On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers faced off against the Denver Nuggets in a game that many thought would feature the league’s two leading MVP candidates, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.
Unfortunately, Embiid ended up sitting out the game due to a calf injury. Some have gone as far as to say that his absence in that matchup should be remembered when MVP voters are making their final decisions.
One anonymous Nuggets coach was reportedly shocked upon learning that Embiid was going to miss the contest.
“A coach came out and talked to me from the Nuggets side and said, ‘I just saw your hit. I can’t believe Embiid’s not playing,'” ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk reported.
Both Embiid and Jokic have been dominant forces all season, and the MVP race is so close that Embiid’s decision to sit out the game on Monday could really end up impacting whether or not he wins.
With that in mind, there are a number of factors going against Jokic. Perhaps the most sizable barrier that he’ll have to overcome is the fact that voters seem to often shy away from giving the award to the same player three years in a row.
In fact, only three players have ever done it. Those players are Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Michael Jordan never did it. LeBron James seemingly will never do it. It’s possible voters will decide that Jokic — who has yet to enjoy any major success outside of the regular season — hasn’t done enough to join that incredibly small group.
Jokic is nearly averaging a triple-double this season with 24.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game. He’s hitting 63.4 percent of his shots from the field and 39.0 percent of his 3-pointers.
As for Embiid, he has the benefit of the voters possibly wanting to freshen things up with a new winner. On top of that, he has a nice resume this season.
He’s been a dominant force all season long, and he may become the scoring champion for a second straight season. He’s averaging 33.0 points, 10.2 boards and 4.1 assists per game while hitting 54.4 percent of his shots from the field and 33.7 percent of his deep shots. He’s also averaging 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steal per game.
With just a handful of games left before the season comes to an end, it’ll be interesting to see if either player can put in one more signature performance to sweeten the deal for voters.
If not, it’s possible that Embiid’s absence in that game will come back to bite him.