One of the most obvious differences between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid‘s 2021-22 MVP campaigns is the number of free throws each superstar is taking. The Denver Nuggets center clearly isn’t getting the same calls that Embiid is.
The Philadelphia 76ers big man has taken 718 free throws this season while Jokic has only attempted 429. Embiid has swished 587 of those attempts, good enough to rank first in both attempts and makes by a country mile.
The next closest is Milwaukee Bucks big Giannis Antetokounmpo with 701 attempts and 506 makes. Jokic has banged home 348 of his 429 attempts so far, which still ranks him within the NBA’s top ten, but nowhere near the top of the list.
The eye-popping part is the sheer amount of attempts for Embiid, nearly doubling up any other player that’s not in the top ten in free throw tries.
As we wind down in the month of March, the MVP race gets hotter. Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo have pulled away as MVP favorites, with honorable mentions going to Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.
Jokic’s 81 percent from the free throw line is in the 84th percentile among all bigs this season while Embiid’s 82 percent is in the 86th percentile according to Cleaning the Glass‘ metric. Both are accurate snipers, which could catch many by surprise given their big frames.
Nikola Jokic continues to work magic for the Nuggets, keeping them solidly in the Western Conference playoff race, while Embiid is doing similar work in the East for the Sixers.
Sitting in fourth with 46 wins, 1.5 games behind the one seed, Embiid’s Sixers are bearing down on a possible number one seed if they can keep pace with the Miami Heat, the Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks. Although, it’s worth mentioning that the 76ers 46 wins are good enough for the fourth seed in the East while 45 wins in a top-heavy West puts Denver in the sixth seed.
Controversy arises when assessing their games and there are many different theories on exactly why Embiid is getting to the line more than Jokic or anyone else.
What’s even more head-scratching is the fact that Jokic is a monster on the boards, ranking first in the league in total rebounds with 936 and counting on the season, while Embiid has pulled down 693 total rebounds.
One would think that with Jokic’s constant presence down low, he would be getting fouled more, but that is simply not the case.
Embiid has the uncanny ability to draw the eye of NBA referees and influence calls to get him to the charity stripe. Jokic’s game must appear more desperate for calls and that’s why he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt that Joel is getting.
Nikola is the reigning MVP, but it seems like Embiid is getting more respect when it comes to getting calls. I don’t know what it’s going to take for Jokic to demand the type of courtesy that’s being shown to his Philly counterpart.
Embiid is incredibly talented and rarely misses. Which makes guarding his seven-foot, 280-pound frame nearly impossible when he’s getting to the charity stripe like he has been this year. Joel has now jacked his points-per-game average up to 29.9 on the year, second behind only LeBron James.
The love Embiid is getting at the line is undeniably keeping him solidly in the MVP race. Denver Nuggets fans and Jokic fans are beginning to wonder what kind of MVP love Jokic would be getting if he received half the calls Embiid has been getting.
Time will tell if Nikola Jokic can put things together and demand the type of respect Embiid is getting, and I’m sure the Nuggets are open to suggestions on how to get Jokic to the line more. Jokic will need to continue to push the envelope and force the referee’s hand similar to what Embiid has been doing. There doesn’t seem to be many cracks in either one’s game right now, so maybe the MVP race could come down to something as silly as free throws.