The conversation regarding the MVP race started rather early this season, and from the jump, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was included. As Embiid dominated on both ends of the floor while remaining healthier than ever throughout the first half of the season, the Sixers center eventually became everybody's favorite to win the award.
But that quickly changed when the second half of the season was underway. In his first game back since returning from the All-Star break, Embiid landed awkwardly from a dunk attempt and ended up suffering a bruised knee.
While the injury was a lot less severe than initially expected, Embiid was still off the court for the next ten games. At that point, a new clear MVP favorite emerged as Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic continued dominating.
At this point, Embiid is back in the mix for the Sixers and still looking like an MVP-caliber player. However, availability plays a key factor in voting. While Embiid will still get his consideration for the award, it seems many players and coaches see Jokic as the frontrunner. Count Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash in as a Jokic believer.
"Clearly, I think Jokic is the MVP this year," said Nash on Saturday night as the Nets prepared to take on the Nuggets. "He's kind of gone wire to wire at this high level and makes his teammates better and makes everything go. They lose Jamal Murray, and they haven't really skipped a beat. That shows how good he is."
Nash's praise for Jokic is no slight to Joel Embiid, who has also earned his fair share of praise from the former MVP guard. Last month, when the Sixers hosted the Nets for the final time this season, Nash had nothing but great things to say about Embiid.
"He's been incredible," he said. "Incredibly accurate scoring the ball. We know what a dominant physical presence he is, but he's been really in the mid-range, very capable from three as well. I think his accuracy and shotmaking ability has taken another step, and to do so, you have to be very consistent, and he's done that."
If Embiid hadn't missed a notable chunk of the season due to injuries, Nash's opinion might change in favor of the Sixers' star. Unfortunately, Embiid missed time due to something out of his control. Whether it will truly affect his stance in the MVP race or not is unclear, but the way everybody is discussing MVP candidates around the league lately certainly doesn't favor Philly's big man.