Kiz: With all due respect to Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best basketball player on the planet is the Nuggets’ own Nikola Jokic, at least until Kevin Durant’s injured knee heals sufficiently to allow his return to the court. So my question is not if Joker deserves to win the MVP, but if your fickle and self-important media colleagues will open their minds to the possibility that he should win the award for a second straight season?
Singer: Fickle and self-important? Not only will that be the name of my fantasy football team next season, but us voters have a group e-mail where we have declared ourselves important! Joker has a few things going against him. One, I do think voter fatigue is real. Two, the other leading candidates you mention play on Philadelphia and Milwaukee, both of which, currently, have better records than Denver. But as they ride the wave of this five-game winning streak, that margin is shrinking, fast. If he keeps up his current preposterous pace — and the Nuggets maintain their momentum heading into the break — I will personally convene a meeting of the minds at the All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Kiz: I like the story of how wily old Chris Paul, now 36 years old, completely changed the culture in Phoenix. And the juice Memphis guard Ja Morant brings to the floor might well earn my MVP vote (except for the fact the league is far too smart to let me anywhere near the ballot box). Although I don’t see either Paul or Morant winning the award, the number of qualified candidates could make this one of the closest votes in history. Do you agree?
Singer: Rare as they may come, this is a great point, Kiz. Voters love themselves (ourselves) some narratives. Paul’s play has eliminated any notion that last year’s Finals run was a fluke, and Morant has D-Rose level energy pumping out of Memphis. I’ll also add that DeMar DeRozan is more than a dark horse candidate in Chicago. Old friend Arturas Karnisovas has the Bulls 1/2 game out of first place in the East. Those three, coupled with Joker, Embiid, Giannis, KD and Steph Curry (even though he’s cooled off the last month) make this one of the deepest races in recent memory.
Kiz: From the Oscars to the U.S. presidency to the Nobel Prize, any honor that requires a vote is heavily influenced by the politics of human emotion. There’s really no doubt that Jokic is better than last year, while crafting one of the more phenomenal statistical seasons in league history. But beyond the boxscore, what’s the narrative that needs to be established for Joker to overcome any inclination by voters to spread the wealth and award the MVP to somebody else?
Singer: The Grizzlies began Monday 5.5 games up on the Nuggets for the No. 3 seed. If the Nuggets were somehow able to climb all the way to No. 3, the award is Joker’s, hands down. To carry the Nuggets without their No. 2 and No. 3 options to a No. 3 seed would be even more improbable than what he did last season in playing all 72 games on short rest. The far more likely scenario is that the Nuggets snatch the No. 4 seed, earning home court advantage in the first round. Utah, the current No. 4 seed, is slipping. If Denver snags the No. 4 seed, there’s going to be a fascinating debate over the definition of “valuable.”