The toughest debate in sports…the NBA MVP!

The toughest debate in sports…the NBA MVP!

The NBA playoffs are just around the corner, and this is usually when the controversy begins in the NBA MVP race. Because everybody scraps what happened during an 82 game regular season and just focus on the playoffs, when in reality, the playoffs have nothing to do with the regular season MVP. This years MVP race has been amazing. Because this NBA season has produced an all time high six players averaging 30 or more points per game. There are so many great players this year, so many players that are putting up MVP numbers. Jayson Tatum became the first wing in NBA history to average 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and he’s barley talked about in the whole discussion. But we have narrowed the field of players for the coveted award down to three: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, for the third straight season! So, in what will definitely be a controversial NBA MVP race, I’m making my job easy. Before the playoff madness begins, here is 2022-23 NBA MVP!

I have Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic taking home the three-peat at MVP, and for some reason, no one else is realizing what he is doing. Nikola Jokic has been the best player on the best team in the Western Conference. And here is what drives me crazy with the MVP debate. The MVP, is not the best player in the NBA. It is the most valuable player in the NBA. It is the player that brings the most value to their team. Giannis is the best player in the NBA, and I’ve thought that now confidently for over a year. But that doesn’t make him the most valuable player in basketball.

Nikola Jokic has done it all. He nearly averaged a 24.5 point triple double, coming just .2 assists shy. The last time a center ever came even remotely close to averaging a triple double in a season (besides Jokic) was Wilt Chamberlain, and he had just 8.6 assists in that 1968 campaign. He continues to make history. He ranks top 10 in the NBA in rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage, becoming the only player this season to accomplish this feat. He even has the best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in the NBA for the third consecutive season.

And other statistics that explain value show Jokic is truly the most valuable player in basketball. Estimated Plus Minus is a stat created in 2014, and since its creation, six of the nine leaders in estimated plus minus have won the MVP. Jokic leads the NBA in estimated plus minus for the third straight season. And this stat just says it all. There is a stat by FiveThirtySeven called RAPTOR WAR, to essentially use a plethora of statistics to see which players are most valuable compared to their competition. Jokic has a 20.2 in this category. The next best player is Luka Doncic with 12.3, and then Joel Embiid with 12.2. And the difference between Jokic and everyone else is unbelievable. The difference between Jokic and Embiid in this stat is more of a difference than the difference between Stephen Curry and T.J. McConnell. This is unheard of!

Let’s compare this though to his competitors’ statistics. Embiid is an insane scorer, leading the league in scoring averaging 33 points per game. He is also a defensive monster, scoring the 4th best defensive rating this past regular season. And most say Embiid’s ability to score off-sets Jokic’s ability to pass. But that’s just not the case. In fact, Jokic ranks 4th in the NBA in points generated, despite ranking 25th in scoring. Embiid is ninth, and Giannis is 6th in this category, despite each ranking top five in scoring. So two of the top five scorers, who happen to be Jokic’s competitors, don’t generate as many points as the 25th best scorer. That is how valuable his facilitating and play making abilities are.

So now that we know the statistics, let’s look at the value. Jokic is the Nuggets. The Nuggets play great with Jokic on the floor, recording a 4.7 net rating with him. But without him, the Nuggets are a completely different team. They have a -3.9 net rating when he’s off the floor, which is about equivalent to the Portland Trail Blazers. That’s an 8.6 difference in net rating between when he’s on the floor, to when he’s off the floor. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also amazing with the Bucks. They have a 4.8 net rating when he is on the floor. And without him, they have a -0.4 net rating. That is about an average team, like the Miami Heat this season. And that difference in net rating is just 5.2. The 76ers have a 3.8 net rating when Joel Embiid is on the floor, and have a 7.2 net rating when he’s off the floor. That is a negative -3.4 net rating difference. This chart shows this dominance in value in a more organized way:

Jokic: 8.6 net difference between when he’s on the floor compared to off
Giannis: 5.2 net difference between when he’s on the floor compared to off
Embiid: -3.4 net difference between when he’s on the floor compared to off

So when using this net rating metric, Jokic is clearly the most valuable. The difference between Jokic’s net difference and Giannis’ net difference is 3.4. Only five teams in the NBA had a net rating of 3.4 this regular season. That is how much more value Jokic is showing than anybody else in the game. And it’s not just this metric that shows it. The Nuggets are 5-8 without Jokic this season. The Bucks are 11-8 without Giannis this season, and the 76ers are 11-5 without Embiid this season. His two other competitors teams have a positive record without their superstar. And not only did the 76ers have a good record without Embiid, but James Harden is the 5th most valuable player in basketball to the general consensus this year, meaning he is given another top five MVP candidate on his own team! How valuable could Embiid really be then? Despite this, I was torn up on who to pick to win the award, and actually started this article by writing three different answers for the award before deciding going with Jokic. But he simply shows more value, and that was when I officially changed my pick to the Joker. I understand Giannis has had to do so much with an injured Khris Middleton throughout the entire season, but then why are the Bucks still a relatively good team without him? I know many say Jokic has a significant amount of depth, and he does. But that team simply doesn’t work without him. And with him, they’re as good as anybody in the NBA.

I know Jokic is the boring pick, and frankly, I want to see Embiid win it, because I want to see someone besides Jokic or Giannis win, because they have been the MVP for the past four seasons. But frankly, I don’t think we’re seeing anyone knew. Are Giannis and Embiid better basketball players than Jokic? Absolutely. Giannis is so much more athletic, much more versatile defensively, and has more general skill on the perimeter. Embiid is a more dominant post-up player and could single handedly lead his team to victory with talent around him. He can shoot from the outside and penetrate with no problem. He is a gifted player, maybe the most well rounded in the NBA. And that is why, especially with the 47 point, 18 rebound performance he had on the Joker, he’s the best center in the league. But those guys, despite being able to do more with a basketball or being able to stop someone from doing more than anyone when that someone has the basketball, are not the most valuable players in the NBA. It is Jokic once again, and this has to recognized once and for all. Jokic will join Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird as the fourth player to win three straight NBA MVP awards, putting his name in the record books…forever!


Chase Coburn

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