Hearkening back to the old days, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been set up as the rival to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Both perennial MVP candidates, the duels between the bruising Embiid and the crafty Jokic will be replayed for decades.
However, while the two may be part of a blossoming rivalry, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a mutual respect between them. If you need evidence, look no further than Jokic’s reaction to Embiid not being name an All-Star starter.
“He deserves it,” Jokic tells the Denver Post’s Mike Singer.
Short, sweet, and to the point, these three words carry a lot of weight when considering Jokic’s stature in the game. One of the best centers ever, Jokic is a two-time MVP and a four-time All-Star at just 27-years-old. Averaging 25.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 9.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game, Jokic is doing everything he can to keep the Nuggets at the top of the Western Conference at 34-15.
To that point, Embiid is certainly doing all that he can for the 31-16 (2nd in the Eastern Conference) Sixers. The seven-year veteran is averaging a career-high and league-leading 33.4 points per game, in addition to 9.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He’s doing all this while dominating inside, shooting a career-high 78.3 percent within three feet of the rim.
As always though, the question is who should Embiid have replaced?
Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant? Kyrie Irving?
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum?
Cleveland Cavaliers guard and likely MVP candidate Donovan Mitchell?
What about Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo?
The answer is more difficult to determine than one might expect. Nonetheless, as Nikola Jokic says, Embiid deserves to be an All-Star starter.