The Three Totems of the Modern NBA

The new era of the modern NBA belongs to the giants domineering over the league

Giannis Antetokoumpo, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you will know that these names have been running in MVP contention not just throughout the 2021 – 2022 NBA season, but that their names have been in the running for the past few seasons.

Giannis Antetokoumpo was the league’s back-to-back MVP from 2019 to 2020, as well as the crowned NBA Champion and Finals MVP in the 2021 season. Nikola Jokić was the MVP for the 2020 – 2021 season, and Joel “The Process” Embiid was a humongous success, and it is only a matter of time until he gets his due.

The Totems of the NBA

The totems of the NBA has more than a few things in common:

  • All three are 27 years old and in the midst of their prime
  • All three are definitive “Big Men” who plays at the center spot (Aside from Giannis who sometimes takes the helm at Power Forward)
  • All three are international players

Last but not least, all three of them have combined the essence of the game formulated through the years. From once upon a time when Stephen Curry single handedly redefined the league from the three-point line, these big men have adapted their game in a transformative way, incorporating the three-point dagger into their kit all at the same time also establishing their presence under the basket and in the mid-range.

Let’s break down the MVP candidates and see what is about to domineer over the league.

Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets

Nikola “The Joker” Jokic has earned his nickname via his unorthodox moves on the court. With his crafty dribbles and jerky movements that you would never expect from players of his size, he throws up unexpected shots from all kinds of range and the magic is – they somehow all go in.

However, the biggest tool in his repertoire is his incredible passes, featuring no-look passes, long range passes, and bullet passes that instantly shatters the opponent’s defense, his basketball IQ and read of the game reaches unprecedented level.

Averaging 25.9 points, 6.4 assists, 11.3 rebounds on 51.2% shooting, with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 27.5. He took the league’s MVP award last year and had a solid chance at gunning for the championship if not for Jamal Murray, the team’s shooting guard going down in an awfully timed ACL injury. However, it would be ridiculous to say that Jokic cannot do it without Murray, because he has been single-handedly carrying his team on ridiculous efficiency.

Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Joel “The Process” Embiid. Coming into the league with a constant bad luck streak of injuries, the Philly fans continue to have faith in him nonetheless and dubbed him with the name “The Process” – Lo and behold, the process is working out just fine.

The 7-foot big man has claimed that he can transform from Shaq to Kobe at any given moment’s notice – and it’s true. He has a step back game like Kevin Durant, operating automatic from the mid-range line and further equipped with a step-back three. Furthermore, the giant is an absolute offensive powerhouse inside the line with his superior size and his defense is incredible to boot.

Despite not winning an MVP yet, it is only a matter of time before Joel gets his dues. With James Harden joining the 76ers this year, Joel has seen the most space on the court than he has ever seen in his entire career and this may be the year he takes the city of Philadelphia across the hill.

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo – What else is there to say that hasn’t been said yet? At mere 27 years old he already has a resume that rivals some of the greatest to play the game. Who else at 27 year old can be a 2-times back-to-back league MVP, one time Defensive Player of the Year, an NBA Champion and the Finals MVP? Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has gone from Draft-day gem to one of the best overall NBA players of his generation and, perhaps, league history in very short order. He was named unanimous Finals MVP with averages of 35.2 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.8 bpg and 1.2 spg, becoming the first player in NBA history to average 35+ ppg, 13+ rpg and 5.0+ apg on better than 60% shooting in a Finals series.

The craziest thing is that even with all his accolades, he is considered the most underrated of the trio – Simply by merit of his already incredible accomplishments, no one bats an eye when Giannis scored 40 on a Friday night.

The MVP Race

Going toward the end of the season, the MVP race still remains incredibly close and competitive, all led by the international big men. Only time will tell who will prevail but one thing that needs to be said is: All three is deserving of the crown and will go down in league history as the Greats.

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