The Whiteboard: Joel Embiid is out, so who wins MVP now?

Today on The Whiteboard, we don't know how Joel Embiid's injury will affect the 76ers playoff plans but we can guess at how it changes the MVP race.

Dec 2, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) and Oklahoma City Thunder
Dec 2, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) and Oklahoma City Thunder / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers announced last night that Joel Embiid had suffered a meniscus injury although they, conspicuously, did not call it a tear. Regardless, a similar injury in the same knee in 2016-17 cost Embiid more than 30 games and while the 76ers are reportedly still figuring out a treatment plan there's at least a decent chance he's done for the rest of the regular season.

Regardless, this means Embiid definitely won't clear the 65-games played requirement and will knock him out of the running for NBA MVP. Embiid wasn't necessarily the clear frontrunner but he was right near the top and this certainly blows the race wide open.

Who wins NBA MVP now that Joel Embiid is out?

Nikola Jokic probably moves into pole position at this point. Coming into this season, there seemed to be some acknowledgment that voters may have gotten it wrong last season when Embiid won. Voter fatigue probably played a factor in him keeping Jokic from winning his third in a row but Jokic firmly proved himself as the best player in the league by powering the Nuggets to a title.

Voter fatigue may still be a factor — three MVPs in four runs is historic and there is resistance in some media corners to acknowledge that Jokic is already one of the NBA's all-time greats. But Jokic is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, within a single assist per game of averaging a triple-double and has the Nuggets in the mix for the No. 1 seed. He's the obvious answer, the easy answer. But that doesn't mean he'll be THE answer.

If Giannis can help the Bucks take advantage of Embiid's absence and push the Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the East, he'd have a strong case. He'd still have to overcome some of the same narrative challenges as Jokic but it's been a bit longer since his back-to-back MVPs. Giannis has been averaging 30.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, shooting 60.8 percent from the field. At 29 years old and under extremely difficult circumstances, he's having arguably the best season of his career.

But the most interesting possibility is that this opens the door for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Luka Doncic, currently third and fifth in Basketball-Reference's MVP projection model.

Doncic may have a tougher hill to climb given where the Mavericks sit in the standings (currently eighth in the West). But he's been incredible, averaging 34.7 points, 9.6 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game. Shai has been similarly impressive — 31.3 points, 6.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds and a league-leading 2.2 steals per game for an extremely young team who could very well end up with the best record in the West.

If either Doncic or Gilgeous-Alexander moves to the front of the pack, it would be the first time in six years that the MVP Award did not go to a big man.

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Jan 14, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) and center
Jan 14, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) and center / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

NBA All-Star rosters are kind of a mess

The NBA All-Star reserves were announced Thursday night, completing the rosters except for whatever injury replacements need to be made. The East will be looking for at least two injury replacements with Julius Randle and Joel Embiid almost certainly out through the break. But that won't help put the universe back into balance because most of the biggest snubs came in the West where Karl-Anthony Towns snuck in ahead of a half-dozen more deserving players, including De'Aaron Fox, Rudy Gobert, Domantas Sabonis and James Harden.

Scottie Barnes, Kristaps Porzingis and, sigh, Trae Young seem like the most likely injury additions for the East but I'd love to see Derrick White sneak in.

Western Conference Starters:

  • Luka Doncic
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • LeBron James
  • Kevin Durant
  • Nikola Jokic

Western Conference Reserves:

  • Devin Booker
  • Steph Curry
  • Anthony Davis
  • Anthony Edwards
  • Paul George
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Karl-Anthony Towns

Eastern Conference Starters:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Tyrese Haliburton
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Joel Embiid*

Eastern Conference Reserves:

  • Bam Adebayo
  • Paolo Banchero
  • Jaylen Brown
  • Jalen Brunson
  • Tyrese Maxey
  • Donovan Mitchell
  • Julius Randle*


Feb 1, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts during the
Feb 1, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) reacts during the / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Three: Knicks trades, Jalen Brunson should be starter and Shaq's ownership options

FanSided staff writer Lior Lampert joins us today to answer three big questions on the Knicks, Jalen Brunson and which NBA team Shaq should buy. You can follow Lior on Twitter and read more of his work here.

1. The Knicks are looking for another backcourt creator. What is the best-case scenario trade package they could get for Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes and one of their protected first-round picks?

Despite falling out of the rotation last season, the Knicks have been holding onto Evan Fournier and his contract to use as salary filler in any potential trade.  Also, the Knicks have been fielding calls on 3-and-D shooting guard Quentin Grimes. Not to mention, they have eight tradeable first-round picks, including four protected picks from other teams.

Following the trade that sent Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett to the Toronto Raptors for OG Anunoby, the Knicks' second unit has taken a massive hit.

