After finishing second the last two seasons, BetMGM started Joel Embiid at the top of their initial oddsboard to win the 2022-23 MVP Award.

“Embiid’s performance last year and the strong support he received from the bettors influenced opening him as the favorite,” said John Ewing, data analyst for BetMGM.

Embiid opened at +500 on Thursday, just ahead of Luka Doncic (+550) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700). Nikola Jokic, who has won the last two MVPs, opened at +850. As of Wednesday, Doncic had been bet down to +500, while Jokic was up to +900. Embiid remained at +500.

Caesars opened Embiid and Doncic as co-favorites at +600. They were unchanged as of Wednesday.

» READ MORE: The Sixers, as they are now, can be good enough to win a title. Here’s how.

By the time it is handed out next spring, it’ll be 22 years since the last Sixer (Allen Iverson) won the NBA’s highest individual honor. In the meantime, expect more unpredictable maneuvering on the oddsboard than the Schuylkill Expressway at 1 in the morning.

“MVP is an award that is up for a long time,” Ewing said. “We see interest in wagering on MVP during the preseason, but a majority of bets and money will come during the regular season. This is especially true if we have a tight MVP race without a clear favorite.”

NBA draft winds

Odds have been jumping as Thursday’s NBA draft approaches, especially Duke’s Paolo Banchero.

Banchero opened as the third choice to be the No. 1 overall pick at Caesars, behind Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren. As action on Smith picked up, Banchero dropped as low as 20-1 on June 9. On Sunday, he was 10-1. Late Wednesday morning, Banchero was 3-1, with Smith the odds-on favorite at -300. Holmgren was 5-1.

“There have been sharps that have been fading Smith,” said Eric Fenstermaker, senior trading manager for Caesars. “The same bettors that are betting [Holmgren] have also been betting Banchero. It’s not like they knew who was going first, they just thought that they got wind of Smith falling. Then you have the bettors who see we’re lower on Smith than the rest of the market, so the others are betting Smith based off that. It’s just been creating incredible handle.”

One Caesars bettor has $2,500 on Banchero to go first overall at 12-1 (would pay $30,000). Another has $500 on Holmgren to go fourth overall at 80-1 (for $40k).

The Emperor says it’s written more tickets for the NBA draft than for the NFL’s back in April. The intrigue, plus the dead spot in the calendar for wagering, are likely reasons.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we wrote another six figures to this market,” Fenstermaker said on Sunday.

When will Jalen Duren be drafted?

NBA: Caesars had the over/under on where Jalen Duren would be drafted at 10.5 with the over juiced to -130 and the under at +100. Duren starred at Roman Catholic and averaged 12 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocks last year in his only season at the University of Memphis.

NHL: Each team’s odds to win the Stanley Cup at BetMGM as the series has progressed entering Wednesday’s Game 4 (Before Game 1/After Game 1/After Game 2/After Game 3/): Colorado -190/-275/-650/-300; Tampa Bay (+155/+225/+450/+240).

WNBA: Chicago staged the biggest comeback in league history by erasing a 28-point deficit at Las Vegas on Tuesday to pull away from the Aces, 104-95. The Sky were eight-point underdogs and about +300 on the money line. Naturally, with the game in Vegas, most of the money was on Vegas. DraftKings, for instance, reported 89% of its bets on the game, and 79% of its handle was on the Aces. Whoops.

Nick Pivetta soars in Boston

See the roll former Phillie Nick Pivetta is on with Boston?

The Red Sox have won seven of his last eight starts and he’s allowed fewer than four earned runs in 10 of his last 11 outings. Pivetta, who was dealt by the Phillies at the 2020 deadline for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree, is slated to start again on Friday in Cleveland.

Connor Seabold, a 26-year-old righty also sent to the Red Sox in that trade, is 5-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 50⅔ innings at triple-A Worcester.

Meanwhile, Workman and Hembree are long gone from the Phillies organization.

Pivetta and the Red Sox were -238 and -160 in his last two starts (vs. Oakland and St. Louis, respectively), so Friday’s price for the game at the first-place Guardians will be interesting.