Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid stood out for their performances last season, bringing back charm to the big-man game style. The regular-season MVP’s vote went down to the wire, with Nikola Jokic beating Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo – and thus winning the award for back-to-back seasons.
Nikola Jokic was the centerpiece of the Denver Nuggets’ offensive system last season – redefining efficiency by averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists, over 74 games.
He’s widely regarded as the best passing big man in the league right now, as he showcases supreme playmaking ability every time he steps on the floor.
However, Stephen A. Smith chose Joel Embiid over Nikola Jokic when he was asked about his current top five NBA players on the latest episode of “I Am Athlete.” He picked LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Stephen Curry – in no particular order – before he took a moment to think about the fifth:
“I gotta tell you, even though everybody loves Jokic because his numbers is great and I gotta give him consideration – from a talent perspective. If it’s numbers, we’re going with Jokic. If it’s talent, I’m going with Embiid.”
Joel Embiid was exceptional for the Philadelphia 76ers during their 2021-22 campaign, bursting out a wide range of moves. He played 68 games, averaging 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks. Joel Embiid’s scoring average was the best in the league, earning him the first scoring title of his career.
In the postseason, Joel Embiid was clinical against the Toronto Raptors – averaging a double-double with 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds.
However, an injury to his face towards the end of the Raptors series led him to miss the first two games of the following round. The Miami Heat took advantage of his absence and went on to beat the 76ers over six games, ending Embiid’s playoff run earlier than anticipated.
The outlook for Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid for the 2022-23 season
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets were great during the regular season, but Jokic lacked the support in the playoffs. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are on their road to returning for the Nuggets, but team scrimmage is a whole different ball game compared to an NBA game.
His return will be closely watched, given he tore his ACL in 2021, which is an injury to be cautious about.
The Nuggets have been busy over the summer trying to cover gaps from last season. They’ve beefed up on outside shooting by signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Washington Wizards.
They have also signed DeAndre Jordan from the Brooklyn Nets, thus adding depth to their lineup. While Nikola Jokic will still be playing in a demanding role, Murray’s return could ease some of his responsibilities.
The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, have a made a few summer moves as well. They added reputed defensive forward P.J. Tucker to their roster, whose value is well-known around the league.
James Harden’s link-up play with Joel Embiid is something the coaching staff could probably improve upon, with the big man being the focus. Embiid is certainly at his peak right now, given the various dimensions his game has; something the 76ers need to capitalize on.