At this point many fans already have a solidified stance on who they think deserves the 2022 MVP award.
We’ve seen scoring explosions recently, from a variety of stars and rising stars. Karl-Anthony Towns and Kyrie Irving dropped 60 in the same week. The MVP race seemed to visit Philadelphia when Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets came to Philly. Denver got a big road win over James Harden, Joel Emdiid and co. But Embiid bounced back with two 30-plus point games in a row, both wins over Evan Mobley’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Luka Dončić’s Dallas Mavericks. Philadelphia is now 43-26, half a game out of the two seed behind the reigning champ Milwaukee Bucks, three games behind Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat for the top seed.
There are a handful of players who’ve had incredible seasons. Steph Curry and LeBron James were in the running for MVP at times. People have made cases for Ja Morant, DeMar DeRozan, Dončić, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and of course Giannis and Joker have great claims themselves. And Embiid has spent a large portion of this season as the odds-on favorite to win his first.
NBA.com says Joker is still the front-runner with Process and Freak tied for 2nd.
But one of the game’s brightest stars, indeed a player many consider the best in the NBA when healthy, weighed in on the subject of MVP Friday night. After leading the Brooklyn Nets to an 18 point comeback victory over the visiting Portland Trailblazers, Kevin Durant was asked who he thinks should be this year’s MVP:
“If I had to take a guess, I will go, it’s between Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant for me, those are my top three,” Durant said. “And I’ll probably go Joel. It’s- I mean [Nikola] Jokic, you could throw Jokic in there, but I’ll probably go Joel. I mean there’s so many players playing at a high level man, so like I said the other day, league’s in a great place.”
"Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant for me, those are my top three [for MVP] and I'll probably go Joel. Jokic, you can throw throw Jokic in there. But I'll probably go Joel."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) March 19, 2022
-Sounds like Kevin Durant gives his vote for MVP to Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/755IgFVoMG
Boom. That’s a pretty resounding endorsement for Joel. Easy Money Sniper didn’t even name Giannis Antetokounmpo (burn) and Jokic didn’t even crack his top three (ouch). But in Sixers Nation, we’re not going to suggest KD doesn’t know ball.
Embiid is averaging 30 points per game, 11.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.1 steals per outing. He’s shooting 49 percent from the floor, 36.4 percent from deep, and 82 percent on a league-leading 11.8 free throw attempts per game. His team spent the vast majority of the season missing an All-Star player in Ben Simmons and the Sixers still find themselves the three seed in what’s now the NBA’s tougher Conference in large part because of his dominance.
Joel puts enormous pressure on a defense, and often single-handedly lands his team in the bonus early in quarters. He’s still a monster on defense.
Fans know he and Durant have taken turns showing mutual respect for each other off the court all season long. On the court, has been arguably, a different story.
They’ve taken turns waving each other off the Barclays Center floor after wins. They’ve had multiple jawing sessions.
“He told me like ‘yo, you was on the floor though. [Because] I was like beating my chest and excited.”— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) March 11, 2022
Kevin Durant shared what Joel Embiid said to him on this back and forth.
Embiid admitted how he feels about KD on a recent appearance on The Draymond Green Show:
“If there is one guy for that size to be able to do what he does on the floor – that’s the one guy that I’m like ‘Yeah, he’s more talented than me.’ Because the guy is 7 feet, and he can do everything on the basketball court.”
It’s not the first time he’s expressed as much.
"If there was one player that I think is more talented than me, it's definitely [Kevin Durant]. I have a lot of respect for him" - Joel Embiid on Kevin Durant pic.twitter.com/XVevVtVzTR— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) December 31, 2021
So you don’t have to do much guessing who Embiid, a notorious impressionist, modeled on this move, a midrange hesi, we’ve seen all year long:
KD is known for dropping those hesitation pull ups from deep on the reg, and also in clutch moments. Embiid has incorporated the move, (a hang-dribble with the left hand, leaning for a drive, then stop-and-pop) in his game from the midrange. Maybe next season we’ll see him try one from distance more.
On that pod with Green, Embiid also talked about how people were uncomfortable about his “Process” nickname and tried to talk him out of it, they wanted people to move on from all the tanking. But Embiid embraced the nickname, his association with Sam Hinkie, and the team’s history. He also recalls some moments from his youth. Fun stuff.
It’s been clear this season that KD and Joel both get up, a little something extra, for their battles. A testament to their mutual appreciation, and knowledge that if they’re not on their A-game the other might get the upper hand.
Durant would probably be in the running for MVP himself if he had not sprained his MCL back on Jan. 15. A similar issue may have cost Joel the trophy last year, as he suffered a hyperextension and bone-bruise on a scary fall vs. the Washington Wizards back in March 2021.
This season, Nets’ wing Bruce Brown fell into KD’s knee and that injury cost the two-time Finals MVP 21 games. Brooklyn only won five of those. But Durant admitted that doesn’t bother him.
"If you've been watching Joel and I play against each other it's been like that every game. Even All-Star game. We just respect each other so much that that natural competitive fire I guess comes out."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) December 31, 2021
Kevin Durant answering questions about trashing talking with Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/WnfBVcFIql
“No it’s not frustrating,” Durant admitted. “I’ve experienced what it’s like to win MVP and that doesn’t validate me as a player. I mean I know what I can do.”
Durant also recently weighed in on the subject many fans debate, where do today’s players stack up vs. the ‘90’s or early 2000’s? He sneaked in some more love for Embiid. Sensing a theme?
“When you watch us now, you seeing big fellas, look at Joel Embiid, what he can do, [Karl-Anthony] Towns, what he can do, look at our guards in our league, we got a 6’7” point guard we just played against [Luka Dončić, who dropped 37 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals], you know what I mean? We got one on our team as well,” Durant said.
Hopefully they’ll implement a rule where Durant gets an MVP vote this season. The one player Embiid admits is better than him seems to have nothing but admiration for Embiid in return. On the court it appears like a bitter rivalry, off the court it’s a total love-fest. That’s a pretty fun dynamic. M-V-P! M-V-P!