NBA MVP odds 2023-24: Has Shai Gilgeous-Alexander elevated from sleeper to best bet?

The landscape of the NBA can change from season to season, and sometimes even from month to month. This year has been a prime example, with the Wolves and Thunder finishing as the respective eighth and 10th seeds in the Western Conference going into the 2023 NBA Playoffs, and now maintaining the best records in the West at the halfway mark of the ’23-24 season.

In that span, we’ve also seen star OKC guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerge from a fringe MVP candidate to a frontrunner, trailing only two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic.

Does SGA really have a chance to beat out the Joker, fellow two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and reigning MVP Joel Embiid? Can he continue to hold off fellow young phenoms Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and Anthony Edwards, with the latter two serving as the best players on the NBA’s best teams?

Let’s dive into Gilgeous-Alexander’s MVP case, and determine whether bettors should view the sixth-year star as a best bet at +250 or a firm fade ahead of the second half of the season. 

All odds courtesy of BetMGM, an authorized gaming operator of the NBA.

2023-24 NBA MVP Odds

Here’s an updated look at the most recent MVP odds with five players currently better than +1000.

(Last updated: January 16, 2024)

All odds courtesy of BetMGM, an authorized gaming operator of the NBA.

Player Odds
Nikola Jokic +165
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander +250
Luka Doncic +500
Giannis Antetokounmpo  +700
Joel Embiid +800
Jayson Tatum +2500
Anthony Edwards +4000
Kevin Durant +8000
Devin Booker +10000
Kawhi Leonard +12500
Tyrese Haliburton +12500
Stephen Curry +15000
Anthony Davis +15000
LeBron James +25000
Trae Young +25000
Donovan Mitchell +25000
Domantas Sabonis +25000
Jalen Brunson +25000
Mikal Bridges +25000
Tyrese Maxey +25000
Damian Lillard +50000
Zion Williamson +50000
Victor Wembanyama +50000

Jokic (+165), who still feels like the most talented player from top to bottom, leads the pack slightly over Gilgeous-Alexander (+250). 

However, Embiid (+800) winning over Joker last season proved that:

  • (a) voter fatigue still seems to exist and
  • (b) scoring and defense can trump triple-doubles (Jokic finished 0.2 assists per game shy of averaging a triple-dub last season, with shooting splits of 58.2/35.0/81.9, but JoJo led the NBA with 33.1 points per game). 

Embiid once again leads the NBA in scoring — averaging a whopping 34.1 PPG as of Jan. 16 — but he has played just 28 of Philadelphia’s 38 games so far this campaign. The big man’s hip, knee, and ankle issues this season make him a prime candidate to miss the requisite 65-game threshold needed to be considered for MVP — he’s currently on pace for just under 59 games, and we all know Nick Nurse’s track record of running his players ragged during the second half of the regular season. 

Doncic (+500), meanwhile, has the scoring (33.6 PPG) but also has a few factors working against him:

  • he doesn’t average as many PPG as Embiid
  • he doesn’t play nearly the quality of defense as we have come to expect from Embiid and Antetokounmpo (+700)
  • he doesn’t average as many rebounds or assists as Jokic
  • the Mavericks rank sixth in the West at 24-17, well below the Bucks (28-12), Sixers (25-13), Thunder (27-12), and Nuggets (28-13). 

Giannis (+700) seems like good value but the fact that he has superstar and Clutch Player of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard might take away from his voting appeal. And he doesn’t score as much as Embiid or contribute as much across the board as Jokic. Tatum (+2500) and Edwards (+4000) have great teams around them, but they don’t stand out amongst the pack as bonafide MVP contenders. 

Gilgeous-Alexander might check more boxes than any of the aforementioned players in the MVP race. Let’s discuss why, and weigh out whether his current odds make him a best bet or a major fade. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s MVP odds: Bet or fade?

In a way, SGA has the most boxes checked at this point. He’s in his sixth year, in his prime, and the best player on one of the best teams in the NBA. He’s in the top three in scoring with 31.3 points per game and he ranks second behind Antetokounmpo in total points. He has missed just one game all season, he has shooting splits of 55.6/33.3/89.2, and he contributes plenty beyond scoring (averaging 5.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game).

Oh, and he’s an underrated defender for a Thunder squad that ranks sixth in defensive rating. The 24-year-old averages a league-leading 2.3 steals per game, and only Derrick White has more total blocks from the point guard position than SGA’s 29. Considering we’ve seen defense serve as a tiebreaker in MVP voting as recently as last season, Gilgeous-Alexander’s effort on that side of the court should certainly give him a big boost if all things remain the same the rest of the way.

His highlight-reel finishes and epic and-ones won’t hurt, either, especially in a season in which Ja Morant played just nine games and Zion Williamson seems to be exploring his finesse game more than usual.

OKC is damn good, a fact the entirety of the national media is starting to realize.

Since Nov. 6, the Thunder have gone 24-9 and defeated a ton of good teams in the process, including the Nuggets (twice), Celtics, Wolves, Suns, Clippers, Mavs, Knicks, Heat, Cavs, Lakers, and Warriors (twice). This team only gets better the healthier it gets, with Jalen Williams emerging as Robin to SGA’s Batman and Chet Holmgren continuing to evolve as a multifaceted offensive weapon and elite rim protector. 

Gilgeous-Alexander has already distinguished himself as one of the smartest and most hard-working young stars in the NBA, and he’s taken a big leap in each of his six years in the league. So, it stands to reason that he could conceivably get even better by the end of this season than he is now. 

Plenty of voters will be in SGA’s corner. He’s a fun, young star who has never won MVP before but finished fifth in 2023. His team continues to impress as the season goes on, and he remains the central catalyst and unquestioned go-to player (side note: he sits atop the Clutch Player of the Year odds board at +250, just above Dame Lillard at +350). SGA is good at everything, and he’s also exhibiting the kind of durability that has benefited award candidates in recent years. 

We wish his MVP value was a little better than +250 — and we might wait to pull the trigger on him if and when that number crawls past +300 — but we certainly can’t blame anyone who goes for him right now. The stars are aligning for SGA — and once the rest of the casual futures bettors start realizing just how good he and this Thunder team have become, we might be sitting at the end of the season looking back at +250 thinking we missed a prime opportunity.

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