At a time when the tallest and strongest are no longer the NBA’s dominators, the start of 2021 came to vindicate them. Is that Nikola Jokic, center of the Denver Nuggets, and Joel Embiid, of the Philadelphia 76ers, were voted the best players of the month for the Confenecias West and East, respectively.
Serbian Jokic had also won the Player of the Week award, becoming the first Nuggets professional to win them in a row.
Since the 2020-21 season began, Jokic, 25, has averaged 26.8 points; 11.8 rebounds; 8.6 assists and 1.75 steals in 20 games.
It’s his first Player of the Month award and the first by a Nuggets player since Carmelo Anthony in November 2009.
During the month of January, Jokic equaled his best individual record of 47 points, which also makes him worthy of fighting for the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
Back-to-back WC Player of the Week ✅
WC Player of the Month ✅
Soon to be #NBAAllStar…
1 RT = 2 VOTES #NikolaJokic pic.twitter.com/V6tTgtnC6M
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) February 2, 2021
He also posted a double-double in each of the first 20 games., becoming the second player since 1976 to accomplish the feat. Bill Walton had a double-double in each of the first 34 games of the 1976-77 season while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Jokic is the fourth Denver player to win the award, previously having been won by Anthony (three times), Alex English (three) and Fat Lever (once).
For his part, Cameroonian center Joel Embiid has taken a leap this season. As a result, he has attracted a lot of attention and has now been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for December and January.
There is no doubt that Embiid has been at an MVP level and with it has come the recognition of fighting for the award as a star of the Sixers.
Embiid has been a dominant force on both ends of the court, with some of the best numbers of his career. At 31.6 minutes per game, the Philadelphia center is averaging 28.3 points; 11.1 rebounds; 2.8 assists; 1.2 robberies and 1.3 plugs.
He also leads the NBA with a career-high 11.3 free throws per game (84% correct), which has played a key role in his increase in his actual shooting percentage to a phenomenal 66.9 percent.
Embiid had some brilliant moments this season. From his perfect 20-point third quarter to turn a game around against the Miami Heat, to the 40 he averaged in two starts against the Boston Celtics, to the 37 points he had in just under 27 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week .
In addition to his better conditioning and great defense, Embiid’s development as a passer has been an important part of his success. He has taken a big step forward in that facet of the game, as he reads faster against double marks and uses his immense physique to open space for his fellow teammates.
Sixers are 14-2 in games Embiid played. Intermittent numbers can be loud, especially at the start of a season, but it’s clear how shocking Embiid has been to the Sixers.