Joel Embiid was named a finalist for the MVP award. That’s no remotely surprising. But what would be surprising is if he actually won the award. And its not because he doesnt deserve it. This season Embiid took his play to another level. He was 4th in the league in scoring, at 28.5 PPG. He was 10th in the league in rebounds with 10.6 RPG. He was first in free throws attempted by a LARGE margin, 10.7 FPG. And he hit his free throws at an 86% clip. Yet it will be Nikola Jokic who takes home the award.
Allow me to speculate on this realistic scenario that is surely to play out.
The argument FOR Jokic is the fact that he played 72 games compared to the 51 that Embiid played. Even though Embiid had more points per game (28.5 to Jokic’ 26.4) Free throws attempted (10.6 to Jokic’ 5.5 ) the only category that Jokic has on Embiid is total rebounds (Jokic’ 10.8 over Embiid’s 10.6.) Jokic was “consistent.” Embiid was dominant. There isn’t a team in the NBA this season that would’ve taken Jokic over Joel…BUT
Writers vote on the award. Writers. The same people that have dedicated their lives to a sport (I assume) many love. The same writers who were OUTRAGED that in 2013 new general manager Sam Hinkie decided to kick off “The Process.” Even though other teams have purposely tanked to get a better draft pick (looking at you 2006 Celtics.) Sam Hinkie though was painfully transparent about his scheme and his end game. And basketball fans around the country, basketball writers, basketball talking heads excoriated Hinkie and the Sixers. Continuing to revel in the teams struggles. Even as recently as the NBA bubble some process critics were loving the fact that the Sixers had been swept, and were seemingly out of assets.
But then the team fired Brett Brown for a more “win now” coach in Doc Rivers. They then brought in Darryl Morey. And another facelift on draft night had the team poised to bring in a different Sixers era. The Sixers bought in to Doc Rivers scheme. Tobias Harris returned to the form that we last saw in Los Angeles (ironically with Doc as head coach.) And Joel Embiid took his already great game to another level.
But Joel Embiid is a man who has always embraced the process. He dubbed himself Joel “the process” Embiid. His love for Sam Hinkie is known. Joel Embiid panning out is the one giant wrench in the anti-process basketball fans out there. And he knows it. NBA Writers will punish Joel Embiid for the stupidest reason in the world. Because Joel Embiid winning the MVP is a feather in Sam Hinkie’s cap. Its a nod that the process MAY have actually worked. That losing on purpose to acquire assets might be the right move. And basketball writers wont let that happen.
Nikola Jokic will win the MVP award. But the process by which he wins it will be a flawed one.