Comparing Joel Embiid’s case for MVP against the competition

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, right, dribbles the ball as Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Does anyone deserve MVP this year more than Joel Embiid? When looking at the MVP race, there are three players who seem to be getting the most MVP love. The Philadelphia 76ers Embiid, the Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic, and the Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo. Embiid is currently the favorite to win. His outstanding performances have continued with a streak earlier in the year of 10 consecutive 30-point games. His accolades keep growing every week, securing yet another Player of the Week award. 

Currently, Joel Embiid is leading the league in points per game at 33.3 (a career-high). “The Process” is also contributing 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game on 54.5/34.1/85.6 shooting splits. This season, he is truly having one of the most incredible seasons for a center in recent NBA History and deserves the recognition that he is getting. That being said, does anyone else have a better argument?

Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Nikola Jokic has won the last two MVPs. The Serbian center and Denver Nuggets superstar is truly a spectacular player and was one of just a few players in the past two years to have played well enough for his MVPs. No matter how much anyone wants Embiid to have won, Jokic still deserves credit and respect for the seasons that he has put together. That being said, Embiid is clearly on another planet in terms of his abilities right now. Leading the league in points while being the best defender on the 7th best defense in the league moves the needle a lot for Embiid. It finally appears that Joel Embiid may have the edge on Jokic.

Many Jokic supporters will point toward advanced analytics to defend Jokic’s candidacy. The reigning MVP has some incredible advanced stats while having solid counting stats. He is currently averaging 24.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 9.9 assists, and 0.6 blocks per game. That being said, the reigning MVP also has a questionable defensive presence. More than anything, this is what has been used by analysts to push Embiid past Jokic in the race. However, it is the monstrous season that Embiid is having and the fantastic late-season push from Embiid.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only other player in the NBA who has a realistic chance of beating out Joel Embiid for MVP. The two-time MVP is once again having a fantastic season, averaging 31.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. His team is first in the East and the best in the NBA.

When comparing Giannis to Joel, their stats are extremely similar. Both are averaging 30-point double-doubles on the season. Giannis is averaging more rebounds (11.7 compared to 10.2), more assists (5.6 compared to 4.2), and more free throws attempted (12.3 compared to 11.9). Joel Embiid, on the other hand, is averaging more points (33.3 compared to 31.1), more steals (1.1 compared to 0.8), more blocks (1.7 compared to 0.8), and a higher 3-point percentage (34.1% compared to 28.5%).

The biggest difference between the two players, who both have solid cases for MVP, is in the advanced statistics called Win Shares. Now win shares is simply stated as an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. Giannis has 4.6 offensive win shares and 3.6 defensive win shares for a total of 8.2 shares. Embiid has 7.9 offensive win shares and 3.7 defensive win shares. With both offensive and defensive win shares favoring Embiid, as well as voter fatigue still remaining around Giannis, Joel has a good case for why he should win MVP.

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Joel Embiid is putting in the best season of his career right now, which is saying something since each of the last three years, Embiid has taken his game to a new level. The superstar center nicknamed “The Process” seems to have the best chance of his career to finally win the ever-elusive MVP. That being said, if he doesn’t end up winning, I’m sure he’ll settle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.