LeBron James Passes Joel Embiid as MVP Betting Favorite After 76ers C's Injury

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2021

CORRECTS TO THE LAKERS, NOT THE CAVALIERS - Team LeBron's LeBron James, of the Los Angeles Lakers, shoots over Team Giannis' Joel Embiid, of the Philadelphia 76ers, during the second half of an NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is the new betting favorite for the 2020-21 NBA MVP award after Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, the previous front-runner, suffered a knee injury.

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported Saturday that Embiid is expected to miss between two and three weeks with a bone bruise in his left knee.

FanDuel Sportsbook updated its MVP odds to reflect the news, and here's the new-look top five:

James is a four-time winner of the NBA's top individual honor, but he last took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy at the end of the 2012-13 campaign as a member of the Miami Heat.

The 36-year-old Ohio native never dropped off from an MVP level despite not winning the award, and he's putting together another tremendous statistical campaign, averaging 25.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists while playing in 37 of the team's 38 games.

While the numbers are impressive, the last part of that sentence is just as important to his MVP case.

L.A. didn't finish its run to the 2020 NBA title until mid-October and the new season tipped off just 10 weeks later, so the general expectation was that James and superstar teammate Anthony Davis would receive ample nights off for additional rest.

Instead, James has been on the floor almost every game, and his importance has increased with Davis currently sidelined by injuries.

So putting him atop a hotly contested MVP race is fair at this stage of the season, but it's too soon to rule Embiid out of the picture despite his absence. If he's able to return quickly and return to the same level he previously showed, he'll be right there with LeBron in the end.


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