Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid failed to win the MVP, despite being included in the conversations over the last few years. Doc Rivers would’ve loved it if his big man won the award. While he believes Nikola Jokic deserved it, Rivers hinted that Embiid could’ve won it all if the voters paid attention to the actual game instead of advanced statistics.
"Watch the dang game"
Rivers gave a brief overview of why he believes Jokic won the MVP -- Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. were out all season long due to injuries and despite being shorthanded, Jokic guided the Denver Nuggets to a decent win-loss record. However, the Sixers coach then sounded off on the advanced analytics that teams and the media have been paying close attention to over the last few years.
“I don’t know if a guy could’ve done more than he did this year. He played without the second-best player all year and his resume was great. I’m not taking anything away from Jokic either because he’s a helluva player. I do think this whole analytic-driven society or world is out of control at times with some of the measures that they use. Like watch the dang game and decide is what I’ve always said. At the end of the day, if Joel had won, like I thought he should have, there would’ve been criticism that way and if Giannis had won, only one guy can win, unfortunately,” Rivers said, per USA Today.
Rivers didn’t directly say that this penchant for looking at analytics was the main cause of Embiid’s failed campaign. But he may be alluding to it as apart from the whole Nuggets narrative, Jokic’s advanced numbers may have propelled him to MVP status once again.
Among the numbers that have been thrown around is the Serbian’s 32.85 player efficiency rating (PER). This is now the highest single-season mark, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 32.08. And anytime a player is mentioned alongside Chamberlain, he’s already deemed a basketball god.
Another advanced stat that came up is Jokic’s assist rate of 43 percent. This is the highest single-season rate for a center in NBA history. This bolsters Jokic as one of the best, if not the best passing big man of all time.
Rivers’ comments are interesting not because he seems to be bitter about Embiid’s loss. But the fact that Daryl Morey — one of the strongest proponents of advanced analytics — is the president of the 76ers. Though there are no rumors whatsoever that the two have clashed because of their differences in approach, it’s an interesting tidbit between two people at the opposite end of the spectrum.