We’ve officially passed the All-Star Break for the 2022 NBA season, the unofficial halfway point in the season. Nikola Jokic was selected to the All-Star game for his fourth-straight season, joining a select group of Denver Nuggets‘ players to accomplish this feat.
But for fans and media, the All-Star Break also signifies the true beginning of the MVP race. This past year, the MVP conversation came down to the two best centers in the NBA, and the same race looks to continue again this year.
In ESPN‘s latest MVP mock poll, Joel Embiid led the poll with 789 total points, including 45 first-place votes. Jokic followed closely behind with 754 total points and 43 first-place votes, but was shockingly left off of five voter’s ballots altogether.
Before taking a deep dive into who truly deserves MVP, let’s compare stats for the two big men in the MVP discussion:
Nikola Jokic has played 52 games, he averages 26 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 5.6 free-throw attempts a night while putting up a 116.8 offensive rating, 106.7 defensive rating, and 7.1 plus-minus with 30.5 percent usage. His Denver Nuggets hold a 33-25 record, good for sixth in the Western Conference.
Joel Embiid has played 46 games and averages 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 11.3 free-throw attempts per game with a 114.1 offensive rating, 107.1 defensive rating, and 4.7 plus/minus. He has a 37.7 percent usage rating while his Philadelphia 76ers hold a 35-23 record, third in the Eastern Conference.
The raw numbers paint a strong picture for Jokic’s case for MVP. The Big Honey has improved from his 2020 MVP season and has been truly dominant this season.
Like Jokic, Joel Embiid has been the anchor for his team. Embiid holds a higher usage rating than Jokic, and the numbers show that Embiid has been a dominant force as a scorer this year. While Embiid isn’t the “offensive system” that Nikola Jokic is, Embiid has certainly been the driving force behind the 76ers success this season.
Embiid’s dominance as a scorer has caught the eyes of MVP voters and media members all season.
However, I believe Jokic’s numbers back up his case as the best player in the NBA, one who contributes to winning in numerous ways and elevates the floor of his teammates. Jokic’s dominance doesn’t stand out like an Embiid poster-dunk, but I would argue Jokic has contributed to overall team success more than Embiid.