Sixers fans, get ready to be furious: the MVP race is actively being driven out of the deserved hands of Joel Embiid.
ESPN reporter Tim Bontemps, who routinely conducts straw polls of potential award voters throughout the season to take the league’s temperature, released a new poll Tuesday morning that appears to suggest it’s Nikola Jokic’s turn to become his second MVP- Consecutive prize to be won via Embiid.
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When Bontemps last released a straw poll, Embiid held a slim 789-754 lead among voters:
Emboid: 1st: 45 | 2nd: 38 | 3rd: 12 | 4th: 4 | 5th: 1st
Jokic: 1st: 43 | 2nd: 39 | 3rd: 8 | 4th: 3 | 5th: 2nd
Now, about a month and a half later, the roles have reversed and Jokic holds a fairly significant 860-719 lead over Embiid among the voters:
Jokic: 1st: 62 | 2nd: 31 | 3rd: 4 | 4th: 0 | 5th: 3rd
Emboid: 1st: 29 | 2nd: 37 | 3rd: 34 | 4th: 0 | 5th: 0
This is a pity!
Here’s a look at their respective stats since February’s straw poll, in case you were wondering if Jokic suffered a monster tear or Embiid fell off a cliff while distracted by the extra hour of evening daylight:
Emboid: 30.9 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.6 SPG on 47.0/32.8/83.0
Jokic: 27.2 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 8.3 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.6 SPG on 59.9/22.4/81.8
Embiid scores more while Jokic has more assists. The rebounds are a wash, as are the defensive counting stats. Jokic has a better field goal percentage, but Embiid shoots better from deep. The free throws are a wash.
While some see a more dominant goalscorer in Embiid and others see a more versatile big man in Jokic, I see two players of slightly different skill sets basically playing for a tie.
I also see that two players don’t get much help from their supporting cast. Nuggets fans will point to James Harden’s presence with the Sixers since the last straw poll as plenty of support, but the veteran guard plays truly inefficient basketball and lets ESPN talk shows openly ask what’s wrong with him. Is that really a help? Or is it just another player that Embiid has to wear?
I also see two teams playing similarly successful basketball — the Sixers went 9-5 in March while the Nuggets went 9-6 — with one key difference: ESPN’s stats and intelligence had the Nuggets’ schedule as the easiest in the league , during the Sixers’ schedule was the seventh-toughest.
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So what’s changed here, aside from the narratives that Nuggets fans and Jokic supporters wanted to push back as Embiid extended his mid-season MVP race lead?
The “disrespect” and “lack of recognition” for Jokic has always been a straw man – he’s the reigning MVP – but it’s clearly brought some voters back to the Nuggets superstar’s side because there really isn’t any other reason to change your vote . The two players are doing the exact same things they’ve been doing all year. Nothing has changed.
And yet here we are, with less than 10 games remaining, and Jokic will likely get his second straight MVP in place of Embiid.
Sixers fans should put the MVP campaign behind them and just get ready for the postseason. The Nuggets have no chance of reaching the NBA Finals, but the Sixers do. Let Jokic enjoy the hardware (he deserves it because he’s amazing!) and let’s keep our focus on the ultimate goal of an NBA title.