NBA Rumor: MVP Race

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Joel Embiid on James Harden: 'I think he kind of made his goal for me to be MVP. He has given up a lot'

“James, I don’t even know where to start,” Embiid said when asked about his co-star. “Since he’s been here — he won’t tell me that — but I think he kind of made his goal for me to be MVP. He has given up a lot. Obviously, I’ve always said it, he’s the best playmaker I’ve ever played with and he’s the best playmaker probably in the NBA. He’s been helping me as far as getting me easy opportunities, whether it’s to score or just be a better basketball player.”

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Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle believes Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having an MVP type season (averaging 30.5 PPG/4.9 RPG/5.5 APG/1.7 SPG/1.1 BPG/50.1% FG/34.5% 3-PT/90.8% FT). (via Indiana Pacers): “He’s a great young player. I don’t know what else to say. I think he’s a legitimate MVP conversation guy because of the impact he has on their game and what he’s doing with his scoring. He may be the scoring champ before it’s all over. And defensively, he’s always had a high IQ. So he’s a really great young player that has tremendous impact on both sides of the ball. He’s a guy that any team in this league would covet.”

At 24.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game, Jokić has an outside shot at averaging a triple-double for the season. Those of you suffering from Joker fatigue in the MVP vote will need to do some soul searching again this season. Jokić’s PER of 32.2 not only leads the league, but it also nearly matches last season’s career high. His 12.4. BPM leads the league by a wide margin … and it’s also higher than his first MVP season. His 68.5 percent true shooting? Well, it doesn’t lead the league, but it does for medium- to high-usage players (anyone over 20 percent) and it is easily the best mark of his career. Durant is choking on his dust back at 67.3. There’s a good reason for this: Jokić has cut back sharply on taking 3s after hitting 33.7 percent a year ago, flinging them barely half as often as last year to instead move to his comfort zone from midrange. (Fun stat: Jokić is shooting 61 percent this season on midrange shots, according to Cleaning the Glass. What?!?!)

NBA GM's survey: Luka Doncic the favorite to win MVP award

Luka Doncic was a narrow, but clear, favorite to win this year’s MVP award, as the Slovenian superstar collected 48% of the vote, compared to 34% for Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, 14% for 76ers star Joel Embiid and a single vote for Warriors star Stephen Curry. It was Antetokounmpo, however, who finished ahead of Doncic in the category of player a GM would most want to build their team around, with Antetokounmpo getting 55% of the vote and Doncic 45%. No other player received a single vote.

Jorge Sierra: The eternally underrated Tim Duncan received MVP votes in 16 different NBA seasons. Only trails LeBron and Kareem. Duncan received votes in more seasons than Wilt Chamberlain and Anthony Davis combined.

Nikola Jokic officially named MVP

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić has been named the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, the NBA announced today. This is the second Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award for Jokić, who also earned the honor last season. He becomes the 13th player to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Moses Malone, Steve Nash and Bill Russell.

In late March, in the back of a black sprinter van zipping through the streets of Los Angeles, I asked Joel Embiid about the importance of winning MVP. Embiid was in the final stages of his best NBA season, where he played more games (68), averaged more points (an NBA-best 30.6) and handed out more assists (4.2) than in any of his previous seasons. His answer: Winning matters more. “You can’t win this type of stuff if you don’t win,” Embiid told me. “So it doesn’t matter. Let’s say if I average 35 on a bad team, I can’t be the MVP of the league, because I’m not winning. So my whole thing, when you look at those awards, it all goes back to winning. So that’s always been my focus, winning, working hard to make my team better, offensively and defensively. Obviously winning a championship is the biggest thing. And I’ll be honest, I never thought I would be at this level.”

NBA Central: NBA.Com’s final MVP Ladder: 1. Nikola Jokic 2. Joel Embiid 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo 4. Devin Booker 5. Luka Doncic 6. Jayson Tatum 7. Kevin Durant 8. DeMar DeRozan 9. Ja Morant 10. Chris Paul

Nikola Jokic on Joel Embiid: 'There's not even a little bit bad blood between us'

In that way, and in dozens of others, Jokic is a basketball anomaly. He’s a center with a point guard’s proclivities and a superstar with a benchwarmer’s ego. He’s also the odds-on favorite to become only the fifth center in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs. Asked that same weekend about his designs on another MVP, Jokic said he’d be happy as long as a big man won the award. “There’s not even a little bit bad blood between us,” Jokic said of Embid. “I think (he’s) a great player.”

