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LeBron James injury fallout: Nikola Jokic new NBA MVP odds-on betting favorite; SportsLine Projection Model jumps Nets into favored championship role

The Los Angeles Lakers will be without LeBron James for at least a few weeks, and that already has had a major impact around the NBA.
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Injuries have had a major impact on the odds at William Hill Sportsbook to win NBA MVP in recent weeks as first 76ers center Joel Embiid went down to lose his role as the betting favorite, and now the Lakers' LeBron James has done the same thing. Your new favorite for MVP is Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic at +110 with LeBron at +450 and Embiid +600. While William Hill still lists the Lakers as slight +260 favorites to win the NBA title, the SportsLine Projection Model now favors the Brooklyn Nets.

The 36-year-old James is being called out indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain suffered Saturday vs. Atlanta after the Hawks' Solomon Hill collided with LeBron's right ankle. James had scored 10 points before that happened early in the second quarter, which is notable because it kept alive his record streak of 1,036 straight games scoring 10 points or more.

LeBron is averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists. The Lakers are 0-2 in full games he has missed after being blown out Sunday night in Phoenix. James was looking to win a fifth MVP Award, which would have tied Bill Russell and Michael Jordan for second-most behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's six.

It's hard to argue against Jokic winning the award – no Denver player ever has won the MVP. Other teams without one: Toronto, Brooklyn, Indiana, Detroit, Orlando, Charlotte, LA Clippers, Memphis and New Orleans. Jokic, once as high as +2500 to win MVP, is tied for second in the league with 11 triple-doubles and is averaging 27.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 8.6 assists. 

Via ESPN's player efficiency rating, Jokic is the league's best player at 31.78, just ahead of Embiid (31.62), who has been out March 12 with a knee and probably not back for at least 10 more days. If Jokic were to win MVP, he would be the third straight international player to do so, with the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) taking the past two. Via Basketball Reference's Win Shares, Jokic is by far No. 1 in the league at 9.7 with Giannis second at 7.1.

Because the Lakers are going to be without both LeBron and Anthony Davis likely for a minimum of three weeks, the SportsLine Projection Model has downgraded L.A.'s title chances from 22.1 percent to 18.9, a drop of 3.2 percent with the James injury because the Lakers may only get home-court advantage for the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Brooklyn is now the title leader at 19.7 percent. The Nets also have the advantage of playing in the weaker Eastern Conference, so it doesn't matter as much if they don't get home-court advantage throughout the East. William Hill lists the Nets as +280 second favorites for their first title, but other books now have the Nets as overall leaders.

The Nets are scheduled to host the Lakers on April 10, but there's almost no way LeBron and Davis are back then. 

LA LAKERS WINS WIN% DIV CONF CHAMP
Before Injury                  45.5        63.20%     24.20%       36.30%     22.10%    
Out "Few" Weeks 43.3 60.10% 4.70% 31.80% 18.90%
Difference -2.2 -3.10% -19.50% -4.50% -3.20%

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it has returned more than $9,000 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks over the past two-plus seasons. The model is up almost $1,200 on its top-rated picks this season, and dating back to last year, it enters Week 14 of the 2020-21 NBA schedule on a stunning 91-53 roll on top-rated NBA picks against the spread. Anybody who has followed it has seen HUGE returns. 

SportsLine Staff
SportsLine Staff