MVP Race: Joel Embiid vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) waits for the play to set during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Joel Embiid is a lock for MVP Finalist at the very least this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo will also, more than likely, also be an MVP Finalist. The two will face off tonight in a battle of the East at 7:00 PM eastern time

Not only will he be a finalist, but Joel Embiid should be the MVP without a doubt. No player across the landscape of the NBA is more valuable to his team than Embiid. The stats are not necessarily as definitive as they are between Embiid and other MVP Finalists, yet Joel Embiid still deserves to win MVP.

Looking at the stats, Embiid and Giannis are extremely similar. Embiid is scoring 29.9 points per game, and Giannis is scoring 29.7 points per game. Embiid secures 11.4 rebounds per game, while Giannis secures 11.6 per game. Assists are the biggest discrepancy, with Giannis picking up 5.8 per game while Embiid hands out 4.2 per game.

The two players are exceedingly similar in terms of outputs and in terms of team seeding. Both the Sixers and the Bucks have 46 wins, and both the Sixers and the Bucks have 28 losses. The number of parallels between the two are almost frighteningly coincidental, yet when looking at team construction, there is one big difference in the supporting cast.

In games where the Sixers played without Joel Embiid, they are 5-8 this season, a 38.5% winning percentage. In games where the Bucks didn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo, they carry a 6-7 record, a 46.2% winning percentage, and this is direct evidence showing how much of a better supporting cast that the Bucks have compared to the Sixers. If the Sixers had no Embiid for all 82 games, their team would, according to the winning percentage of games without Embiid, the Sixers would be a 31 to 32 win team. The Bucks, using their winning percentage without Giannis, would be a 37 to 38 win team if Giannis were to miss an entire season.

In Milwaukee, the team is full of high-level NBA talent. Six players on their team are in double-digit scoring. Khris Middleton (20.3), Jrue Holiday (18.6), Bobby Portis (14.8), Grayson Allen (11.2), and Pat Connaughton (10.3) are all double-digit scorers next to Giannis’ 29.7 points per game. With so many players contributing, less has to solely fall on Giannis’ shoulders. While his ability is still next level, his team’s performance is ultimately holding him back from truly deserving the award.

In Philadelphia, however, the story is different. Joel Embiid is scoring 29.9 points per game and doing enough to have just as many wins as the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Embiid’s supporting cast is not nearly as diverse as Giannis has in Milwaukee. The Sixers have only four players scoring in double digits. Relatively new addition James Harden (22.4), Tobias Harris (17.5), and Tyrese Maxey (17.4) are the real scoring help next to Embiid’s 29.9 points per game.

Giannis is having a great year. The goal isn’t to take away from the season he has been having. The goal is simply to put into perspective how much more valuable Embiid is to his team compared to Giannis. Joel and Giannis may have similar stats, but when looking at the context of their teams and the problems that Joel had to deal with — including an All-Star Point Guard who refused to play — it is clear that Joel Embiid should be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.