For the second-straight offseason, Luka Doncic is the favorite to win NBA MVP, and it's clear he's the new "next man up" for this market.
After a slow start (and maybe not being in shape like he needed to be) last year, Doncic fell out of the race, only to have a strong second-half of the season, capped off with a "carry everyone on his shoulders" playoff run that ended in the Western Conference Finals to the future champion Warriors.
Now, we can see he and head coach Jason Kidd have figured out how to maximize his talents, and there's no denying the Mavs and Luka are trending up.
These already bring us some of the most important characteristics when looking ahead at the MVP market in the NBA, which is always more than just "the best player in the league" mindset.
Who's Up Next
Nikola Jokic just won his second straight, and sits fourth in the consensus odds (+925), after Luka (+500), Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid (+600). Expect these odds to move some this offseason, but there's no name on there that's any real shock.
Doncic is the favorite for a reason right now though, and if you're confident next year is his season, you'd better think about jumping on those odds before the season starts, otherwise, you may see him start to pull away from the pack with a shorter, less valuable price. Remember, at one point Steph Curry was not only the favorite early in the season when Doncic fell off, but his price went all the way to -180 or so, far ahead of everyone else.
The human element in sports is often overlooked, but it can have a massive impact on any outcome. Voter fatigue is a real thing, and it's the reason why you have so many different winners over the years, as opposed to just the best two or three players over a decade.
LeBron James has won it four times, in two sets of back-to-back years, but the last was 2013. You could easily argue he was worthy of a few more in the past eight seasons.
Steph Curry? Twice in back-to-back years. Steve Nash? Same thing. Tim Duncan? Same thing.
Michael Jordan won five MVPs, never more than back-to-back years though, and never even three over a four-year span.
You have to go all the way back to Magic Johnson in 1990 to find someone that won the NBA MVP three times over a four-year span. That hadn’t been done since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from 1974-1977.
Larry Bird was the last player to win it three straight years.
It's the reason why I'm comfortable ruling out Giannis and Jokic for starters here.
Other Potential Longshots
Embiid certainly has a chance considering he was the heavy favorite for a while late this past season. The way the Sixers' season ended though, there's a lot of question marks surrounding that team's immediate future, and how interested James Harden looks night in and night out. You also could factor in a good Harden taking away from the "Embiid carries the Sixers" narrative on the other end of the spectrum here.
Luka is the clear best bet at this point, with a solid price to go along as well. Ja Morant (+1200), Jayson Tatum (+1200), and Devin Booker (+2250) are three other young names who have garnered some conversation, but you just have to ask whether you think they have a better shot than Doncic. It's really that simple at the moment.
Things can change drastically, as we saw this past season, but if you're looking for way-too-early value on a bet we should all be confident in, Luka as the 2023 NBA MVP is a strong direction to go.