The race for Most-Valuable Player of the NBA seemed to be locked up. Nikola Jokic, center for the Denver Nuggets, appeared to be well on his way to winning his third-straight MVP award in the middle of another impressive season in which he is currently averaging 24.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game on 63.4% shooting from the field. Taking the MVP crown for the third-straight year would join him with the likes of Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, the only other players to ever accomplish such a feat.
But things have taken a turn. The Philadelphia 76ers, in the middle of an eight-game win streak, have climbed to the 2 seed in the eastern conference standings, finally surpassing the struggling Boston Celtics. This incredible run has been led by an absolutely unstoppable stretch of play from center Joel Embiid, and has launched him to the front of the MVP debate.
Embiid is currently averaging a whopping 33.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game on 54.6% shooting from the field. The big mane has been literally impossible to guard, resulting in defenders looking no better than flies swirling around his body as he attacks the rim. Not even double-teaming is working, as he’s able to quickly split them and finish through.
Embiid is now the favorite to win the MVP award at -190 according to Vegas, with former-favorite Jokic at +300, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo at +440, Boston’s Jayson Tatum at +12,000, Phoenix’s Devin Booker at +50,000, and Golden State’s Stephen Curry also at +50,000.
Race to the Finish
With Embiid now leading the race, it begs the question: does he truly deserve it? Many think so. Even before this incredible stretch, some believed Jokic did not deserve to win the award and Embiid instead should have been the leading candidate.
That sentiment is now reality. However, let’s not act like the race is over. This is still very much a heavyweight clash between Embiid and Jokic, with Giannis Antetokounmpo lurking in the distance. The award won’t be locked up until the end of the regular season when voters finalize their picks for MVP.
Giannis has his own legitimate case. The two-time MVP has led his team to the best record in the NBA, and has a 2.5-game lead over Embiid’s own Philadelphia 76ers. The Greek Freak’s numbers are comparable to the two frontrunners for MVP, currently posting 31.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists on 54.6% shooting from the field.
There’s no question that all three of these players’ teams would not be in their current position if it wasn’t for them. Embiid is a go-to, paint-dominating center, Jokic is an absolute master at facilitating offensive ball, and Giannis cannot be stopped when he gets a full head of steam.