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Embiid or Jokic? The Most Controversial NBA Award Race Ever

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An MVP sign is seen behind Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Wells Fargo Center in 2022 in Philadelphia. (Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

By Kevin Lopez

The most dominating storyline for the NBA the last few months has been who will win the Most Valuable Player Award and it has truly been the most controversial and toxic race the NBA has ever seen.

The reason that the discourse around this conversation is on Chernobyl levels of toxicity is that Nikola Jokic, a center from the Denver Nuggets, is the reigning MVP who’s won the award two years in a row and if he wins this year that means he would be the third player in history to win the award three straight years.

Many feel that Jokic doesn’t deserve that honor as Joel Embiid, a center from the Philadelphia 76ers, finished second the last two years and has a strong argument that he actually should’ve won the award.

They are both the front runners for the award and both are having ALL TIME seasons, and yes that is meant to be capitalized, but because of how each guy is playing it has turned into a contest for the media to negate one player for the other.

From analysts accusing Jokic of stat padding to accusing Embiid of ducking competition and even people on ESPN accusing voters of having racial bias for picking Jokic over Embiid, Jokic is white and Embiid is black, the conversation has completely changed to a whole new unnecessary topic.

While I’m here to reel everything back in and clean up this mess and tell you exactly who should win the MVP and all the other awards, hopefully without making your head explode.

Rookie of the year

Let’s start off with the awards that the majority agrees on, the rookie of the year, given to the best player who is in their first year in the league.

I mean it has to go to Paolo Banchero, a power forward from the Orlando Magic, the No.1 overall pick has completely revitalized a stagnant organization like the Magic by averaging 20 points per game, grabbing 6.9 rebounds per game, and averaging 3.7 assists per game.

He truly has an all around game that has the potential to be on the same level as Chris Webber. He’s the only rookie to average 20 points which is essentially guaranteeing him to win the award despite being inefficient.

Honorable mentions: Jaden Ivey, Bennedict Mathurin, and Walker Kessler

Coach of the year

Another one that we can call right now, this award is going to Mike Brown, the coach from the Sacramento Kings, and the case for coach Brown is pretty obvious, he took the cave dwellers that were the Kings to the playoffs and he didn’t just barely get in, they secured the three seed last month and nearly got the second seed.

Coach Brown has made their offense so explosive that they can actually forget to play defense and still win.

There’s nothing else to say, light the beam.

Honorable mentions: Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone

Sixth Man of the year

Now we get into some debates from here on out. There is some contention here with who deserves the award, but to me this one is pretty obvious as well – it’s Malcom Brogdon, a point guard for the Boston Celtics.

I mean he didn’t start a single game and averaged 14.9 points on great efficiency on a team that won 57 games.

The fun pick is Immanuel Quickley, a shooting guard from the New York Knicks, the explosive and entertaining guard had a bit of a run going and gained some traction to win this award, but it belongs to Brogdon.

Honorable Mentions: Immanuel Quickley, Bobby Portis

Most improved player

Now this one is pretty interesting because we don’t have a definition of what this award actually means. Like truly, it’s always changing which makes it hard to decide who wins.

It’s really between two players: Lauri Markkanen, a forward from the Utah Jazz, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a guard from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

I have to go with Markkanen, I just feel going from average to great is actual improvement compared to someone who was already great becoming greater, which is what happened with Gilgeous-Alexander.

Honorable mention: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Defensive Player of the Year

Now this is where I feel the most pressure, I feel people looking at me and already disagreeing with me and I haven’t said a single word yet.

There are so many choices and it’s really hard to decide. I mean there’s Brook Lopez, a center for the Milwaukee Bucks, who has been reliable all year or Draymond Green, a forward for the Golden State Warriors, who is still one of the most versatile defenders in the league or Jaren Jackson Jr, a forward for the Memphis Grizzlies, who is leading the league in blocks.

There are good reasons not to pick any of those players though, Lopez isn’t even the best defender on his team, Green hasn’t been consistent this year and Jackson Jr. hasn’t played many games and gets into foul trouble.

So I went with Evan Mobley, a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and here’s my case for Mobley.

He’s the leading cause for the Cavalier’s being the best defensive team in the league. His teammates have all pointed to his quick feet and versatility that allow him to cover switches and roam around on help defense that is immensely valuable.

And since he’s played the most games and minutes, it just puts that over for me. He also doesn’t foul a lot which is why I picked him over Jackson Jr.

If you can’t be on the floor because of foul trouble then that’s a negative stat and because of that, he isn’t even reliable enough to play 30 minutes.

It’s hard and it can truly go to any of those players. I would just give it to the one who’s played the most and that would be Mobley.

Honorable mentions: Brook Lopez, Jaren Jackson Jr., Draymond Green

Most Valuable Player

Now the one you’ve been waiting for, the Most Valuable Player.

It’s truly hard to pick because again I feel like you can pick between Embiid or Jokic and I wouldn’t be mad. I really wouldn’t, there’s good enough reasons to have either guy win.

Embiid is averaging 33.1 points per game, leading the league in scoring for the second year in a row, while also leading the 76ers to the third seed with 54 wins.

Jokic is nearly averaging a triple double with 24.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 9.8 APG, while leading the Nuggets to the first seed with 53 wins.

It’s truly neck and neck, but if I were to decide, I would go with Joel Embiid winning his first MVP over Nikola Jokic and here’s why.

There’s nothing that Jokic did this year that would make us give him the award. He’s doing what he’s done the last three years and that’s being an amazing player, but it hasn’t led to anything special.

While Embiid is leading the league in scoring, becoming the first center to do it back-to-back years since the early ‘80s.

It’s time to give Embiid his flowers and give him what he’s worked so hard for over the last three years.

Joel Embiid is the Most Valuable Player.

Honorable mention: Nikola Jokic

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