and lost miserably (a 25-point defeat against the Lakers). Given his absence, Harden's MVP odds slid from +500 a week ago to more than double that, at +1100.

What's up next: For Harden, the coming days should bring another evaluation of his injury. The Nets will visit the Timberwolves on Monday and Sixers on Wednesday, then host the Hornets on Friday. To wrap up this week's slate, Brooklyn will head to South Beach on Sunday to square off against the Heat.

What people are saying: "Based on regular-season play, I would say James Harden." ⁠— Chris Broussard on the most important Nets player via FOX Sports Radio


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