Denver’s Nikola Jokic deserved to win NBA MVP.
So did Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
Unless somehow the ballots from 100 voters resulted in a two-way or three-way tie – an unlikely scenario – only one player can win the award.
And this year, Jokic won the award for the second consecutive season, and it’s not a popular decision in Philadelphia and certain segments of NBA Twitter.
Impetuous Sixers fans are upset Embiid didn’t win, and there’s also the possibility that Embiid is unhappy he didn’t win.
There’s nothing wrong with that either. Players like to win awards, and there’s prestige that comes along with winning MVP, plus a bonus and more endorsement opportunities (unless you’re Jokic who isn’t interested in those sponsorship deals). Plus, there’s a narrow window when a player in his prime to win the award.
But there’s also nothing wrong with finishing in the top three and being considered one of the three best players in the world. No matter what order a voter listed Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Jokic, they were not wrong. And not every voter listed those players 1-2-3.
I understand that in hot-take culture it’s required to have outrage about everything. But this isn’t it. That’s not to say there isn’t room for healthy debate and discussion. It was that close by any measurement, eye test and obstacles overcome. As I wrote late in the regular season, all three make a great case. It was difficult to rank them in order.
Embiid had a great season, and if he had won, I would’ve used the same rationale. No matter who won among Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Jokic, it’s the fourth consecutive season a player born outside of the U.S. has won MVP.
It’s gotten to the point that no matter who wins an award in the NBA, there’s almost always a massive gripe. It happened when Scottie Barnes won Rookie of the Year and when Ja Morant won Most Improved. And if someone other than Barnes and Morant didn’t win those awards, there still would have been complaints about who won. Same thing will happen for Coach of the Year. It seems Tyler Herro’s Sixth Man Award is the only universally-accepted voting outcome.
One of the objection’s to Jokic winning again is that “nerds with calculators” had a bias against Embiid as if somehow Jokic didn’t pass the eye test. But if you watched Jokic this season, it’s easy to see what a gifted player he is, especially with his scoring, passing and rebounding.
And the idea that advanced stats or analytics somehow propelled Jokic to MVP is absurd. Voters use a variety of data (traditional stats, advanced stats, wins-losses) to inform their decision. But it’s not the only thing. The people selected to vote spent an entire season watching games. They don’t rely on just one thing to make their decision.
The NBA isn’t expected to formally announce Jokic as MVP until Wednesday, and that’s when the voting results will be released. It might end up one of the closest MVP votes in league history.