After a long time, two centers are one of the leading candidates for the MVP award. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid elevated their games to the next level this season, and they are the main reasons why the Nuggets and Sixers are among the best teams in their respective conferences. Both are dominant big men with so many ways of hurting their defenders, and their versatility is truly remarkable. The questions of how to defend them is the one the opposing teams ask themselves all the time, and even Draymond Green talked about since he had the opportunity to face them both very recently.
Green recently proclaimed himself as one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Since he can cover multiple positions, Green guarded Jokic and Embiid on several occasions. The first thing that presented a problem was their size and incredible skillset only a few players possess in the NBA.
Both of them outweigh me for about good 50 pounds. They both probably have 5 or 6 inches, at least. So that alone presents its challenges. They are the two of the most skilled players we have in this league regardless of the position—extremely talented guys, both Joker and Joel.
After Jamal Murray suffered a season-ending injury, Jokic picked up big time for the Nuggets, and they won 4 out of 5 games after Murray's injury. Green doesn't think Jokic is strong but deceptively fast, primarily when operating in the low post. On the other hand, he has that one-legged jump shot that is impossible to block, and he uses that frequently, especially against smaller defenders.
When you play them, you just try to make them take tough shots. I was just telling someone that when you are playing Joker, you don't feel like he is overwhelmingly strong, but he is huge. He is nimble, so you just try to use your strength, and he'll roll out and spin it off. He has that right foot shots that he shot on me, which is frustrating as hell because you feel like you've done everything possible to make him take a bad shot, and it hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
After the Sixers hired Doc Rivers as their head coach, Embiid's role with the team changed as well, and now he is more than ever looking for the ball in the post. That is paying off big time since Embiid has this unique ability to use several moves in the low post or face the basket and take a jump shot.
With Joel is that he is making a concerted effort to really get down in the post. I love it as a basketball fan to watch him play and dominate in the post like he's been doing this year. I think that made a difference for him and their team. You gotta give Doc a lot of credit going in there and having those tough conversations with him about not floating around but finding his spot and taking advantage of that. When he is doing that, which he has been, he is extremely tough to stop.
Hopefully, both Embiid and Jokic will remain healthy for the remainder of the season because it's fun seeing two centers leading the race for the MVP award. They are both still relatively young and just entering their prime years, so this might be an introduction to a potential rivalry we'll see in the upcoming years.