NBA teams are making a push towards an easier postseason, and there is one more hot topic in the circle regarding the MVP of the 2023 season. Though the race is intensified, the candidates remain the same. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are competing for the third straight year, while Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic also made the cut with their blistering form this season.
With many changes happening this season, Jokic is leading the race as per current status. His Eastern foes – Giannis and Joel, are not far away. Tatum and Doncic are also having a colossal season, as the Celtics are considered one of the favorites for the Championship. Sticking to the MVP race, we will compare every contender in discussion on their team and individual statistics. Then after eliminating some competitors, we will dive deep into their “Value”.
So let us get started.
MVP candidates missing out on the team and personal stats
Stats are not only numbers, but they describe a player’s season and output throughout the season. It is hard to be consistent on the floor, but that makes any player a megastar and MVP title contender. There is no denying that the players in the discussion are worthy of the nominations. All five players mentioned above are playing at a high level, making it difficult to pick one unbiasedly.
The MVP award is an individual accolade, but the team’s status in the league does impact the result unless you are putting-in inhuman numbers for a very poor team. So, if we go by the team performances, the Eastern conference’s top three teams also hold top spots in the league. The Nuggets from the West follow them. Doncic and the Mavs are clinging on in the play-in situation with a .50 record in 70 games played. This will surely affect the Slovenian’s chances in the race. So we can count him out for our discussion.
Next up would be an individual’s record in the season. All remaining four candidates are impacting the game in more than one aspect. As for the MVP nominees, all four players lead the team in multiple stats. And this is how they fair in the league regarding major statistics,
Average Points: Embiid 33.5 (1st), Giannis 31.5 (4th), Tatum 30.1 (6th), Jokic 24.8 (18th)
Average Assists: Jokic 9.9 (4th), Giannis 5.5 (31st), Tatum 4.7 (41st), Embiid 4.1 (50th)
Average Rebounds: Jokic 11.9 (2nd), Giannis 11.9 (3rd), Embiid 10.2 (8th), Tatum 9 (20th)
Average Steals: Jokic 1.2 (24th), Embiid 1.1 (40th), Tatum 1 (58th), Giannis 0.7 (121st)
Average Blocks: Embiid 1.7 (6th), Giannis 0.8 (41st), Tatum 0.8 (46th), Jokic 0.7 (57th)
If we go with these, Embiid and Jokic feature in two of the top-10 rankings in the league, making them strong challengers to the MVP title. Antetokounmpo is also not far behind them, with his all-around performance handing him second-best MVP candidate in nearly most of the stats. The Celtics’ forward is finding it difficult to match up with “the Bigs”. Apart from the scoring, Tatum ranks above 20 in all other stats, making him a less likely winner for the 2023 MVP title.
Final say on Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
So we are down to three familiar faces fighting for the MVP trophy this season. All are at 28 years of age and in their prime. Not to forget Giannis and Jokic have won the award twice in recent seasons, while “JoJo” came 2nd in last two seasons.
When we present the “Most Valuable Player” award, the player’s ‘value’ in the team and league must be unquestionable. There is very little distinction between the top 3 competitors for the MVP trophy. So we will check their value for the team and the league.
First, look at the impact of the absence of the star on the team’s performance and winning. Without Joel Embiid, the Sixers have won 9 out of 13 games played. This gives them a strong 69 percent winning ratio and is a great sign for a title contender side. Similarly, the Bucks collected nine Ws in 15 outings without Antetokounmpo in the lineup. That’s also a respectable 60 percent win ratio.
But in the case of the Nuggets, the situation is completely opposite. The Denver team managed just three wins in eight games played without Jokic on the floor. If we go deep into the stats, we can observe that the winning ratio is high for the Eastern teams as they played more games against the teams with less than a 0.5 win rate, which is expected of them. At the same time, the wins for the Nuggets without Jokic are against stronger opponents like the Mavs and Clippers.
In head-to-head record against one another, the Sixers hold a 2-1 record over the Bucks and a 1-0 record over the Nuggets. Embiid has one more showdown with both of them late this month. The Bucks hold a 1-0 record over the Jokic-less Nuggets. This gives Embiid a huge upper hand.
Philly fans and those vouching for Embiid in the race would also be happy with the current form of the Sixers. They have the best record in the league since the start of 2023. They have more comeback wins, with Embiid leading them to the finish line. Embiid has dominated both ends of the floor with stellar performances throughout. The season’s final stretch will be a huge decider, and Joel Embiid’s current run of form will be enough to win his 1st MVP trophy.