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The NBA MVP debate got started very early in the year, and the race for the award is beginning to wind down. Since the season got started, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was viewed as a potential candidate to take home the hardware.

At the start of the year, many believed he could win the award if he kept up his high level of play. At this point in the season, many are now saying Embiid should win the award as he's sustained his MVP-caliber play throughout the year.

Consider Orlando Magic veteran Terrence Ross as a part of the latter. Recently, on the Got Hoops Podcast, Ross issued his two cents on the never-ending MVP debate. Last season, all of the MVP talk surrounded Los Angeles Lakers standout LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo throughout the year.

This season, Embiid and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic are two of the most common names battling for the award. Ross explained why he believes Embiid should be the winner over Jokic when the voting polls open.

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“Joel Embiid — to me, in my opinion — is the MVP,” said Ross. “Yeah, like, even more so than Jokic. . . “It’s close; I just think with the way Joel has been playing. Like, he has been balling,” he said. “Yeah, Jokic — he’s balling — but this is almost nothing new for him. Like, he has been first on all the statistics on the team for probably the last three, four seasons.” h/t

Embiid and Jokic both have solid cases. For Embiid, he's the better scorer as he's averaged just under 30 points per game this season while Jokic puts up 26 points per matchup. When it comes to rebounding, both bigs are neck and neck as they both averaged 10.9 rebounds.

Now, here's where they really separate from one another. Jokic, who's an excellent playmaker and passer, averages 8.6 assists per game. Embiid, on the other hand, only averages three assists. Another area where Jokic has the upper hand is availability. While Embiid was relatively healthy throughout the first half of the season, a bruised knee forced him to miss ten straight games in the second half.

Meanwhile, Jokic has played in all 63 of Denver's games this year -- 20 more matchups than Embiid played in. While the availability factor could eliminate Embiid from consideration while it's all said and done, the Sixers' big man value to his team is hard to miss.

When it comes to defense, Embiid is one of the best centers in the league on that side of the ball. That's an area where Embiid and Jokic don't necessarily match up. While both players are certainly deserving of MVP consideration, Ross believes Embiid should take it home when the regular season concludes. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_ & Instagram: @JGrassoNBA.