The 2022 NBA Most Valuable Player award was announced this past week. Denver's Nikola Jokic was announced as the winner. This will be Jokic's second straight MVP. Philadelphia's Joel Embiid finished as the runner up (also for a 2nd straight year.)
I want to make one thing clear before I continue. This article is not to knock Jokic. He is an incredible player and had two great seasons. However, Embiid deserved the award this season.
Why Jokic did not deserve back to back MVP's
Again, no disrespect to Jokic. Yes he had an incredible season. However, when a player wins back to back MVP awards, you expect them to have a big step up in their game from the first to the second. We never saw that with Jokic. In two major stat categories (points and assists,) he actually decreased in production from 2021 to 2022. His 2021 season was better than his 2022 season. Does that mean the rest of the NBA also decreased from 2021 to 2022?
The excuses for Jokic are always "look at the Nuggets roster." Yes he was missing Jamal Murray all season long. However, if losing Murray was such a big loss, then why did their regular season win total not change? All because of Jokic? Then why did his stats regress? I know playoffs have nothing to do with the MVP, but a first round exit? I felt underwhelmed by Jokic's season, I did not feel that way about another MVP finalist from Philly.
I expect a back to back MVP to blow me away year 2. However, I never felt blown away by Jokic. He never made plays that had me saying "wow how did he do that," He continued playing at his normal level. Now that level was impressive, but year 2 it never blew me away. He did not have the story that made it worth an MVP caliber season. Nothing saying "wow most other stars would have folded," kind of moments.
Why Embiid deserved the MVP
Last year, many voters said Embiid deserved the award over Jokic, but he missed to many games for him to win it. This season, Embiid played a career high 68 regular season games and led the NBA in scoring. The excuse of Embiid missing to much time can not be used this year. He played a majority of the season and had career numbers to show for it.
The Nuggets lost Jamal Murray for the entire season. Lets talk about Embiid's season. All off-season, he had to deal with the Ben Simmons drama. Imagine losing an All-star and an all defensive player not because of injury, but because he was a cancer to the locker room. The off the court drama Embiid had to deal with was rough. Murray is a great player, but has never been to an all-star game.
Then half-way through the season, the Sixers bring in James Harden. Do we see a regression in Embiid? No, we see his game get even better.
The award is the Most Valuable Player. With Embiid is not in the game, the 76ers team is awful. We saw that in games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The offense has no movement, little defensive awareness, and just no flow. However, when Embiid is on the court, the 76ers offense is incredible. The ball moves so well, shots fall so easily, and the overall intensity is vibrant.
How many times have we seen Embiid get double teamed or triple teamed? You probably saw it every game,because it happened all the time. In those moments, he has still hit incredible shots. In other scenarios, he has elevated the overall success of the 76ers. We have seen Tyrese Maxey's game go from rookie to possible all-star one day. With Embiid on the court, the 76ers were the 4th seed in the East. Without him, they probably would not have made the play in tournament this season. Jokic never elevated the game of anyone on his team. He took al the shots, he just did everything himself. Embiid elevates the game for his team. Everyone is a better basketball player because of Joel Embiid. You can not say that about Jokic.
If you want to say Jokic had better stats that is fine. The award is not the Highest Stats Player, but the most valuable player. Embiid's presence will change an entire team's game plan to go around maybe stopping him. From his level of play, there was no stopping him.
Embiid was the most valuable player. He has dealt with more off the court issues than any other player in the NBA. 3 GMS, 2 head coaches, a GM who had a burner account, Ben Simmons, Doc Rivers, etc. Through all of that, we have seen Embiid continue to dominate the league day in and day out.
Currently the media votes for the MVP award. However, the players and the coaches should be the only vote. They are the ones who play and coach every night. They are in the team meetings and film session. They know who are the valuable assets and who is not. It is funny, most of the coaches and players all agree, Embiid should have won the MVP. Who is going to know who is the harder player to defend? The player defending him or some reporter who was the back-up point guard on the JV basketball team in the late 90's?
Just listen to some people:
To Charles Barkley...
Remember you said Embiid's game 5 struggles were due to him pouting about not getting the MVP. Maybe forget he is playing 2 weeks after a concussion where he could not look at his phone, a facial fracture, and a torn ligament in his thumb. Most players would never consider playing. However, Embiid is out there fighting for his legacy and he is doing a damn good job at it!