For the third-straight season, the Philadelphia 76ers roster a bona fide MVP candidate in Joel Embiid. And for the third-straight season, Embiid is in real danger of losing the award to Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic.
But that also depends on who you ask.
After the Sixers dismantled the Minnesota Timberwolves last night 117-94, former No. 1 overall pick and rising star Anthony Edwards told reporters that Embiid is the “MVP of the league”:
Edwards’ vote underscores a potential rift in the MVP voting between who the media believes is the NBA‘s most valuable player and who the actual players believe is most deserving. Unlike the All-Star Game, the players are not given a vote in the MVP race.
Case in point: the T-Wolves guard isn’t the only player to hint at the league’s best player. During All-Star Weekend, LeBron James selected Embiid as the top-overall pick among starters. Jokic wasn’t selected until second to last.
Embiid Chimes in on MVP Race
After the T-Wolves win, Embiid went on the record to give his take on the MVP race, noting that he’ll always be confident in his talent, even if he doesn’t have the hardware to prove it.
“It doesn’t necessarily motivate me, but it’s the same thing with every big in the league. It doesn’t matter who I play. I just feel like I’m going to do my thing regardless. I’m going to dominate. It’s no disrespect to any of them. MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m still going to be the best player on the floor,” Embiid said.
Embiid also explained his approach to this season, which he admitted varied from season’s past.
“I don’t know. That’s not for me to answer. I feel like, obviously, being in the running for the last few years has been whatever, and this year I’ve taken a different approach, trying to focus on the right things: win games, dominate, which I’ve been doing. Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, it would mean a lot to win one. That’s the best award anyone can get, but, like I said, I’m just focused on making sure on, first of all, staying healthy, winning games, and dominating.”
Embiid Given MVP Checklist by Writer
The grueling part for Embiid is that the MVP award is completely subjective. And the debate between Jokic and Embiid, now entering trilogy status, is leaving the realm of positive discourse and approaching a Hatfield-McCoy-esque blood feud.
Recently, Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report provided an MVP checklist of sorts for the Sixers star moving forward. Here’s what Bailey suggested:
“For the third year in a row, there’s a better-than-likely chance Embiid will be eyeing next season as his chance to dethrone Jokić. In that case, he’ll have another year of voter fatigue working for him (and against the Joker),” Bailey wrote. “Beyond that, Embiid can spend the offseason making sure his team doesn’t get off to a 12-12 start again. He’d likely need to lead his 76ers to a clear first-place finish in the conference. Fewer rest nights probably wouldn’t hurt. And Defensive Player of the Year contention would be another worthwhile ingredient to add.”
Again, entirely subjective. And frankly, disrespectful.
Don’t go 12-12? The Nuggets started out exactly 12-12 last season, with little complaint from media about Jokic’s inability to lift the Nuggets out of the sixth seed in the West.
Make an All-Defense team? Jokic’s defense hardly passes the eye test on a nightly basis, while Embiid is routinely capable of game-tilting plays, like his block on a Ja Morant dunk last week.
Fewer rest nights? Embiid has only played five games fewer than Jokic this season and just six fewer last year. And several of this year’s inactive nights came with Embiid suffering an injury.
Is Jokic a worthy candidate? Completely, unequivocally, yes. Let’s just not forget that Embiid became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal to win the league’s scoring title last season and is on pace to repeat.