I’m tired of the MVP debate. As great as NBA Twitter can be, this year’s MVP discourse on the bird app has been nothing short of insufferable.
I haven’t chimed in the debate so I’ll try to keep it under three paragraphs. Heading into April, three names had legitimate claims for the MVP. In order of where they stood in the race, the three players were Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. After Giannis dropped 44 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists in a Bucks 120-119 OT victory over the Nets on March 31, I told a buddy of mine that if the Greek Freak secured the one seed and won the scoring title, he would win MVP.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. Embiid dominated all season long and became the first center to win the scoring title since Shaq in 2000. However, when I looked at all the numbers and all of the circumstances surrounding each player, Joker gets my vote for MVP. Despite the Ben Simmons debacle, Embiid had Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris in the first half of the season before adding James Harden. In comparison, Jokic’s running mates are Aaron Gordon and Will Barton. Actually, there’s no comparison. Jokic’s supporting cast is as close to nonexistent as you can get.
Joker became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a single season. The Joker is also a monster in the advanced analytics department. For all of the prominent voices in the media laughing at Joker’s advanced analytics, just realize that Giannis and Embiid are right there with him at the top. In VORP, Joker is first followed by Giannis and Embiid. In BPM, Joker is one followed by Giannis at two and Embiid at three. Win shares and OBPM follow the same order. You can’t shit on Joker for being first as a way to discredit his case when Giannis and Embiid are right behind him in these categories.
Ok, I lied. Last paragraph. The Nuggets are the 6-seed at 48-34. People are making the argument for Embiid to win because an MVP can’t be that low in the standings. The Sixers finished with three more wins, which was good enough for the 4-seed. You’re going to go on a tirade over THREE WINS? Enough. Both Embiid and Joker had amazing seasons. One guy can win MVP, and my vote is for Joker.
Time for my next rant. The Joker is averaging 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in his series versus the Warriors while Embiid’s numbers are 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 assists. The Nuggets are down three games to none while the Sixers are ahead three games to none. Now, Embiid voters are using this to strengthen their MVP argument while diminishing Joker’s resume.
The MVP is a REGULAR SEASON award. It is NOT a postseason award. Why is that so difficult for fans to understand? Whether fair or foul, narratives determine the MVP. A good postseason performance might strengthen Embiid’s MVP narrative for next season, but it should not be used to diminish his competition for the current season.
I’m seeing too many tweets that say “Joker would be the worst MVP of all time.” Buddy, that’s a small group of candidates. If Joker is the worst MVP of all time, he’s still better than 98% of his competition. It’s like saying a player is the worst member of the hall of fame. At the end of the day, that player is still in the hall of fame, which is better than the overwhelming majority of players who will lever step foot on a basketball court.
That being said, Embiid is having a monster postseason, and if the Sixers end up making the NBA Finals, he should be rewarded for taking his team there. Even if he’s the best player on the court during those games, if the Sixers lose, the NBA Finals MVP will go to a player on the winning team.
Here’s my solution. The NBA should institute a postseason MVP. In order to win the championship, a team has to win 16 games. The number of games played in the postseason by the winning team can range anywhere from 16 to 28 games over the course of two months. That’s equivalent to one-fourth of the NBA Season. With that sample size, the NBA is doing a disservice to its players by rewarding one player with the MVP for four to seven games. It doesn’t tell the whole story of the playoffs.
Most of the time, the Finals MVP is awarded to the most deserving player on the winning team. However, changing the award to include the entire postseason will ensure that the best player for two months gets rewarded for their efforts. It will also prevent “prisoner of the moment” voting, where players are rewarded for having a few good games during the finals. The best example is Andre Igoudala in the 2015 NBA Finals. Iggy had a nice series, averaging just over 16 points and 5 rebounds. Iggy’s postseason averages were 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. The man who should’ve won Finals MVP, Steph Curry, averaged 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. If the Finals MVP were a postseason MVP, then Steph easily wins it with playoff averages of 28 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Awarding a postseason MVP instead of a Finals MVP also opens the door for a player on a losing team to win it. They should name it the “LeBron James Trophy” because he has multiple cases where he should have won the Finals MVP. James could have won the 2015 Finals MVP with averages of 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. The King also had strong cases in both 2017 and 2018. In 2017, LeBron became the first player to average a triple-double in the Finals.
If the regular season MVP encompasses the entire season, shouldn’t the Finals MVP follow suit and encompass the complete postseason? The NHL already incorporates a postseason MVP with the Conn Smythe Trophy. The NBA should do the same.
Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.