Three different players could have won NBA Most Valuable Player this season. But the candidate that best fit my definition of “value” this season, and whose value has been substantiated through two playoff rounds, did not hoist the award on Monday.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic took the crown, according to ESPN, over Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Yes, the three most dominant players in the league all hail from overseas.)

The league is expected to make the official announcement during Monday night’s playoff games.

Jokic’s name reigning supreme a second consecutive season should remind you that an ostensibly popular opinion isn’t always the prevailing thought.

I voted for Embiid as MVP because he’s the most dominant player we’ve seen since Shaquille O’Neal. Like Jokic, Embiid played first half of the season without his co-star (Ben Simmons), then had to carry the Sixers in the second half of the season with James Harden not shouldering his load until Game 4 of the second round.

If you could fuse Shaq and Kobe into one hooper, you’d probably get Embiid: the Cameroonian legend who can dominate on the low block, shoot over you in the high post, knock down an open three and still take you off the dribble.

None of that includes the value he brings defensively, which has been on display in each of the Sixers’ last two playoff games. The 76ers were dead in the water, down 0-2, with Embiid nursing an orbital fracture, recovering from a concussion and playing with a torn ligament in his thumb. With him back on the floor, rocking a black protective mask, the series tied at two-apiece. Embiid, the best player on the court, shifted the momentum in his team’s direction.

But the MVP, and its accompanying league-wide awards, are regular-season honors in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Jokic has done nothing lately because his shorthanded team proved no match for the Golden State Warriors.

Meanwhile Embiid and Antetokounmpo remain on national television, dominating their opponents with brute force and skill that’ll pave a definitive path to the Hall of Fame.

Jokic is undoubtedly a worthy MVP. If Larry Bird was Serbian, he’d probably look and play something like The Joker. The Nuggets were in position to compete for a playoff spot because Jokic was on the floor. The same can also be said of Antetokounmpo’s Bucks and Embiid’s 76ers. Remove either from the equation and both franchises don’t go hunting for playoff wins.

Maybe it’s not the result that’s jarring, but the timing of its announcement. Why wait nearly a month after the regular season to announce results that can be tabulated overnight? (Ballots for voting members were due April 12.)

While we’re on the subject of NBA awards votes, here’s how I voted for:

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

1) Joel Embiid (PHI)
2) Nikola Jokic (DEN)
3) Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
4) Devin Booker (PHX)
5) Kevin Durant (BKN)

The Nets lost 11 straight and fell from first to 10th with Durant out of the lineup with an MCL sprain back in January. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is.

It’s also valuable being the best player on the best team in the league.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

1) Ja Morant (MEM)
2) Darius Garland (CLE)
3) Jordan Poole (GSW)

This was almost as tough as voting for MVP, because I was looking for somewhere to sneak Desmond Bane onto this ballot, too. Morant evolved from a star to superstar season-over-season in Memphis, while Garland took the reins from the injured Collin Sexton to fill in as a star in Cleveland. It’s a crime Poole didn’t finish third and missed out on the spot to San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray, who continues to be who I thought he was: a third tier point guard.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

1) Marcus Smart (BOS)
2) Bam Adebayo (MIA)
3) Mikal Bridges (PHX)

I thought it was abominable that more voters chose Rudy Gobert over Miami’s Adebayo on DPOY ballots, but like MVP voting, its to each their own. I am happy to be part of the movement that ushered in our first guard to win the award since Gary Payton in the 90′s. Smart is as advertised, as is Phoenix’s Bridges.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR

1) Tyler Herro (MIA)
2) Kevin Love (CLE)
3) De’Anthony Melton (MEM)

If there’s an award for deepest team in the NBA, the Grizzlies are probably top-three, and not No. 3. Melton torched the Nets for 22 points in March when Morant wasn’t on the floor. He’d been a steady presence for Memphis this season, but that was definitely an outside-the-box pick that easily could have gone to Phoenix’s Cameron Johnson.

I found it laughable Herro wasn’t the consensus Sixth Man by basketball pundits given he is the second-leading scorer on the top seed in the East.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

1) Scottie Barnes (TOR)
2) Evan Mobley (CLE)
3) Cade Cunningham (DET)

I watched Barnes strip Durant on back-to-back possessions and made my mind up at that moment I was watching the Rookie of the Year. Mobley’s a franchise cornerstone in Cleveland, but Barnes had the better opening season in my book.

COACH OF THE YEAR

1) Taylor Jenkins (MEM)
2) Monty Williams (PHX)
3) Ime Udoka (BOS)

I value coaches who do more with less, and for the Grizzlies to go 20-5 this season in games without Morant is a direct nod to the coaching Taylor Jenkins has done this season. Monty Williams’ Suns are the best team in basketball and he’s more than deserving of the honor, but I don’t think the Grizzlies are supposed to be here.

FIRST TEAM ALL-ROOKIE

1) Jalen Green (HOU)
2) Cade Cunningham (DET)
3) Ayo Dosunmu (CHI)
4) Scottie Barnes (TOR)
5) Evan Mobley (CLE)

SECOND TEAM ALL-ROOKIE

1) Jonathan Kuminga (GSW)
2) Herbert Jones (NOP)
3) Josh Giddey (OKC)
4) Chris Duarte (IND)
5) Franz Wagner (ORL)

FIRST TEAM ALL-DEFENSE

1) Bam Adebayo, Bam (MIA)
2) Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM)
3) Rudy Gobert (UTA)
4) Mikal Bridges (PHX)
5) Marcus Smart (BOS)

SECOND TEAM ALL-DEFENSE

1) Herbert Jones(NOP)
2) Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
3) Robert Williams III (BOS)
4) Fred VanVleet (TOR)
5) Jrue Holiday (MIL)

FIRST TEAM ALL-NBA

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
2) Jayson Tatum (BOS)
3) Joel Embiid (PHI)
4) Devin Booker (PHX)
5) Luka Doncic (DAL)

SECOND TEAM ALL-NBA

1) LeBron James (LAL)
2) Kevin Durant (BKN)
3) Nikola Jokic (DEN)
4) Ja Morant (MEM)
5) Trae Young (ATL)

THIRD TEAM ALL-NBA

1) Bam Adebayo (MIA)
2) DeMar DeRozan (CHI)
3) Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)
4) Stephen Curry (GSW)
5) Chris Paul (PHX)

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