Kiszla: Forget the MVP debate. Would you rather build NBA team around Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid?

At a time when giants rule the NBA universe, is Nuggets center Nikola Jokic or Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid the king? Which megastar would you pick as the foundational piece of a championship team?

To settle an argument where there’s no wrong answer but plenty of heated debate, I went to the place where all the great sports disputes are resolved: the barber shop.

“Don’t get me wrong. Joker is a great player,” said Vinny G., proprietor of a four-chair shop on Colorado Boulevard and unafraid to tackle thankless tasks, like trying to make my silver locks look foxy. “But I’ve got to take Embiid.”

At the risk of being declared “whiny” by Charles Barkley, I must vehemently disagree. While the 29.3 points and 11.1 rebounds Embiid is putting up nightly for the Sixers are numbers fit for a king, I’m building my team around Joker. Without a doubt.

Let’s start with the analytics. That’s what all the cool kids do these days when arguing sports, because leaning into the numbers is so much easier than using both sides of the brain.

Let’s cite a new-age statistic. PER stands for player efficiency rating. Crunch all the numbers from the box score, throw them in the PER machine and what has Jokic done for an encore after being named the league’s MVP last season? His PER is 32.96.

To decipher that number in terms even a knucklehead like Barkley can understand: No player in league history, from Wilt Chamberlain to Michael Jordan, has ever produced a single-season PER as lofty as the grade currently earned by Jokic.

While I’m as dazzled as anybody by the star power in the NBA, basketball remains a team game. And nobody in the sport gives his teammates a greater chance to shine than Jokic.

The latest case in point? In their final game prior to the all-star break, the Nuggets rallied to beat Golden State 117-116 on the road with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by guard Monte Morris. The shot by Morris was pure clutch, but the mystic beauty of the final play was a no-look pass by Jokic, reacting to a double-team by Warriors guard Steph Curry as he maneuvered for a hook shot in the lane with the game clock ticking rapidly toward zero.

“He can win a game with an assist, like he did (against the Warriors); he can win the game with a block, like he did in Toronto, or he can win the game by scoring 50 points,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who likens Jokic to Cool Hand Luke. “How many guys can do it in so many different ways?”

The answer: Nobody this side of LeBron James.

Jokic is the most talented player to ever wear a Nuggets uniform. And with all due respect to Hall of Famers Alex English and Dan Issel, it’s not even particularly close in my mind, although it might require putting a championship ring on Joker’s finger to end any argument.

Preconceived notions die hard. When Kevin Durant and James picked sides for the All-Star Game, Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was selected No. 1 and Embiid was drafted second. I’ve got no quibble with either selection. But Jokic was picked seventh? That’s hard to explain, unless you’re a movie buff who loved “White Men Can’t Jump.”

In the barber shop, where no balderdash goes unpunished, Vinny G. pressed me on my unabashed support for Jokic, asking which dominant center I’d rather have on my side in the playoffs.

Truth be told, if my team was trailing a best-of-seven series 3-2 and facing elimination in Game 6, I would be extremely tempted to take Embiid over Jokic for one night, because I value scoring over everything else in a win-or-go-home scenario..

And I fully expect Embiid to take home the MVP award this season, if for no other reason than the Sixers are likely to finish with a better record than the Nuggets.

But in my corner of the NBA universe, Joker is the king.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com