Will Murphy ’23
As the NBA playoffs continue to ramp up, the announcement of awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year loom. The three finalists for the MVP award have already been announced: Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Out of the three, one player stands out for his tremendous impact on both ends of the court. While all three players are offensive superstars, Antetokounmpo is on another level on defense, as he is perennially under consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Antetokounmpo has saved the Bucks countless points with his athleticism as he’s able to cover more ground than anyone else due to his almost seven-foot stature, allowing him to erase any opponent’s scoring opportunities in the blink of an eye. His rim protection is also elite; averaging over one block per game, he effortlessly rises to meet opponents at the rim and turns them away with ease.
His defensive impact is strengthened by his consistent anticipation of where the ball is heading next, allowing him to rack up steals which often lead to highlight reel break-away dunks. Antetokounmpo’s defensive contributions cannot be overstated, and his team reaps the benefits, boasting the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Antetokounmpo also uses his unique combination of strength, size, and athleticism to wreak havoc on the boards. Few players in the league can out-rebound him, and the ability to close out possessions on defense and create extra possessions on offense is invaluable to the Bucks.
Oftentimes, opposing teams will be forced to double-team immediately when Antetokounmpo catches the ball, which helps him create easy looks for his teammates, whether it be finding cutters streaking towards the rim or shooters spotting up on the three-point line. Antetokounmpo averages almost six assists per game, which is particularly impressive considering his position.
Although Giannis’s facilitating and rebounding are equally impressive facets of his game, his ability to put points on the board may be his most valuable trait. Whenever Milwaukee is in dire need of a bucket, they know exactly who to turn to; Antetokounmpo, and more often than not, he delivers. Antetokounmpo averaged a hair under 30 points per game this year, 29.9, which was good for second in the league.
Overall, Antetokounmpo’s multifaceted impact on the game cannot be denied, nor can his indispensable value to the Bucks, making him deserving of the 2022 NBA MVP.
Patrick Walsh ’24
With the NBA regular season coming to an end, only a few players are in the most valuable player conversation. One of the most dominant players in today’s game is Serbian native Nikola Jokić.
Jokić, on paper, is a center or power forward because of his enormous size and strength. However, as the leader of this team, he has learned to play every position and dominate anywhere he is asked to play. Another star player for the Nuggets, Jamal Murray, went down with a torn ACL in April 2021. This put even more pressure on The Joker to lead his team to the postseason in hopes of a championship. Jokić is respected throughout the entire NBA because he is one of the few players who can take complete control of a game and consistently score play after play. He is most effective inside the paint because of his reachability and aggressiveness to get to the free-throw line or finish a possession with a bucket, but he can also hit shots from beyond the arch, which is why he is a dual-threat two-way player.
Jokić is going for his second straight MVP, but his resume is even more impressive than last season. Jokić averaged 27.1 points per game, 13.8 rebounds per game, and 7.9 assists this season. He has also produced a league-leading 19 triple-doubles to put him at 73 for his career and seventh most all time. Nikola Jokić has tough competition with Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, hungry for hardware. They have similar play styles to Jokić and are the best players on their respective teams. Antetokounmpo hopes to accept his third MVP award, while Embiid is looking for his first. This three-horse is as close as it gets. However, Jokić is the clear answer to get it done because he is the most consistent player out of the three and has put his franchise on the map as a postseason team that does not go quietly. He has completely transformed a franchise that struggled to win games, and he has picked up his game in the areas he is least consistent in. He now averages more steals and three-point shots per game, and he is shooting inside the three-point line at 63 percent, a career-best.
The Nuggets were recently eliminated from the playoffs by the red-hot, sharpshooting Golden State Warriors. The series went just five games, but Jokić was on his game and was able to give his team a chance by averaging about 31 points per game. As hard as it is to win MVP once, being able to continue to dominate and win the year after is something special, and Jokić is more than deserving of this award.