Kevin Durant endorses Joel Embiid for MVP but raises unfairness concern: ‘More people just like Giannis and Jokic’

Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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76ers center Joel Embiid said the media isn’t treating him fairly in MVP voting.

He found an ally in Nets forward Kevin Durant, who once said the media had “just pure hate” for him in award voting and that players – not media – should select award winners.

Durant, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

“There’s a lot of players that’s been controlled by their narrative,” Durant said. “Some of it has been because of the player and some of it has been about the perception other people have about that player. In Joel’s case, more people just like Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and (Nikola) Jokic.

“It’s as simple as that. His personality, his story I guess. As a basketball player, if people look at just the game and what is on the floor,” Durant continued, “then narrative and who you are and your personality, that stuff doesn’t really matter or shouldn’t matter. Joel, they probably just like those guys better. It’s not fair. But that’s how it goes at time. If I had a vote, I would choose Joel.”

“I feel like if you are going to win back to back MVPS, it should be like Steph Curry. His first MVP, he averaged 23 points and seven rebounds. His next one, he stepped up such an enormous level (averaged 30.1 points for a 73-win team),” Durant said. “If you are going to get two in a row, you can’t duplicate the same thing you did the year before. That’s just how I feel. … To win two in a row you have to do something way bigger than the year before. I think back-to-back MVPS are special and the season you have to have team-wise and individual-wise, all has to come together to win back-to-back. I feel like Jokic had an incredible season but Joel season was just as good, if not better.”

Durant thinks Jokic should be held to a higher standard because Jokic won MVP last year and Durant thinks the media is the one swayed by narrative?

Though Jokic progressed slightly from last season, Durant is generally correct: Jokic is playing at a similar level to last year. This is nothing like the big leap Stephen Curry made between his 2015 and 2016 MVPs.

But Jokic isn’t competing with the 2021 version of himself for 2022 MVP. He’s competing with Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

I agree with Durant that award voting should be about how players affect winning, not incidental narratives. Credit Durant: He looked past prior run-ins with Embiid to endorse the Philadelphia center. This isn’t personal – and shouldn’t be.

However, I just struggle to see why Embiid – who, unlike Jokic and Antetokounmpo, plays in a large market and doesn’t suffer from voter fatigue – is harmed by some media bias. Embiid is far from unlikable.

He’s also a darned good player.

Durant values scoring above all else, and Embiid led the league in scoring. Consider the double teams Embiid faced plus Embiid’s defense, and he’s a strong contender for MVP.

I just rated Jokic and Antetokounmpo slightly higher.

It’s a difference of opinion – about basketball, no less. There’s nothing sinister behind it.