The NBA regular season is a wrap. It’s now time to recognize the best and select the recipient of the 2021 NBA MVP award. ‘Tis also the season in which battle lines are drawn in anticipation of arguably the best two words in sports entertainment: playoff basketball. Fans will don the jerseys of their favorite team and nigh swear temporary enmity to everyone and anyone not rocking their colors. Two of the three MVP frontrunners’ jerseys are still being sported in the playoffs.
NBA MVP 2021 Could Easily be Jokic, Embiid, or Curry
The just-concluded season has been in many ways uncharted territory, coming off the shortest postseason due to the COVID-19 menace. This makes this season’s award not just a highlight of the league’s top performers but that much more meaningful. It’s an acknowledgment of those who’ve managed to adapt to and overcome the new set of challenges facing today’s players. That and still managing to excel and thus insert themselves into the conversation of this season’s most valuable player.
Though a number of players have at one time or another garnered consideration for this honor this season, only three have received the nod from the league. As such, only they have a legitimate shot at the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. They are Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia 76ers big Joel Embiid, and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Here’s how each of the three finalists made their case.
Why So Serious?
The Joker hasn’t been playing this season–figuratively, not literally. The 26-year-old has been one of the league’s most consistent top performers for the past few seasons. His three All-Star selections and two All-NBA teams are proof of just that. The Serbian’s resume this season is indeed something to behold. He’s the only finalist to play in all 72 games this season and his stats are flat-out ridiculous. The 7-footer is without a doubt the front-runner for the 2021 NBA MVP and was accordingly named the top candidate.
Jokic averaged 26.4 points and 10.8 rebounds in 34.6 minutes this season. He also led the league in double-doubles (55) and player efficiency (31.28). The talisman was also top-15 in five other statistical categories. Second in triple-doubles (15), seventh in assists (8.7), ninth in rebounds (10.9), 10th in points per game, and 14th in steals (1.4). All this while shooting 56.6% from the field and 38.8% from three.
Trusting the process
Joel Embiid is finally living up to his billing. The 27-year-old was once viewed by many as the second coming of Hall-of-Famer and four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal. “Do a 180” always seemed to fall short of expectations with Shaq. It even went as far as labeling the center soft early last year. This was after being outclassed by two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks.
The Cameroonian seems to have gotten his act together and had arguably one of the best seasons of his career. “The Process” led the 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference averaging 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He shot 51.3% from the field and 37.7% from three. Embiid also had one of his best seasons on the defensive end averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals.
The Chef is still cooking
Stephen Curry is no stranger to excellence. The playmaker already has two regular-season MVP trophies. He was also the only unanimous MVP in NBA history. To achieve this in a league that for a long time did not believe that a jump-shooting team could win the Larry O’Brien trophy is no mean feat. Steph reminded everyone this season why he earned the moniker “Baby-Faced Assassin” after leading the Warriors to the brink of the NBA playoffs. This without his fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, a bunch of new role players, and a declining Draymond Green.
The 33-year-old led the league in scoring, averaging 32 points this season. He added 5.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 48.2% from the field and an impressive 42.1% from three. Curry also yet again led the league in made threes after registering 337 from deep.
The regular-season NBA MVP award has been a hot topic since it was first introduced in the 1955-56 season. A majority believe that the award should go to the best player on the best team. However, agreeing on who exactly fits that bill is easier said than done. Jokic, Embiid, and Curry all have a legitimate claim but the winner will come down to what exactly voters will be looking to reward this season.
Embiid may have hit the ground running this season and led the race for the 2021 NBA MVP award earlier on but lost favor in some people’s eyes. This is because the former 3rd overall draft pick yet again contracted the injury bug and missed 21 games. Some would argue that the stars may have finally aligned for the four-time All-Star. A more seasoned NBA eye would point to the tutelage of veteran center Dwight Howard as one of the factors behind The Process’s emergence. Perhaps the only other thing that might work against Embiid’s favor is the fact that he is finally meeting the expectations that others had of him, albeit a couple of years late.
Curry on the other hand literally put a short-handed, rebuilding Warriors team on his back and only narrowly missed the mark. Of the three, he undeniably finished the season strongest with performance after awe-inspiring performance and would win the trophy if voters were to consider that criteria above all else. A large section of current and former players including four-time MVP and long-time rival Lebron James also consider the Golden Boy their MVP this season. This is because Steph, unlike his other two competitors, has had to do it on his own.
Jokic will win the 2021 NBA MVP
Jokic, however, has been the most consistent of the three. If he wins the 2021 NBA MVP award, which in all honesty and fairness he should, he would be the only MVP in the last two decades to play in every game. The last player to do the same is the late great Kobe Bryant in the 2007-08 season. Big Honey has also had to fight the hardest to get here having been selected 41st in the second round of the 2014 draft as compared to Curry (7th) and Embiid (3rd). Jokic further proved his worth after losing fellow superstar in point guard Jamal Murray to a season-ending ACL injury for the last 12 games of the regular season, after which the Nuggets went 9-3.
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