As Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers have catapulted themselves to fifth in the Eastern Conference, Embiid’s superb play has put himself to legitimate MVP consideration. Despite the absence of Ben Simmons, the 76ers are just 2.5 games behind the first seed Chicago Bulls in the conference. Even with Embiid’s resurgence, Nikola Jokic is still quietly proving that he cannot be overtaken as the best big man in the association.
Early in Wednesday night, Embiid tallied 50 points in 27 minutes being the fastest player in NBA history to reach that 50-point and 10-rebound milestone. Additionally, Jokic followed it up later in the night with 49 points, 14 boards, and 10 assists in their punctuating victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Even as the reigning MVP, Jokic’s constant superstar-like performances do not get a ton of national media attention. His style of play to manufacture shots for himself and his teammates are not sexy, but Nikola Jokic continues to showcase why he is still the best center in the league.
3 reasons to take Nikola Jokic over Joel Embiid
Embiid still has not reached Conference Finals
Even with the impeccable play of Embiid for successive regular seasons already, there are critical games over the past seasons wherein he would disappear at certain stretches. Just in last season’s disastrous Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Embiid recorded 31 markers and 11 rebounds, but he was missing in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter. Simmons gets all the bashing from his horrific endgame decision-making, but Embiid also lacked the initiative to put stamp his foot down and carry Philadelphia to the conference finals.
For Nikola Jokic, his Bubble run is still the moment that stands out all throughout his career. He was the leader of Denver in coming back from two 1-3 series deficits in the playoffs, as he would constantly be present for the squad. Even in their Game 7 triumph over the Clippers, Jokic knew when to take a backseat to Jamal Murray’s legendary 40-point performance, but he still contributed 22 caroms and 13 dish-offs in the most important game of the season.
Jokic involving his teammates more
Even with the sensational athleticism and guard-like abilities of Embiid, those strengths could be negated in the playoffs when the pace gets slower and defenses focus on just one opponent. The Boston Celtics is one franchise that cannot defend Embiid as seen in the 2018 and 2020 playoffs, but they plan their schemes for Embiid to limit his ability to involve his teammates.
For a superstar to propel his franchise in reaching championship contention, he must galvanize his teammates to succeed in their respective roles, especially in the playoffs. Even without Murray in the 2021 playoffs, Jokic empowered individuals like Michael Porter Jr. and Austin Rivers to have big games despite the enormous pressure of the bright lights. Moreover, Jokic has the unorthodox leadership approach when the odds were stacked against them in the bubble. Instead, his team even stepped up their play even more when their backs were against the wall.
Jokic’s unreal passing skill set
In connection to raising the confidence of his teammates, Jokic’s pinpoint passes are some of the best ones in NBA history. Just his game-winning baseball sling to Aaron Gordon for a game winner against the Clippers last night was a pass that can only be completed by a few players. Even without Murray and Porter Jr. in the lineup, Jokic still finds a way to constantly search for his teammates on timely cuts toward the rim.
Embiid is also an incredible play maker at the center position, but Jokic’s talent is arguably the best in NBA history. As two of their best players in the association, defenses will formulate their game plan with Embiid and Jokic as the focal point. Thus, the willingness and accuracy of their passing is instrumental to their success. The assists numbers of Jokic are a tremendous indicator in his evolution in his repertoire as he only recorded 2.4 assists in his rookie campaign compared to 7.4 already this year.
With the looming question of the Simmons’ situation in Philadelphia along with the long-awaited return of Murray and Porter Jr, it seems likely for Denver to advance further in the playoffs. The Nuggets roster is built better around their franchise cornerstone in Jokic, while the 76ers still have uncertainty in their organization. As Embiid’s individual prowess could be better, basketball is still a team sport wherein Jokic flourishes.
According to StatMuse, Nikola Jokic has higher rebounds, assists, assist/turnover ratio, steals, true shooting percentage and a plethora of other statistical categories compared to Embiid this year.