NBA MVP odds tracker: Jayson Tatum rounds out top five candidates led by Nikola Jokić

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

There's just seven weeks left in the 2023-24 NBA season. After the trade deadline and All-Star weekend, teams are jockeying for position in both conferences. In the Eastern Conference, the No. 2 through No. 8 teams are separated by just five games in the win column at time of publishing. In the Western Conference, the top eight teams are separated by seven games in the win column.

In addition to the close battle for positioning ahead of the playoffs, NBA awards races are tightening up as well. The Rookie of the Year award race is close between the San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama and the Oklahoma City Thunder's Chet Holmgren.

Another close race for this season is the race for NBA MVP. Here are the top five players, according to BetMGM odds ahead of Tuesday's games.

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1. Nikola Jokić, C, Denver Nuggets (-155)

The two-time MVP is having one of his best seasons this year. He's top five in the NBA in rebounds per game (12.3, third), assists per game (9.3, fourth), and player efficiency rating (31.7, second).

He also leads the league in advanced metrics like box plus/minus (14.2) and value over replacement player (7.8). His counting stats and shooting percentages are close to those from his second MVP season in 2021-22. The Nuggets are one game back in the win column from the top of the Western Conference. With Joel Embiid likely out of the running due to injury, Jokić's currently the next-best bet for MVP this season.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder (+225)

The Nuggets are one game back in the win column from the Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the top of the Western Conference. Like Jokić, Gilgeous-Alexander is near or at the top of most statistical categories in the NBA this season.

He leads the league in steals per game (2.1), win shares (12.1), and offensive win shares (8.8). He's also third in player efficiency rating (30.7) and box plus/minus (10.1). Oklahoma City's one of the best stories of the year with the Thunder's surging from a play-in team last season to top of the Western Conference standings. If he leads the Thunder to the No. 1 seed, he'll have a great MVP case and could overtake Jokić.

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3. Luka Dončić, PG, Dallas Mavericks (+700)

Dončić's playing the best basketball of his career this year. He's posting career-highs in almost every category: points, rebounds, steals, and minutes per game as well as three-point percentage and free-throw percentage.

His 34.3 points per game lead the NBA this season and he's top five in player efficiency rating (28.4, fifth), assists per game (9.5, third), win shares (8.4, fifth), box plus/minus (9.9, fourth), and value over replacement player (5.5, third). He's producing like Jokić and Gilgeous-Alexander in more minutes but the Mavericks don't have the same team success as the other squads. They're currently the eighth seed at 33-24 at time of publishing but are rising thanks to a 7-1 record in their last eight games.

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4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks (+1400)

Antetokounmpo won his last MVP trophy in the 2019-20 season and has finished in the top four of MVP voting in every ensuing season. The biggest difference for Antetokounmpo this season is his shooting numbers. He's shooting 61.6% from the field and posting an effective field goal percentage of 62.8%, both career-highs.

He's right with Jokić, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dončić in many metrics including win shares (10.0, third), player efficiency rating (29.6, fourth), value over replacement player (5.3, fourth), and box plus/minus (8.7, fifth). But the Bucks are struggling since Doc Rivers took over as head coach starting Jan. 29. In the 12 games since, Milwaukee's 5-7 and in danger of falling down the playoff standings in the Eastern Conference.

5. Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics (+4000)

Tatum rounds out the top five of the favorites thanks to the Celtics' NBA-best 45-12 record at time of publishing. Boston is 7.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with no signs of slowing down.

The Celtics lead the league in offensive rating (123.2) and net rating (10.61) and Tatum's their top scorer. He's posting career-highs in field goal percentage (47.5%), assists per game (4.8), and effective field goal percentage (55.5%). Tatum's case for MVP is simple: he's the best player on the best team in the league. He's behind the other four candidates in most all statistics but has the team success to back up his case.

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Top NBA MVP candidates by major statistics

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA MVP odds: Jayson Tatum rounds out top five candidates