NUGGETS

Nikola Jokic’s main MVP rival won’t be winning the award this year

Feb 4, 2024, 6:34 PM

The NBA’s streak of back-to-back MVP award winners is ending in 2024, as Joel Embiid of The Philadelphia 76ers will not win it in 2024.

The star big man from Kansas suffered a meniscus tear in his knee last Tuesday and multiple news sources have reported on Sunday that Embiid will undergo a procedure that will hold him out for an extended period.

Embiid is leading the NBA in scoring for a third-straight season at 35.3 points a game. Embiid has been even better than his MVP season last year, adding 5.7 assists and 11.3 rebounds a game. But because Embiid has already missed 14 of Philly’s games and is slated to miss a long amount of time, it’s going to be impossible for the big man to repeat his honor. Thanks to a new rule in the CBA, players must play in 65 games to qualify for postseason awards—something Embiid will not do in 2023-24. Although if the reporting on his injury is right, the 7-footer is only at 34 games played now and it’s unlikely he would’ve won the MVP anyway given he may only play several games at regular season’s end.

Last year Embiid won the award very controversially over Jokic. Many voters came to regret their decision to cast a ballot for the Philly big but Denver won a title and Jokic won Finals MVP. Still, history was denied as an MVP hasn’t three-peated in about 40 years. Embiid finished runner-up to Jokic in both of Nikola’s MVP years.

The Embiid news on Sunday leaves Nikola Jokic as a big favorite to capture his third MVP this year, with some books making him a -210 favorite. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic are also firmly in the conversation.

Jokic and Antetokounmpo just squared off to some fireworks last Monday, if either of the two is named the league’s best player this season they’ll join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as the league’s three-time MVP winners.

Jokic entered Sunday having played in all but two of the Nuggets games, averaging 26.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game. Jokic will be starting his fourth-straight All-Star Game later this month.

Where the Embiid news could impact the Nuggets more than in honor is the standings. Denver is part of a four-pack of teams atop the West, coming into Sunday at 34-16. Philly, if Embiid comes back for the playoffs, could be a possible Finals matchup for the Nuggets. The 76ers are 30-18, likely to fall in the standings without their star, meaning homecourt for the Nuggets. And we all know how Embiid feels about playing in Denver.

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