Draymond Green tabs Devin Booker as his MVP pick

The MVP race is heating up as the 2021-22 NBA regular season begins to wind down, and Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has made it abundantly clear who his pick for MVP is. Green recently spoke about the MVP race and explained why he believes Phoenix Suns superstar guard Devin Booker deserves the award. “My MVP is Devin Booker,” he said. “I think Book has been consistent all year.”

Joel Embiid if he loses MVP: 'I'll feel like they hate me'

Embiid has 11 games with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds this season; only Russell Westbrook (12) and Moses Malone (12) have had more in a single season since the 1976-77 merger. Both players won MVPs in those seasons. “If it happens, great,” Embiid said of winning his first MVP. “If it doesn’t, I don’t know what I have to do. I’ll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else.”

NBA reporter Chris Mannix, during the NBC Sports Boston broadcast Sunday with the Celtics hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, shared a story about a recent phone call between Tatum and Embiid. “Let me in part a quick story about how much it means for Jayson Tatum to be MVP,” Mannix said during the broadcast. “I was speaking to Drew Hanlen, Tatum’s longtime trainer, the other day. He said he was with Joel Embiid when Tatum called him and before they got off the call Tatum said to Embiid, ‘You better win the MVP this year because I’m gonna get it next year.’

Khris Middleton on Giannis Antetokounmpo game-winning block: It shocked the s--- out of me

At this point, Khris Middleton has seen it all. For nine seasons, aside from the moments they’ve been sidelined because of injuries, he has seen every practice and every game of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s NBA career. And yet, Tuesday night, he still couldn’t believe what Antetokounmpo did on the Bucks’ final defensive possession against the 76ers. “It shocked the s— out of me,” Middleton said.

NBA poll: Nikola Jokic now the leading candidate to win MVP

As the 2021-22 regular season winds down, it appears Jokic has the inside track to repeat. After Jokic finished just behind Embiid in the previous edition in mid-February, the four-time All-Star claimed 62 of 100 first-place votes in the third and final iteration of ESPN’s MVP straw poll, giving Jokic a clear — though narrow — lead over Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward and most recent back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Suns coach Monty Williams does everything he can to avoid the MVP discussion. He knows himself too well. On the few times he’s delved into the Internet muck, he’s come back upset. After he checked the NBA app on his phone and found Phoenix superstar Devin Booker in ninth place in the MVP race, he effectively threw his hands into the air. “What’s the criteria?” Williams said before the scorching Suns took on the Nuggets on Thursday night at Ball Arena. “The criteria seems to be a moving target every year.”

James Harden would like to think he knows an MVP when he sees one, having won the award himself in 2018 and played alongside two others in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And in Harden’s book, his new teammate, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, “deserves” to win the award this season. “He deserves it, man,” Harden told ESPN. “I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but I already see his mindset. He wants to win. Some guys just want numbers, but he has both. He has the mentality of winning, and he scores the ball at a high level. I think he’s prepared himself, especially coming off last year, for this year to be one of his best years.”

Harden said that, in his mind, an MVP should be “dominant” on the court and “impactful in terms of winning,” which gives Embiid and the Sixers (45-27), who are 1½ games back of first place in the Eastern Conference, an edge over his chief rival for the award, Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets (43-31), who are sixth in the West. “Most of the games he’s played this year, we’ve been fighting for the No. 1 seed,” Harden said of Embiid. “And he’s not only top 2, top 3 in scoring, but he’s impactful to our team winning.” Jokic and Embiid finished 1-2 in last season’s voting and are expected to be two of the top three candidates — along with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo — for the award this season.

So why isn’t that applying to the MVP race? Giannis Antetokounmpo: Nah, I want another championship. You know, like, the joy that I felt when I won the MVP was unbelievable. I was with my family. I wish my (late) Dad was there. That was an unbelievable feeling. Grateful. But the joy that I felt when I won a championship, there’s no comparing. There’s no comparing (an MVP) to the joy of being on the bus and seeing 200,000 people celebrating — White, Black, Hispanic, or whatever the case may be. Everybody was celebrating, and you’re giving everybody that joy. There were people that had never seen a championship for 50 years. (They’d say), ‘The last time I saw the championship, I was two years old.’ You know? That’s a different type of joy. It’s not just me being able to win the award. The whole city won an award. That’s what I want, you know? And hopefully, God can bless me and give me that. I’ll do whatever I can do to do it.

