The battle for the 2022-2023 NBA MVP award 


The 2022-2023 NBA season has been exhilarating thus far. It has been full of surprises, and there has yet to be a dull moment. Since the regular season will be ending within the next week, the annual MVP discussions have been heating up. As things stand, the top three candidates for the award are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. The three are locked in a tight race with no clear favorite. In fact, the last week of the regular season may be the determining factor in who receives the honor of the 2022-2023 NBA MVP.  

Embiid, Jokic and Antetokounmpo have all been at the forefront of the MVP debate throughout the whole season. Yet, during the first few months, there were quite a few other strong candidates. Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant all had a fair amount of buzz surrounding their names in discussion of the award. However, whether it be injuries, inconsistent play, or lack of team success, these players eventually fell out of true contention for the award. Thus, we are left with Embiid, Jokic and Antetokounmpo. The three players have a lot in common. They are all foreign big men who dominate the game, leading their teams to great records. Yet, the differences between them is what makes this particular MVP race so fascinating. 

The case for each player is clear. For Jokic, he is having quite possibly the best offensive season ever from a big man. He is essentially averaging a 25 point triple-double, while shooting an astounding 63% from the field. He is the focal point of a Nuggets team that holds the number one seed in the Western Conference. As for Embiid, the 76ers superstar is one of the most dominant forces in the league. Embiid is on pace to finish as the NBA’s leading scorer this season at 33 points per game. Coupled with the star averaging almost a steal and two blocks each contest, it becomes clear to see that Embiid is simply unstoppable. His combination of size and speed make him unguardable on offense, and a true disruptor on defense. On top of that, Embiid has secured the Sixers a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference despite fellow star teammate James Harden missing significant time due to injury. Lastly, Bucks’ superstar Antetokounmpo certainly has a case for the award as well. The 2021 NBA Finals MVP has consistently been amongst the league’s best players for over half a decade now, and he is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. His case is simple; he is the best player on the best team in the league, and he is a true game-changer on both ends of the floor. Much like the other two candidates, Antetokounmpo is unstoppable due to an ultra-rare combination of strength, speed and versatility. 

Some have argued that since the race is so close, the award should go to Antetokounmpo, since he has led his team to the best record. However, this is a shallow argument, as very rarely does the MVP award simply go to the best player on the best team. For example, Jokic won the award last season while the Nuggets finished sixth in the Western Conference. Thus, we have to dig deeper. 

Another common argument is that Embiid should win the award, since the last four MVP awards have been won by either Jokic or Antetokounmpo, and Embiid has yet to win one. For example, NBA superstar Damian Lillard supports Embiid as the MVP, as shown in an interview he had with radio personality Dan Patrick. According to the Blazers star, Embiid has “been the most dominant player… you can’t continue to give it to a guy who’s won it twice in a row.” Yet, this argument holds little weight, as the MVP award only takes the past season into account. Past award winners should not have any effect on the current season. 

One way to decide the MVP winner is to ask a simple question. How much does defense matter? Jokic is only an average defender, while Embiid and Antetokounmpo are both All-Defensive Team members. So, in order for Jokic to win MVP, voters would have to believe that his offensive impact makes up for his lack of game-changing defensive ability. In the past two seasons, this has been the case, as Jokic won the award in the past two seasons. However, this season, I personally believe that Joel Embiid deserves the MVP award. He is in the midst of one of the greatest scoring seasons ever from a center. Combined with his phenomenal defense, and the fact that he has led Philadelphia to a top-three seed despite his teammates constantly missing time, I think he has done enough to edge out Jokic and Antetokounmpo for the award. However, one thing is for sure — all three of these players have done enough this season to deserve the award. 

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