I hear all the time that the NBA MVP is the regular season award. Which is weird, because when a lot of people ran out of ways to downplay Nikola Jokic’s alleged dominance of the nerd number as a way to raise the Joel Embiid case, the controversy became about… the post-season.
He was always there. This idea that Jokic is somehow not the same dominant force in the postseason. It never met even the most basic criterion of logical argument. Go look at Jokic’s postseason performances. And besides, what, Embiid is some kind of playoff monster? After Embiid’s Sixers were blown off the field by the Celtics in Game 7 on Sunday, Philly have now been bounced in the second round for the third year in a row, and in increasingly embarrassing fashion, I might add.
Jokic, for the record, was now in two conference finals. Embiid, zero. We blamed Ben Simmons in 2021. Last year James Harden wasn’t healthy. This year, I’m sure Embiid advocates will say he He was not healthy. which was not. But this is not the point. This is the pattern now. Embiid does not meet the moments in front of him on a consistent basis. He went 7-for-24 in the playoffs in Philly last year. He went 5-for-18 for 15 points on Sunday.
On the defensive end, which is supposed to be the crux of his case as a more valuable player than Jokic, he offered protection without an edge and had no chance of protection from the perimeter. He was targeted again and again. It was slow with no elevator. He was lazy. Embiid always seems pretty lethargic, to be fair. But on Sunday, it was really in for a leisurely stroll. in game 7.
Now I want to be clear, this is not an attack on Embiid as a great player, and it clearly is. I’m just here to state the crystal clear for anyone watching honestly, And watch honestly, both of them play: Embiid is not in Jokic’s class. It just isn’t. There’s no single catch-all number to indicate that it is, and for people who hate scales, eye testing is pretty blinding.
When Embiid is cool, it’s easy to mistake him for Jokic’s counterpart, if not his boss, just as it’s easy to put Damian Lillard in Stephen Curry’s class while cooking. I made the mistake myself. And I looked stupid doing that.
I will not be fooled again. Embiid, like Lillard, is a Hall of Fame player and MVP worthy candidate. He is not the best player. He’s not Carrie in this conversation. This is Jokic. The man whose split splits were supposed to tell the MVP story for the third year in a row.
It bears repeating: The Nuggets were 25 points worse per 100 possessions when Jokic sat out this season. That’s a statistical way of saying they played the best team in the league with him, and it was almost the worst team without him. On a large sample size, that’s what it is.
But I wouldn’t even do that for advanced numbers. Nuggets are – 2.2 per 100 in this playoff with Jokic on the floor, per glass cleaning. It doesn’t matter. It’s a small sample. Guy averaged 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 10.3 assists on 59/44/85 shooting splits in eliminating the Suns. He was undoubtedly the best player in a series that included Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.
As you can see, what the numbers reflect but do not have to understand if you watch games is this: Jokic is a guaranteed high-quality shot. for him. or to a teammate. Nuggets run their attack through it and it can’t be defended. I can not. If you cover one Jokic, whether in the regular season or the playoffs, he’ll destroy you in the post or with his feathery touch. Cover him twice, and he cuts you wide open with his death.
This defensive dilemma is not one Embiid can replicate. You Can Double team him and I will no Holds You Away finished with 24 assists-for-35 turnovers in the playoffs. You could say MVP is a regular season award, but nothing speaks to Jokic’s value more than his ability to rip double teams, Embiid, in the regular season or playoffs-You can’t do that.
Embiid is a reliable mid-range shooter but takes too much time on the ocean. On Sunday, he posted too far for the hoop. Sometimes he catches the ball inside the three-point line. When he has to back up from you that far, he is liable to lose the ball and/or his foot, or both, if he is not face up and settled on the bounce.
While there’s absolutely no way a defense can hold Jokic, who simply has too many ways to kill you, to 15 points on 18 shots with a single assist in an elimination game, or really any game for that matter, Embiid, like his teammate James Harden, relies heavily on making mistakes to maintain consistent dominance of his half of the field when things get really tight.
Embiid has been to the playoffs six times in his career, and five times has failed to score even the league’s average effective field goal percentage. If he doesn’t get to the line, he’s not in control. At least not in the way that Jokic is.
In the playoffs, it’s about teams getting better, easier, more rhythmic shots against designated defenses. Jokic guarantees you those shots. Embiid no. The game, for what it looks like with Jokic, feels like a struggle running through Embiid.
It’s hard to see in the regular season, when you get countless matches against lower level opponents and no one specifically strategizes. But this is still true. Still a great value point in Jokic’s favor.
This has been a problem for Sixers dating back to the Brett Brown era. They just can’t make good, consistent shots in their half of the field. I watched it all day on Sunday – nothing happens, Embiid goes down or heads up, the shot clock seems stuck at six seconds and ticking as someone tries to create something out of nothing.
They said Brown wasn’t creative enough, and it was turned on. Simmons can’t clear the floor, and he runs. Doc Rivers has long been disgraced – and I think he deserves it – as an unimaginative, frankly overly playable coach, and he may have been gone before long, too. Harden might be done in Philly, and don’t even try to get me started on his unreliability as a shooter when he can’t live constantly on the whistle.
The Embiid is Philadelphia’s only franchise pillar guaranteed to stand next season, and at some point, you have to ask yourself who the common denominator is in all of these shortcomings after the postseason. That said, it’s logical, then, to conclude that the postseason narrative – which isn’t supposed to mean anything but we all know it actually does – doesn’t hold up as it relates to the Gokcek vs. Embiid debate.
The simple fact is that Jokic lost this award to voter fatigue. To tell a great player in Embiid, he waited his turn. Jokic was better in the regular season. Jokic has been better in the postseason. Jokic is the most valuable player in the league, regardless of who gets the actual trophy this year. I don’t know who needs to hear that. But I just wanted to say that.
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