The Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is the highest individual accolade a player could receive.
Among the tens of thousands of players who have laced up in the NBA, only 35 have been lucky enough to win an MVP, all of which are all-time greats.
Currently, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record for the most MVPs with six, whilst superstars Michael Jordan and Bill Russell are close behind on five.
Generally, the voting seems fair and justified. However, there is no doubt that the MVP voting has its flaws and sometimes can be an unfair reflection of who the best player actually is.
For example, in the 1996-97 season, Karl Malone won the MVP over Michael Jordan for reasons outside the game itself. Jordan averaged over 30 points a game, made the All NBA defensive team and led the Bulls to 69 wins in the NBA, by far the most in the NBA. The award looked to be his weeks in advance, but, most likely due to voter fatigue, he didn't win the MVP.
Whilst there aren't any definitive criteria for the MVP race, generally two attributes of a player during that particular season are used to determine who claims the honour.
The first one of these attributes of an MVP is individual play - Every winner of the award in history has been the best player on their team whilst putting up terrific statistics.
The second criterion is team success - Every player to win an MVP has helped their team to a top-six seed and all but four MVPs in the award's 65-year history have helped their team to a top-two seed.
From this marking process, it seems as though two clear favourites have emerged in 2022: Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.
Currently, Embiid is the heavy favourite due to his brilliant play throughout the season, specifically within the last two months. Corroborating this, Embiid hasn't dropped below 25 points in his last 26 matches for the 76ers.
Averaging 29.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists whilst shooting at 49.2% FG, 36.2% FG3% and 81.4% FT makes him a surefire candidate in any season. Elucidating his impact, if the season were to finish right now, he would have the third-best Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in a single season of all time just behind Giannis Antetokounmpo's 2019 MVP season.
His team's record is also outstanding at 34-22, fourth in the NBA's strong Eastern Conference.
Furthermore, Embiid plays on a team that, besides him, lacks All-Star support. To put it mildly, for the majority of the season, Embiid played alongside Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey.
Therefore, Embiid would ordinarily seem to be the most valuable player since he has played magnificently and dragged his team to a great record.
Well, at least he would be in a standard year. However, this is no standard year. This is because Jokic is having one of the greatest individual seasons of all time.
Jokic has averages of 25.8 points, 13.7 rebounds and 7.9 assists whilst shooting 57.6% FG, 36.8% FG3 and 81.1% FT. This means he is better statistically in every category than Embiid other than points and free throw percentage (where he is just 0.3% off).
Furthermore, if the season ended today, he would have the best single-season PER of all time by a long stretch with 32.6, as opposed to Giannis' 31.9 in 2019.
Apart from PER, win shares and plus-minus are generally the two statistics that are used to measure a player's value to his team and thus are usually an indication of who the MVP should be.
In both of these, Jokic beats out everyone in the league comfortably, including outdoing Embiid with 10 win shares a game and a plus-minus of 7.1 compared to Embiid's eight-win shares and 4.5 plus-minus.
The two best big men in the league are one and two for offensive box plus-minus in the league with Jokic and Embiid having averages of 9.3 and 7.6 respectively.
Throughout their careers, Embiid has been seen as a defensive monster whilst Jokic has been viewed as a liability.
However, this year, Jokic has turned himself into an absolute superstar defender.
Delineating this, Jokic has the highest defensive plus-minus in the league with 4.6, whilst Embiid comes in at seventh with 2.3.
Not only is Jokic the highest-ranked offensive and defensive player in the league, but he has also carried his team to a 32-25 record. This may not seem too special, but when taking into account how poor their team is, this is a crazy achievement.
Their second, third and fourth options comprise of Will Barton, Aaron Gordon and Monte Morris, all average to below-average players.
Therefore, we don't see much reason to have Embiid above Jokic other than the fact he is a better scorer.
Jokic is the more efficient player, more efficient shooter, a better playmaker, better rebounder and a seemingly better defender. The Nuggets have a similar record to the 76ers with a far worse team.
This begs the question: How has the reigning MVP not received more hype throughout the year?