The NBA regular season is winding down and that means conversations about the league MVP award are raging. This season, it’s widely expected that the MVP race is between three players, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
For most of this season, betting odds and debates around the subject seemed to skew toward Jokic winning the award for a third time. However, the tide has somewhat turned in the past few weeks following a run of utterly ridiculous games for Embiid that have led to a number of Sixers’ victories. Last week, Embiid jumped to the top betting odds for the first time this season to win the award.
It could just be because Jokic’s Nuggets are struggling as of late, going 4-6 in their last 10 games, alongside the Sixers’ recent success, that has swayed some minds. Nonetheless, players from around the NBA and members of the media are now giving Embiid his well-deserved props.
Golden State Warriors forward and league veteran Draymond Green talked on his podcast, The Draymond Green Show, about Embiid’s success throughout the season and how he thinks the debate for MVP has shifted in the past few weeks to focus solely on him alongside another Eastern Conference star.
“Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo is who I believe the MVP race has come down to,” Green said. “[Nikola Jokić], incredible year, as of late he’s slipped and those guys have continued to ascend. As of late the Denver Nuggets have slipped and those two teams have ascended. Both players are absolutely amazing. Giannis the other day had a perfect triple-double which was great.”
Antetokounmpo is currently third in the betting odds for the award.
Chicago Bulls Zach Lavine also recently endorsed Embiid for MVP:
Zach LaVine on Embiid’s MVP candidacy: “I think he shoulda won one already. I think Jokic has been incredible too. He’s won back-to-back, so you don’t take anything away from him. Obviously, Giannis is incredible. But I think Embiid has it wrapped up this year. He’s that good.”— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 22, 2023
Mike Conley, Jr., of the Minnesota Timberwolves put his two cents into the debate on The Ryen Russillo Podcast:
Opposing coaches are taking note of Embiid’s success too. After a 141-121 defeat at the hands of the Sixers on March 18, Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle talked about the difficulty in going up against these MVP-caliber stars. Take a quick guess who he says is the most difficult to plan for:
"[Joel Embiid] is probably the MVP with what their team is doing and how he's elevated his game. He's as difficult a guy to game plan for as there is… Giannis is crazy ridiculous. Jokic is, same, and this guy may be even more difficult."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 19, 2023
— Rick Carlislepic.twitter.com/p6ys9sYxjI
Not convinced? How about former players?
Former Sixer JJ Redick admitted on his podcast that Jokic was his choice just a few weeks ago, but that his position has since shifted:
Former NBA All-Star Demarcus Cousins told Rachel Nichols of Showtime Basketball that he also thinks its Embiid’s turn to wear the crown:
The media is starting to sway that way too, including the always-enthusiastic Stephen A. Smith alongside Kendrick Perkins:
Stephen A Smith and Kendrick Perkins believes Joel Embiid should win MVP over Nikola Jokic pic.twitter.com/IaCkxPEOPb— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) March 13, 2023
They aren’t the only ones. ESPN NBA Analyst Timothy Legler cites differences in impact on the defensive end of the floor as the swaying factor for his pick for MVP:
Maybe they’re all on to something.