The Philadelphia 76ers have been searching for an MVP player since Allen Iverson won the award in 2001. In the last two seasons, Joel Embiid has finished second in the NBA MVP voting behind Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets both times. Can this be the year Embiid breaks through and overtakes Jokic to win MVP?
This year was shaping up to be Embiid vs Jokic round 3 for the Most Valuable Player award. Halfway through the season, though, there are more players competitively in the MVP discussion than I can ever remember this late in a season.
Each Conference has superstars playing at the highest level
Let’s start with the Eastern Conference. Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jayson Tatum are having career years and are carrying their teams to top seeds in the Conference. Tatum is currently the best player on the best team in the NBA, the Boston Celtics, and they are looking formidable following their NBA Finals loss and a turbulent offseason. Giannis is single-handedly weathering the storm for the Milwaukee Bucks who have been struck by the injury bug with Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, the latter has only played in seven games this season.
Heading over to the Western Conference: Jokic, Ja Morant and Luka Doncic are vying for the league’s most sought-after individual award. Morant’s Grizzlies have been in and out of the top seed in the Western Conference and he is worth the price of admission every.single.night. Doncic is currently tied for the league lead in points per game with 33.6! He is absolutely balling and is involving his teammates with his 9 assists per game, which is good for 4th-best in the NBA.
So that leaves us with Embiid vs Jokic, the two heavyweight fighters in their respective conferences who have controlled the MVP conversation for the last two years. Embiid is averaging career-high points per game, tied with Luka for a league-leading 33.6. Last season he was the first center to win the NBA scoring title since Shaquille O’Neal and he is now topping that average this season!
Jokic is averaging a triple-double this year with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists and is the best player on the best team in the Western Conference. These numbers are comparable to his statistics in the past two seasons when he won MVP and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Watching Jokic play is remarkable. He does not look like a basketball player, yet he dominates every game. I heard one media member say, not only can he not jump up on a curb, but he also can’t do a calf raise. The jokes about his physique never stop, but honestly, it does not matter.
Jokic has been the MVP of his team for three consecutive seasons
The NBA MVP will likely be decided in March and April and consistency is the key. All the aforementioned players need to continue playing at the level they have been if they are looking to capture the elusive NBA MVP. The fact of the matter is every player I named can realistically win it this season, and that includes Joel Embiid. If he can move the 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and continue scoring at an unprecedented rate for big men, he will have as good of an argument as anyone to win MVP.