It's back-to-back for Nikola Jokic.
For the second straight season, the Denver Nuggets center was named the NBA MVP, beating out Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks defending champion Giannis Antetokounmpo.
NBA Communications @NBAPR
This is the second Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award for Nikola Jokić, who also earned the honor last season. He becomes the 13th player to win the award in consecutive seasons.<br><br>More ➡️ <a href="https://t.co/hVjnZunkcw">https://t.co/hVjnZunkcw</a><br><br>Voting Results ⬇️ <a href="https://t.co/fZlabO0aFF">pic.twitter.com/fZlabO0aFF</a>
For the latter part of the 2021-22 season, a heated MVP debate emerged between Jokic and Embiid backers, with Antetokounmpo emerging as a serious contender down the stretch.
All three made a strong argument from a traditional counting stats perspective:
- Jokic: 27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 7.9 APG, 58.3 percent from the field, 33.7 percent from three
- Embiid: 30.6 PPG (tops in the NBA), 11.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 BPG, 49.9 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from three, 11.8 free-throw attempts and 9.6 free throws made per game (both tops in the league)
- Antetokounmpo: 29.9 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.4 BPG, 55.3 percent from the field, 29.3 percent from three
The narrative for Jokic winning the award was that he led the Nuggets to 48 wins and a playoff berth despite being without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. for the majority of the season, he's an advanced-stats darling and he posted historical marks this past season:
Joel Rush @JoelRushNBA
Fwiw, things that are *not "advanced" stats:<br><br>Only player in NBA history w/ 2000 points, 1000 rebounds & 500 assists<br><br>Only player in 2021-22 to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks<br><br>19 triple-doubles & 66 double-doubles, both 1st in NBA<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Jokic?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Jokic</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MVP?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MVP</a>
Embiid's case centered around him leading the league in scoring as the first center to do so since Shaquille O'Neal in the 1999-00 campaign.
But he was also the keystone of Philly's defense (the team's 107.8 defensive rating with Embiid on the court would rank fourth overall in the NBA) and led the team to 51 wins despite much of the season being clouded by the Ben Simmons controversy, as Embiid's long-time running mate sat out the season while demanding a trade until he was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in the deal that sent James Harden to Philly.
While Giannis and Jokic have now won the past four MVP awards, Embiid is still chasing his first.
As for Antetokounmpo, he led the Bucks to 51 wins as well, and, like Embiid, a good chunk of his case for winning the award was his status one of the league's most impactful two-way players. The two-time MVP also finished second in scoring among qualifying players.
In most seasons, any of Jokic, Embiid or Giannis would have been viable winners. But with all three putting up excellent campaigns, it turned into quite the race. Ultimately, voters sided with Jokic yet again.