With that said the Knicks have been exploring the trade market in hopes of adding a shot creator ahead of the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline. Could they parlay the contract of Fournier, Grimes, and a protected first-round pick into a useful playmaker off the bench? And if so, who?

Per NBA insider Marc Stein, the Knicks have expressed “a level of interest” in the following players: Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz), Alec Burks (Detroit Pistons), Malcolm Brogdon (Portland Trail Blazers), and Terry Rozier (who was recently traded to the Miami Heat).

With Rozier officially off the board, Clarkson is the next best option. The 2020-21 NBA Sixth Man of the Year is averaging 17.7 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Jazz in 30 minutes per game off the bench.

HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto had this to say about the dynamic combo guard: “Whatever team can get [Jordan] Clarkson will be a game changer. I think he’s the best of the volume scorer available on the trade market"

Clarkson is making roughly $23.5 million this season in the final year of his previous contract before the two-year, $28.4 million deal he signed this past offseason. That is right around what standard Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception salary – he is worth more than that.

None of the aforementioned options are bad, but if it were my choice, Clarkson would be the answer.

2. Make the case for why Jalen Brunson should be starting over Damian Lillard in the NBA All-Star Game.

The case has already been made for itself, but if I must. Jalen Brunson ranked ahead of Damian Lillard in both player and media voting results, but the fan vote served as the tiebreaker that ultimately gave Lillard the starting nod.

Not only is Brunson scoring at a higher rate than Lillard, he is doing so at a more efficient level. Brunson is shooting 48 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from beyond the arc compared to Lillard’s 42.2 field goal percentage and 34.3 three-point clip.

While Lillard has the benefit of playing alongside a two-time NBA MVP in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brunson is the offensive hub for the Knicks, constantly having the opposition's best defenders and double coverage thrown his way.

Most importantly, Brunson’s impact on winning and the success of the Knicks has to mean something. New York trails Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks by one game for the No. 2 seed in the East.

What Brunson has been doing this season is nothing short of remarkable. His efforts are being recognized to some degree (as indicated by being selected as an All-Star reserve), but it’s a shame he isn't receiving the acknowledgment he deserves by being named an All-Star starter.

3. Shaq says he wants to buy whatever NBA team is available. What’s the funniest possible NBA ownership outcome for him?

Shaquille O’Neal recently expressed his desire to own a team when one becomes available. Shaq became accustomed to success throughout his illustrious 19-year career, winning four NBA Championships. So, it’d be funny to see him purchase a perennial cellar dweller, like the Washington Wizards.

Typically known for being outspoken, funny, and not afraid to put current players on blast as an analyst for TNT, O’Neal owning a team that currently rosters Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma would set up for some iconic memes and quotes.

Shaq’s already trolled Kuzma for one of his highly-documented pregame outfits in the past. During a recent segment of TNT’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” where O’Neal highlights some of the most ridiculous plays from the current NBA season, where Poole has come up often enough to the point that Shaq coined the term “Shaqtin’ a Poole,” and referred to him as “the gift that keeps on giving.

Recommended Reading:

1. Enes Freedom did not make the list: "Silver has always fancied the league as an exemplar of soft power, made fully apparent after his unprompted Henry Kissinger hero worship in a recent televised interview with Pat McAfee. Before the 2020 bubble, Silver told Time that he saw the league’s plans to forge ahead during the pandemic as “a model for other industries, and a model for broader society.” There is an arrogance in that line of thinking—wherein the NBA’s influence would have the power to supersede cultural and political issues—that informs both the successes and failures of Silver’s first 10 years." The 15 Biggest Challenges Facing Adam Silver in His Next 10 Years

2. The Andrew Wiggins roller-coaster: "There are two questions surrounding Andrew Wiggins and the trade deadline: does he have any value, and are the Warriors ready to move on? Wiggins was one of the worst players in the NBA for the first half of the season, ranking near the very bottom of the league in both EPM and true-shooting percentage, while playing defense that wasn’t even a shell of what drew him praise in the 2022 NBA Finals. Combined with the emergence of Jonathan Kuminga — and the atrocious numbers those two put up when sharing the court — and Wiggins became the clear-cut odd man out with the deadline approaching." 31 players most likely to be moved at the NBA trade deadline

3. Remember Nikola Mirotic? "For Barcelona, their departures were met with notable additions such as Jabari Parker and Willy Hernangomez — two names familiar to NBA fans. As well as Dario Brizuela and Joel Parra — two names familiar to ACB fans. All commendable players in their own right, but none of them are Nikola Mirotic, arguably the best basketball player in the world not in the NBA." Stories of the 2023-24 EuroLeague season: FC Barcelona deliver a powerful blow to Virtus Bologna at Palau Blaugrana

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