After briefly slipping to second on NBA.com’s MVP Ladder, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid is back on top this week, ahead of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. While these rankings are not reflective of the NBA as a collective, singular entity, the column’s author, Michael C. Wright, has held an MVP vote in recent seasons. Last year, he voted Jokic first, Giannis Antetokounmpo second and Embiid third.
Those three continue to compose this week’s top three, with Embiid first, Jokic second and Antetokounmpo third. In Embiid’s section, Wright wrote the following:
“There’s a belief among some that Embiid closed the book on the MVP debate with his performance in Tuesday’s win over the Boston Celtics. ‘When he gets it going like that, no one can stop him,’ teammate P.J. Tucker said. But this race might be too close to reach hasty conclusions. There’s no doubting Embiid’s otherworldly production. Averaging 33.1 points and 10.2 rebounds, Embiid is about to finish the season with a stat line that’s been achieved on just 13 other occasions. Having produced three 50-point games this season, Embiid joins Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA centers to accomplish that feat in one season.”
For Jokic, Wright wrote:
“Likely looking to rest the reigning two-time MVP before the playoffs, Denver kept Jokic out of the lineup for the fourth time in the past five games due to a right calf injury. The Nuggets had already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference ahead of Thursday’s loss at Phoenix. So it made sense to sit the veteran big man. Jokic has already played in 68 games this season and can reach 70 by playing Saturday against the Jazz and Sunday in the regular season-finale against the Kings. If Embiid plays the rest of the way, the maximum number of games he can reach is 68. In a race this close, the number of games played could be a tiebreaker for some voters.”
He’s also not ruling out Antetokoumpo’s chances of a third MVP:
“We haven’t forgotten how this two-way difference-maker helped the Bucks go 29-17 when Khris Middleton missed 39 of the team’s first 46 games. Antetokounmpo’s strong play is one of the main reasons Milwaukee heads to the postseason for the seventh consecutive season, the second-longest active streak in the NBA. Against the Wizards on Tuesday, Antetokounmpo logged his sixth triple-double of the season, and nearly did it in just three quarters (he was one assist shy). The two-time MVP also tallied two steals and a fourth-quarter chase-down block on Kendrick Nunn with his team leading by a comfortable margin.”
Just like last week, Boston Celtics wing Jayson Tatum and Sacramento Kings center Domantas Sabonis hold down the fourth and fifth spots in Wright’s rankings.
At this point, Embiid’s regular season could certainly be over. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Embiid didn’t travel for Friday’s road game against the Atlanta Hawks and will not play. The Sixers conclude the regular season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday; neither of these remaining games can impact their seeding. Embiid is averaging 33.1 points (65.5 percent true shooting), 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 blocks in 66 games this year.