Monday night’s Denver Nuggets vs. Philadelphia 76ers game was a matchup between the MVP frontrunners. Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. The Nuggets rallied from 19 points down to win 114-110. Jokic finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, two blocks and the win. Embiid had 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Did this game sway the MVP award?
Jokic was asked about the MVP race following the game and he downplayed it.
“No. To be honest, I just talked to Joel about it, and we have the same comments. As long as the big man wins we’re going to be fine.”
The @McNuttMonica with The Nikola Jokic after the Nuggets win is THE FUN.
— Andrew Jones (@TWDTV1) March 15, 2022
Jokic’s teammate Bones Hyland who scored 21 and hit four big threes is clear on who he believes the MVP is.
Oh yeah and JOKIC IS MVP… JUST A FRIENDLY REMINDER 😎😎😎
— Bones Hyland (@BizzyBones11) March 15, 2022
The talking heads on First Take debated on Tuesday morning. Stephen A. Smith and Monica McNutt like the Serbian big man. Marcus Spears likes Embiid.
This is an exciting time for the game of basketball as a whole and its evolution. The era of pace and space signaled death to old school basketball fans who lament about missing the big man.
Make no mistake, that slow plodding style of basketball where you dump the ball inside to a giant and then everyone else stands around and watches was boring. Size still matters in the NBA, you just have to be supremely skilled with that size.
Jokic and Embiid are not only the MVP front runners, but you could make the argument they are the two best players in the world. That “best in the world” moniker is not static and the holder of the title changes frequently. Add in the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and your top four players are all seven footers.
They just do it very differently than Kareem, Wilt, Shaq and the great “big men” of the NBA’s past have done it.
Let’s remove KD and Giannis as they are wings despite being 7-footers. What Jokic and Embiid do at the traditional center position at their size is incredible. They can score in the low post obviously. But they can stretch you out to three. Jokic shoots it at 35 percent from deep and Embiid is at 36 percent.
They both rebound very well. Jokic grabs 23 percent of all available rebounds and Embiid grabs 19 percent. Both men score a ton and do it very efficiently. Embiid scores more raw points per game, but Jokic is more efficient and is a superior playmaker. So when you factor in the scoring he creates for others, Jokic has more positive impact on offense than Embiid.
Handicapping this MVP race is like splitting hairs. It’s tough, and no matter who wins it will be deserved. But if you look at everything in its totality, Jokic should be the winner. This most recent head-to head matchup will be a factor. Wins matter.
The Nuggets’ best players after Jokic are Will Barton, Aaron Gordon and Monté Morris. Before the trade for James Harden Embiid shared the floor with Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, and Matisse Thybulle. All players who grade out better than the Nuggets’ role players in EPM.
That Denver is a competent playoff team at 41-28 without their second- and third-best players is a testament to how much Jokic has elevated his teammates. In that department he gets the edge, and should be the MVP.
Following the game Embiid gave his thoughts on Jokic.
“As far as individual awards, he’s the reigning MVP and he’s been a monster all season.”