Comparing Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP case to other candidates

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, George Hill, Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – FEBRUARY 22 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The MVP race has been an extremely heated debate throughout the 2021-22 NBA season. We’ve seen extremely impressive seasons from a lot of deserving candidates, such as Ja Morant, Demar DeRozan, and Luka Doncic. Although those three have been great, the general consensus among fans is that it’s a three-man race at this point between Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic, Sixers center Joel Embiid, and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In this article, we will be looking at Giannis’ case to become a three-time MVP, and how his case stacks up against the other two frontrunners. We will be looking at three key aspects when analyzing this race: head-to-head matchups, team success/supporting cast, and their own individual stats.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP case against Joel Embiid

The debate between Giannis and Joel Embiid is a very interesting one. The first thing we will be looking at is their head-to-head matchups this year and who came out on top. They only faced off twice this year, with them splitting the series 1-1. Embiid came to Milwaukee and won, while Giannis went to Philly and won on their homecourt. In those two games, Embiid averaged 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists on 59.5 percent shooting, while Giannis has averaged 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists on 61.7 percent shooting. Safe to say each player here terrorized their opponent. We will call the head-to-head matchups a draw.

Next, we will look at team success. and the overall help each of these players have. At the time of writing this on Thursday morning, the Bucks are a game ahead of Philly at 47-28, while the Sixers sit at 46-29. Digging deeper, the Bucks have a record of 41-21 record when Giannis plays (.661 winning percentage), while the Sixers have an identical 41-21 record when Joel Embiid plays. Digging even deeper, Giannis has an on/off of plus 9.9, while Joel Embiid has an on/off of +9.6, per Cleaning the Glass.

Looking at these stats, both Giannis and Embiid have massive impacts on their team, and almost identical on/off numbers. Looking at both of these superstars’ supporting casts, both Giannis and Embiid have had to deal with serious challenges over the course of the year. Giannis has had to deal with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday going in and out of the lineup, and the absence of center Brook Lopez for the majority of the year, essentially forcing him to be the Bucks’ center for most of the year. For Embiid, he has had to deal with the well-documented Ben Simmons situation, with the Sixers’ star forward refusing to suit up for them this year, which eventually resulted in the blockbuster trade for James Harden. Both stars have been remarkably steady through these tough times. We will call a draw in the team success/supporting cast category as well.

Lastly, we will be looking at these two stars’ individual stats this year. Giannis has averaged 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 63.2 true shooting, while Joel Embiid has averaged 29.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 60.9 true shooting. Overall, I would give Giannis the MVP case over Joel Embiid, but by the slimmest of margins. I could easily see an argument the other way, but for me, Giannis outdoes him by just a little bit.

Verdict: Giannis Antetokounmpo over Joel Embiid

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP case against Nikola Jokic

The debate between Giannis and Nikola Jokic is also extremely intriguing. Both of these stars have been asked to carry an insane burden on their shoulders, Giannis on the defensive side with Brook Lopez, and Jokic on the offensive side without his two sidekicks in Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray for the whole year. Let’s get to it. The first category we look at is head to head. Nikola Jokic absolutely tormented the Bucks in their lone matchup this year with his pinpoint passing, putting up an easy 18 points, 15 assists, and 9 rebounds in a 36 point mopping of the Bucks in Fiserv. Giannis was no slouch either in that game, putting up 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists, but it was clear Nikola Jokic was the most impactful player on the floor that night. Nikola Jokic takes the head-to-head category decisively.

Next, we get to the team success and supporting cast category. As stated earlier, the Bucks are 41-21 (.661) when Giannis is on the court, while the Nuggets are 44-26 (.628) when Nikola Jokic plays. Overall, the Bucks are sitting at second in the Eastern Conference at 47-28 (.626), while the Nuggets are down at fifth in the Western Conference at 46-31(.597). The Nuggets currently sit three games out of the play-in tournament, an important part of this race, as many media members have gone on record and stated that if the Nuggets are in the play-in tournament, they could not vote for Nikola Jokic as their MVP. Looking at the on/off numbers, Giannis sits at a respectable plus 9.9, but Nikola Jokic sits at a staggering plus 18.4, meaning that the Nuggets’ overall efficiency is 18.4 points better when he’s on the floor, which is truly insane.

Let’s now look at the supporting cast of each of these stars. Although Giannis Antetokounmpo has had players filtering in and out of the lineup all year, he has still had Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday for a substantial amount of the year, while Nikola Jokic has been without his two co-stars since October. Their second-best player varies from game to game. Sometimes it might be Bones Hyland, another night it might be Aaron Gordon. With the crazy on/off splits for Nikola Jokic and being surrounded by such a limited supporting cast, I am going to have to give the team success/supporting cast category to Nikola Jokic as well.

Last, we look at the individual stats. Nikola Jokic is averaging 26.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per game on a ridiculous 66.1 true shooting, while Giannis has averaged 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 63.2 true shooting. While Giannis has had yet another MVP caliber season where he has carried the Bucks to a top seed in the East, Nikola Jokic has simply been too good and too important to his team for my personal vote to go anywhere else.

Verdict: Nikola Jokic over Giannis Antetokounmpo

You could vote for any three of these players, and I would at least understand your reasoning behind it. All three of these players have a unique skill that is so fun to watch, with Embiid’s post-game, Jokic’s court vision, and Giannis’ overall freakishness. This race will likely go down to the wire, and hopefully the most deserving of these three superstars gets it at the end of the year.