Let me be clear: Nikola Jokic had a great season.
He averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game, and the 19 triple-doubles he recorded this past year actually ranks seventh all-time in NBA history. Nobody can deny his level of production this season.
In fact, statistically, Jokic was top-10 in the league in points, rebounds and assists per game. He carried the Denver Nuggets to a 48-34 record, which is an incredible feat — especially without two key players in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
(Editor's Note: Jokic has reportedly won the 2021-22 NBA MVP award for the second straight season, per ESPN.)
So before I get into what I have to say, this is no slight or disrespect to Jokic in any way, shape or form.
The NBA has never had co-MVPs in the regular season. There have been plenty of times when there was a strong case for it, but it's never actually happened.
With that being said, what Joel Embiid accomplished this year was worthy of at least strong consideration for co-MVP, if not winning the MVP award flat-out by himself.
Embiid led all scorers in the NBA with 30.6 points per game, which hasn’t been done by a center since Shaquille O'Neal did it in the 1999-2000 season (and subsequently won the MVP award).
Embiid also averaged 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. According to NBA Stats, the Philadelphia 76ers' opponents shot just 39.4% in the paint and 40.6% from mid-range when Embiid was the one guarding them.
The 28-year-old big man also produced a league-best 13 games with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds this season, and he was the Sixers' leading scorer in 57 of the 69 games he played.
And throughout all of the Ben Simmons/management drama, Embiid kept the team focused and on task, and literally carried the 76ers to their 51-31 record this season.
It’s important to note that, throughout Embiid’s career, there have been many people who have written him off due to injuries that were beyond his control, questions of whether he was in shape, management issues of his own and a host of other issues. But this season, he proved all of his doubters wrong.
Not to mention, while Denver barely avoided being swept by the Golden State Warriors in the first round, the 76ers have managed to tie their series against the Miami Heat at two games apiece; it's mostly due to the fact that Embiid somehow miraculously returned to play after missing the first two games of the series with a broken thumb, a right orbital fracture and concussion sustained in the first round.
In fact, Embiid's return for Game 3 against the Heat was still up in the air 40 minutes prior to tip-off, and the team was consequently fined for not disclosing his status “in a timely manner." But according to multiple sources, Philadelphia honestly didn’t know if Embiid was going to be able to play. He had spent the entire week feeling groggy from his concussion. He told reporters that he couldn’t even read his cell phone. On top of that, his broken thumb is still in need of surgery.
But Embiid wore his black mask and pushed through all of the pain and injuries to sacrifice his body for the team, and willed his 76ers to victory. He didn’t just have an inspirational entrance where the crowd erupted when seeing him run through the tunnel; he also played 36 minutes, racked up 18 points and 11 rebounds and kept his team afloat when it was down 0-2 and in danger of being swept.
In Game 4, Embiid tallied 24 points and 11 rebounds as the 76ers again beat Miami 116-108 on Sunday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series.