Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Christian Winfield: Why was Joel Embiid my MVP this season?

Three different players could win the NBA Most Valuable Player this season. But the candidate who best fits my definition of “value” this season, and whose value has been proven through two playoff rounds, didn’t unfurl the prize on Monday.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic took the crown over Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, according to ESPN. (Yes, three of the league’s most influential players come from overseas.)

The league is expected to make an official announcement during Monday night’s playoff games.

For the second season in a row, Jokic’s name reigns supreme, should remind you that a frankly popular opinion isn’t always the prevailing idea.

I voted Embiid as MVP because he is the most influential player we have seen since Shaquille O’Neal. Like Jokic, Embiid played the first half of the season without his co-star (Ben Simmons), then had to take on the Sixers in the second half of the season, with James Harden not lifting his weight until Game 4 of the second round.

If you can combine Shaq and Kobe in one hopper, you’ll probably get Embiid: Legend of Cameroon who can dominate a low block, shoot at you on a high post, knock down an open three and Still can take you away from the dribble.

Neither of these include the value he brings to the defensive, which has been demonstrated in each of the Sixers’ last two playoff games. 76 people were dead in the water, down 0-2, with Embiid nursing an orbital fracture, recovering from a concussion and playing with a torn ligament in his thumb. With him back on the floor, donning a black protective mask, chain tied two-by-two. Embiid, the best player on the court, shifted the momentum in his team’s direction.

But the MVP, and its accompanying league-wide awards, are regular-season honors in the league recently. Jokic hasn’t done anything lately as his shorthand team proved no match for the Golden State Warriors.

Meanwhile Embiid and Antetokounmpo remain on national television, dominating their opponents with brute force and skill that will pave a surefire path to the Hall of Fame.

Jokic is undoubtedly a worthy MVP. If Larry Bird was Serbian, he would probably look and play something like The Joker. The Nuggets were in a position to compete for a playoff spot as Jokic was on the floor. The same can be said of Antetokounmpo’s Bucks and Embiid’s 76ers. Take either of the two out of the equation and both franchises don’t go looking for a playoff win.

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Perhaps this result is not disturbing, but it is time to announce it. Why wait until almost a month after the regular season for results that can be tabulated overnight? (The ballots for voting members were to be held on April 12.)

When we are on the topic of NBA Awards votes, I voted for it as follows:

most valuable Player

1) Joel Embiid (PHI)
2) Nikola Jokic (DEN)
3) Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
4) Devin Booker (PHX)
5) Kevin Durant (BKN)

The Nets lost 11 straight and dropped from the lineup to 10th place with Durant back in January with an MCL sprain. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is.

It’s also valuable to be the best player on the best team in the league.

most improved Player

1) Jaa Morant (MEM)
2) Darius Garland (CLE)
3) Jordan Pool (GSW)

It was as hard as voting for MVP, because I was looking for somewhere to hide Desmond Bane on this ballot too. Morant evolved from a star to a superstar season-over-season in Memphis, while Garland took the reins from the injured Colin Sexton to fill in as a star in Cleveland. It’s an offense Poole didn’t finish third and missed out on the spot for San Antonio’s DeJonte Murray, who is still what I thought he was: a third-tier point guard.

Defensive Player of the Year

1) Marcus Smart (BOS)
2) Bomb Adebayo (MIA)
3) Mickle Bridge (PHX)

I thought it was disgusting that more voters chose Rudy Gobert over Miami’s Adabio on DPOY ballots, but like MVP voting, it was for everyone. I am delighted to be part of the movement that started our first guard to win the award since Gary Peyton in the 90s. Advertised as Smart, as is the Phoenix Bridge.

sixth person of the year

1) Tyler Harrow (MIA)
2) Kevin Love (CLE)
3) D’Anthony Melton (MEM)

If there is an award for the darkest team in the NBA, the Grizzlies are probably the top-three, not the No. Melton lit up the nets for 22 points in March when Morant was not on the floor. He had been a constant presence for Memphis this season, but it was certainly an out-of-the-box one that could easily have gone to Phoenix’s Cameron Johnson.

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I found that Herro was not the sixth person unanimously voted by basketball pundits, as he is the second leading scorer in the past to be the top seed.

rookie of the Year

1) Scotty Barnes (TOR)
2) Evan Mobley (CLE)
3) Cade Cunningham (DET)

I saw Barnes Strip Durant on back-to-back property and made up my mind when I was watching Rookie of the Year. Mobley is a franchise cornerstone in Cleveland, but Barnes’ early season was better in my book.

coach of the year

1) Taylor Jenkins (MEM)
2) Monty Williams (PHX)
3) Ime Udoka (BOS)

I value coaches who do more with less, and for the Grizzlies to go 20-5 in games without Morante this season is a direct nod to Taylor Jenkins coaching this season. Monty Williams’ sons are the best team in basketball and they deserve respect, but I don’t think the Grizzlies should have been here.

First Team All-Rookie

1) Jalen Green (HOU)
2) Cade Cunningham (DET)
3) Ayo Dosunmu (CHI)
4) Scotty Barnes (TOR)
5) Evan Mobley (CLE)

Second Team All-Rookie

1) Jonathan Cumminga (GSW)
2) Herbert Jones (NOP)
3) Josh Giddy (OKC)
4) Chris Duarte (India)
5) Franz Wagner (ORL)

First Team All-Defense

1) Bam Adebayo, Bam (MIA)
2) Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM)
3) Rudy Gobert (UTA)
4) Mickle Bridge (PHX)
5) Marcus Smart (BOS)

Second Team All-Defense

1) Herbert Jones (NOP)
2) Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
3) Robert Williams III (BOS)
4) Fred VanVleet (TOR)
5) Jury Holiday (MIL)

First Team All-NBA

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
2) Jason Tatum (BOS)
3) Joel Embiid (PHI)
4) Devin Booker (PHX)
5) Luka Doncic (DAL)

Second Team All-NBA

1) LeBron James (LAL)
2) Kevin Durant (BKN)
3) Nikola Jokic (DEN)
4) Ja Morant (MEM)
5) Trey Young (ATL)

Third Team All-NBA

1) Bomb Adebayo (MIA)
2) Demar DeRozan (CHI)
3) Karl-Anthony Town (Min)
4) Stephen Curry (GSW)
5) Chris Paul (PHX)

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