Giannis Antetokounmpo, March 31 vs. the Brooklyn Nets: 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists with a .749 TS%.
“I’m the MVP.”
Nikola Jokić, April 3 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers: 38 points, 18 rebounds and six assists with a .708 TS%.
“No, I’m the MVP.”
Joel Embiid, also April 3, vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers: 44 points, 17 rebounds and three assists with a .632 TS%.
“NO, I’M THE MVP.”
Yesterday’s performance by the Sixers big man was a reminder to writers and voters that he is just as worthy of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award as Antetokounmpo or the Joker. (I don’t think anyone forgot that, but it’s always good to put fresh scenes in people’s brains.) This year could be the most debated MVP race in years. The James Harden/Russell Westbrook MVP duel is the only one in recent memory that was as hotly contested.
That’s what makes this fun.
All three men are certainly deserving of the award.
Giannis is worthy since he is a two-time MVP, and he hasn’t slowed down any. All of his numbers are up across the board. Yes, they’re not WAY UP or anything, but it’s an indicator that Antetokounmpo still remains as dominant and vital as he was last year. The Greek Freak has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the (right now) three seed in the Eastern Conference.
Jokić is certainly deserving of the award. He is the reigning MVP, after all. The easiest way to explain why is because he’s had to do way more with way less. The Denver Nuggets haven’t had Jamal Murray all year nor have they had Michael Porter, Jr. However, the Joker has been carrying the Nuggets on those mountainous shoulders all season. In March (26.5 points, 13.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists), Jokić surged up the polls and has become the favorite to win if you agree with the odds makers who have him at -300 to win.
This year, Embiid is making the best case of his career to this point.
Remember the availability argument that was made frequently when Embiid is mentioned in any award? That shouldn’t be a problem this year as he’s started in 65 games – which should be more than enough to qualify. He certainly has the numbers. In those starts, he’s averaged 30.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. The 30.2 points and the 37.1% usage rate are both career highs. (For context, Jokić’s was 31.7 and Giannis’s was 37.5 in his last MVP season.)
Those who say that Jokić is the front runner because of his performance in March seem to have forgotten about Embiid’s January, February AND March. Allow me to remind the fine voters:
- January: 34.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists
- February: 32.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists
- March: 30.5 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists
What Jokić has been able to do with what’s around him (which isn’t much) is impressive, but if you’re using his March as a way to surge him in the polls, you have to do the math where 3 > 1. Embiid has been a constant for a team that has had turmoil since the beginning of training camp with the Ben Simmons saga that concluded at the trade deadline when he was dealt for James Harden.
(Before anyone says it, Harden’s acquisition SHOULD NOT cost Embiid votes.)
Prior to Harden’s arrival, Embiid was carrying the Sixers and still remains the main focal point in the offense. Tobias Harris may be inconsistent. Tyrese Maxey still has off nights, and the bench has been wildly inefficient all season, but Embiid has always been there. Yesterday’s game was yet another example as Harden struggled (even while having a triple-double), but there was Embiid getting his 44/17 for the team.
He has the numbers.
He has the impact.
He has the leadership.
What’s missing? Not much unless you count “not poking the bear” (aka the voters):
“If [winning MVP] happens, great. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what I have to do. I’ll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else.”
Embiid said this when asked about the MVP award, yesterday, and there was some facepalming from some – myself included. There are some things that you should say. There are others that you should not say – at least not out loud, anyway. Comments like that almost make voters not want to vote for you in a way. Big man, there are plenty of people in Philadelphia media (again, myself included) who are always happy to step in and take some of the bullets for you.
It’s part of what makes our job fun.
This might not be the best parallel, but Barry Bonds likely cost himself an MVP award or two because of his contentious relationship with baseball writers and voters. Granted, some of that was backlash for steroid allegations, but still. It’s not a good idea to bite those hands, Joel.
You’ve made your STRONG MVP case this season. Let that speak for you.
There’s no wrong answer to who should win the MVP this year. If Antetokounmpo or Jokić win the award, it’s completely warranted. Why Embiid, though?
It’s just his time, and if the Sixers are the one or two seed in the East ahead of Milwaukee and Denver, that should solidify it.