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Tuesday June 6th

An all-time great deserves a long overdue recognition: Joel Embiid is the 2022-2023 NBA MVP

<p><em>Joel Embiid, above, is looking to win his first MVP this season (Photo Courtesy of Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Flickr).</em></p>

Joel Embiid, above, is looking to win his first MVP this season (Photo Courtesy of Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Flickr).

By Zach Jacovini
Staff Writer

Forget everything you may have heard about the 2023 NBA MVP race — the award rightfully belongs to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, and it has for a while. That is not to say that there are not other players also having MVP worthy seasons, as Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are also enjoying MVP-worthy campaigns on each of their respective squads. 

However, Joel Embiid’s path from almost retiring from the NBA to improving his game last year so dramatically to the point where he became the first center to lead the association in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999 is unheard of, with Embiid is also poised to repeat as the scoring champion this year, averaging an phenomenal 33.4 points per game with great efficiency. The statistics Embiid puts up on a regular basis have certainly caught notice of NBA fans and analysts alike, as Embiid currently sits atop the “MVP ladder”. The numbers are there, the narrative is there, and the fan support is there; it is time to give the “MVPIID” his due.

Before diving into why Joel Embiid is the clear-front runner for the award, a respective analysis of the two other MVP faithfuls is in order. Currently, third on the aforementioned “MVP ladder,” Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a phenomenal season, and his team has seen consistent success because of it. Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks currently have the best record in the association at 53-20, and as a result sit at number one in the Eastern Conference standings.  Antetokounmpo has had a great statistical season, averaging 31.1 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game, but his past awards and strength of team actually works against his MVP case. As a two-time recipient of the award already, it’s very possible that voter fatigue could exist against him, and when you combine that with Antetokounmpo having arguably the best supporting cast in the league, it has becomes difficult for analysts to judge Antetokounmpo’s true value to his team this season. Antetokounmpo is a generational talent, and it is very possible his team could represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this summer, but it does not seem likely that a third MVP trophy is in the cards for the Greek superstar.

Sitting at number two on the “MVP ladder,” center Nikola Jokic, recipient of the past two MVPs, is a generational offensive talent, as a seven-footer with the ability to not only generate his own offense, but generate offense for his teammates as well. Jokic, who has been the betting-favorite for much of this season, has led his Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference’s number one seed, averaging 24.8 points per game, 11.9 rebounds per game and 9.9 assists per game. Despite being the MVP favorite for much of this season, seemingly running away with the award at one point, Jokic has fallen in the public eye due to his team’s recent lack of success and poor defensive play coming to light. Since the All-Star break, the Denver Nuggets are 8-6, not bad by any means, but not representative of the season they were having before the break. 

The reason for this? Nikola Jokic’s poor defensive play, which for several years has gone under the radar, has finally come to light. Jokic struggles mightily on the defensive end, whether that is one on one, or guarding against actions such as the pick-and-roll. These defensive issues are a large reason as to why the Nuggets went on a four-game losing streak recently, and those four losses have created a narrative that the Joker may be unable to find a way out of.

Perhaps the best case for Embiid to win the award is that when he has matched up against both of the other two MVP hopefuls, he has seen a large amount of success. In three matchups so far this season versus Antetokounmpo’s Bucks, Embiid’s Sixers are 2-1, with Embiid hitting a game winner to cap-off an 18 point second-half comeback on the Bucks home floor in their last matchup.

Embiid has also had success against Jokic this season, as despite them only matching up in one game this season in Philadelphia, in one of the biggest games of his career with all eyes on him, Embiid turned in a brilliant performance. Embiid led the Sixers to an impressive comeback victory, tallying 47 points, 18 rebounds and five assists with Jokic guarding him for a majority of the game. The game was nationally televised on ESPN, and everyone who watched it came to the same conclusion, even the back-to-back MVP was helpless to stop a motivated Embiid, as is the rest of the association. 

There are many reasons as to why Joel Embiid should win the MVP award, ranging from both statistical reasons to narrative reasons. However, perhaps the most convincing argument would be that letting one of the best centers in the history of the NBA walk away from the game one day without getting his recognition would be a disaster for the association, and a tragedy for the exponential amount of fans who acknowledge Embiid's greatness every time he steps onto the hardwood.


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