Nikola Jokic has not only defeated former MVPs like Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns or more recently LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers in the West’s postseason, he’s currently displaying one of the strongest playoff performances in league history. The Serbian star just picked up his eighth postseason triple-double this week, and just guided the Nuggets to their first ever NBA Finals.
Nevertheless, Denver‘s center maintains his modesty even while everyone is showering him with praise and glory. Although most fans and analysts believe now more than ever that the two-time MVP deserved to earn this honor for a third time in a row this campaign, Jokic claimed that Joel Embiid is worthy of the award.
Take a look at the big man’s comments on why he believes the Sixers star deserves this recognition:
“People are just mean in saying that Embiid shouldn’t have won it. … I think he was playing … extremely, extremely tough basketball through the whole season.”
Jokić speaks on the regular-season MVP race after Game 4 💯 pic.twitter.com/E7R90Ken8v
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 23, 2023
“I don’t think about MVPs anymore,” Jokic explained. “I mean, I think it’s — people are just mean in saying that Embiid shouldn’t have won it. I think he should have won it. I think he was playing, if you watch it, extremely, extremely tough basketball through whole season … He was really amazing in 82 games or how many games he played.”
After being the frontrunner for the Kia MVP race during most of the season, once the Nuggets had assured their claim for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the team relaxed and in a way took their foot off the gas pedal.
So while Denver lost 1o out of their last 18 matches of regular season, Embiid was growing in confidence and playing some of the best basketball of his career. The 76ers were slowly crawling to the top spots of the Eastern Conference and in the final week of the campaign, beat the Celtics with a powerful 52-point exhibition from the Sixers center.
Coach Michael Malone believes that the negativity around the MVP race affected Jokic
Throughout the Serbian’s career he’s always been hesitant to talk about individual awards, but this year in particular he seemed more ambivalent than usual.
His coach Michael Malone suspects that all the pressure around the MVP race finally took a toll on the Nuggets’ big man. “You know, this is the first year where I think — I don’t know this for a fact,” he said.
“He never told me this. But in my opinion, I think the negativity around the MVP race I think did get to him. I can’t blame him. The guy goes out there and does his job every night and he is being criticized,” Malone expressed.
Either way, after beating the Lakers in Game 4, the star center just recieved the 2023 Magic Johnson Western Conference Finals MVP award:
The fact that Jokic had a limited postseason resume was one of the main points that critics blamed him for. Now that Denver are on their way to their franchise’s first NBA Finals, the big man is relieved of all the pressure that has been mounted on his back ever since he started thriving in the NBA.
About Embiid’s MVP award, Jokic is realistic. The accolade goes to the player who played best during the first 82 contests of the campaign, and he is the first to acknowledge his opponent’s worthy regular season.