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Durant: ‘If I had to choose, I would go Joel Embiid’ for MVP but ‘more people just like Giannis and Jokic’

Kevin Durant doubles down on his take that Joel Embiid, not Nikola Jokic or Giannis Antetokounmpo, deserves MVP

Sixers fans have made their voices heard on social media and by attending games and cheering. They feel Joel Embiid is the NBA MVP. But when you read opinions from lots of outlets around the league, you see and hear plenty of media members making the case for Nikola Jokic or Giannis Antetokounmpo over Joel Embiid. What gives? What’s this guy got to do?

Dan, Emily, and Steve of The Gastroenteritis Blues pod recently hosted Mike O’Connor to break down a growing overreliance on confusing metrics and had some great discourse on the MVP debate.

But one dude, who many consider the best pound-for-pound player in the world, weighed in on the subject on Tuesday. Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant, doubled down on a take he’s been willing to share since mid-March: Joel Embiid is Slim Reaper’s pick for MVP.

Durant admitted he understands why he himself isn’t part of that conversation this season. The two-time NBA Finals MVP missed 21 games when he sprained the MCL in his knee back in January.

Durant was focused on the Tuesday night Play-In game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. But at shootaround that morning, KD still found time to remind fans his MVP vote (if he had one) would go to the Sixers’ two-way dominant superstar.

Per ESPN’s Nick Friedell:

“If I had to choose, I would go Joel Embiid,” the Brooklyn Nets star forward said after Tuesday’s walkthrough. “He led the league in scoring, double-doubles, his team won 50 games this year. Numbers were incredible. It’s a great year....

“It’s unfortunate,” Durant said. “There’s a lot of players that have been controlled by their narrative. Some of it has been because of the player, some of it just has been because of the perception of other people about that player. In Joel’s case, more people just like Giannis and Jokic. It’s as simple as that. They just prefer them more than Embiid’s personality or his story, I guess.”

Embiid is averaging 30.6 points per game, which earned him his first ever NBA scoring title. He’s the first center to win that since Shaq did it in 2000. In some ways, it’s even more impressive to do that today since the game is played at such a faster tempo than it was almost 25 years ago.

Durant continued:

“As a basketball player, people that look at just the game and what happens on the floor, narratives and who you are and your personality, that stuff really doesn’t matter,” Durant said. “It shouldn’t matter when it comes down to awards like that. But [with] Joel, [voters] probably just like those other guys better that you personally. That’s not fair at all, but that’s just usually how it goes sometimes. But if I had a vote, I would choose Joel....”

“Obviously a lot of people don’t like the criteria right now,” Durant said. “So something should change, right? We’ll see. It’s a good conversation to have for basketball fans.”

Durant has praised Joel all season long. He talked plenty of trash to him when they played head-to-head (the ultimate sign of respect from Durant). He revealed after the game that it was all love and respect between them. He picked Joel first overall when he was a captain for the All-Star game. (And he went out of his way not to pick James Harden).

Embiid has talked a bit about the idea that if he doesn’t win, perhaps there’s a bias against him.

What might he mean by that? Well, there was a time when you couldn’t listen to a nationally-televised NBA game without hearing some pundit (many of whom have a vote in this race) criticize the Sixers’ Process tanking strategy from years ago, the one that helped the Sixers land this MVP candidate. Embiid was at the heart of so many of those anti-tank diatribes because he was often injured at the beginning of his career.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor shared on social media he voted Nikola Jokic for MVP with Embiid as first runner-up. He also selected Embiid for his second-All-Defensive team.

But O’Connor curiously selected Jayson Tatum over Embiid for First-Team All-NBA anyway. We’ll have to wait, but it’s possible others have also made a confusing choice.

Wouldn’t you want the guy who you think is the second most valuable player in the NBA on your top-five team, if he’s eligible? I would.

Hypothetically, (and I’m not talking about O’Connor here, I promise, because he wasn’t an anti-process tyrant) if you once got on television and insisted the Sixers were dumb for tanking or for gambling on players with an injury history like so many have, would it be at least a little bit more difficult to vote Embiid for MVP? Would doing so mean you were tacitly admitting defeat about your passionate opinion from 2015? Social scientists have proven it’s very difficult for people to reassess after making a public declaration or commitment. Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know.

I think Jokic and Giannis are worthy enough for us to not go full-alarm, anti-Sixers bias.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t also one, given how ubiquitous process-hating once was.

Anyway, I’m rambling.

Durant’s opinion is a lot more interesting than mine. And he thinks Embiid is getting shafted because voters just don’t like him and his story as much as the other guys. Bangs gavel. Easy Money Sniper has spoken.

What do you think?