Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

All NBA first-team center: Embiid or Jokic?

Andrew Porter
April 08, 2019 - 11:43 am

ESPN's Brian Windhorst picked his All-NBA first-team.

Windy, controversially, has Joel Embiid over Nikola Jokic at the center position. The other four players seem pretty locked in, although you could maybe argue Paul George—the NBA's second leading scorer (28.1 PPG)—deserves a nod, despite falling off late. 

However, the real debate is Embiid vs. Jokic at the center position for All-NBA first team. 

Related: Road to NBA Finals: Sixers get No. 3 seed

Embiid, in his second full NBA season, is averaging 27.5 points (5th in NBA), 13.6 rebounds (2nd), 3.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.9 blocks (6th) in 64 games while shooting 48.4 FG% / 30.0 3PT% / 80.4 FT%. Embiid is second in the NBA with 522 free-throws made, behind only James Harden. 

Jokic, in his fourth NBA season, is averaging 20.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists (9th), 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks in 78 games while shooting 51.3 FG% / 31.2 3PT% / 82.5 FT%.  

Jokic's uncanny passing ability as a big man has helped the Nuggets to a 53-27 record, currently No. 2 in the West. Embiid's Sixers are 50-30, locked into the No. 3 seed in the East. 

Some NBA advanced stats say Jokic has had a better season than Embiid. Jokic is 5th in the NBA in win shares per 48 minutes (an estimate of number of wins contributed per 48 minutes), 3rd in box plus-minus (a box score estimate of points per 100 possessions a player contributes over league-average value), and 3rd in VORP (value over replacement player). In contrast, Embiid is 17th, 19th, and outside the top 20 in those three important respective advanced categories. 

You can't go wrong with either player, but it's going to be close. If I had to be completely objective here, I'd lean Jokic. In addition to the advanced stat argument, Jokic has played in 14 more games (and couting), his team is better, and he doesn't have any other all-stars on his roster. Embiid is certainly the better all-around, but it depends on how voters view the award. 

Last year, Embiid was second-team All-NBA, while Jokic did not make any All-NBA teams.