Dave Early: Is KD frustrated he won’t win MVP cause of his knee injury? “No it’s not frustrating. I’ve experienced what it’s like to win MVP and that doesn’t validate me as a hum- player…. It’s always great to get some…some hometown love… but I understand the type of player that I am.”

Dave Early: “Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant for me, those are my top three [for MVP] and I’ll probably go Joel. Jokic, you can throw throw Jokic in there. But I’ll probably go Joel.” -Sounds like Kevin Durant gives his vote for MVP to Joel Embiid.

If the 100-some media members who vote share the same view as the executives, coaches and scouts I contacted, though, this year promises to be no different. More than a half-dozen players have been mentioned as being worthy of the award — Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Jayson Tatum — but there was a clear-cut first choice among the majority of my panel: Philadelphia 76ers’ center Embiid.

Luka Doncic finishes first, Ja Morant second in poll of league personnel for best young point guard

To answer that question, ESPN reached out to 15 league scouts and executives and asked them to rank six star point guards who are still on their rookie deals — the Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball, Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Darius Garland, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young and Morant — in terms of who they’d want moving forward. It was a question that engendered plenty of debate, and a lot of hemming and hawing over how people would ultimately decide to rank them. And while Morant received four of the 15 first-place votes, it was Doncic who got the other 11 and took home the top spot in the survey.

Doncic was the only player who didn’t receive a lower vote than second among the six players. Morant, meanwhile, had eight second-place votes, two thirds and a fourth to settle in at a comfortable second-place finish. After the top two is where things got interesting. While Young was the only other player to receive a second-place vote — he got three of them — he also received eight third-place votes, placing him a clear third. Young also picked up fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes.

The fact he wasn’t a unanimous choice, however, is a credit to the way Morant has captivated not just fans but those inside the league as well. “Ja has shown the ability to take a team to the next level,” a Western Conference scout said. “He’s shown great leadership, plus his jump, as far as development, has been pretty remarkable.” It also, in the eyes of some, was a knock on Doncic’s slow start this season before working his way back into first-team All-NBA consideration. “I would probably put Luka ahead of Ja big picture, but I’ll put Ja ahead because of Luka’s conditioning [worries] every offseason,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “Luka’s more talented, but I like Ja’s approach more.”

Nikola Jokic on a second MVP award: It doesn't mean anything special, I'm just trying to win games

Malone’s mic-drop moment ended the entertaining news conference and concluded the latest stump speech for Jokic’s second MVP campaign. The funniest part, though, is that Jokic remained indifferent to what another award would mean to him. “I don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything special. I’m just trying to compete, to win games.”

Steve Kerr: Nikola Jokic probably should win MVP again

As of right now, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a consensus in the MVP conversation that doesn’t favor Jokic winning for the second season in a row. Warriors coach Steve Kerr appears to have made up his mind. “We played against the reigning MVP, who probably should win it again,” Kerr told reporters after the game. “I don’t have a vote, but Jokic is just an unbelievable player and was spectacular tonight. He makes all of his teammates better. He makes defense so difficult because no matter what you do, he’s got a counter for it. He’s playing the game at such an easy pace and things look so smooth for him out there. With our defense already coming into this game struggling, he’s a tough guy to face when you’re not well-connected at that end of the floor.”

Luka Doncic had many nice words for his fellow European stars during the All-Star Weekend and he also gave the praise to Giannis Antetokounmpo for both his on and off the court qualities. “You know what I’m gonna say. He’s an amazing player but what amazes me the most is his personality, a great guy just to talk to. He was the MVP twice, I think he’ll be maybe five times more. A great player,” Luka said and stayed humble when asked if it’s his time to grab the MVP honors. “I don’t know, I just want to win a championship. That’s it.”

Ja Morant: I'm must-see TV

He has been the talk of the NBA for two straight days. But the Grizzlies guard had no idea that during the team’s practice, the NBA had announced his catch-and-release shot to beat the buzzer at the end of the first half against the Spurs had become the most-viewed Instagram video the league had ever posted. Once he heard the news, all he could do was shrug. “Sheesh,” Morant said. “I’m must-see TV. Me and my teammates. That’s why I got 30 million.”
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