Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic will play against each other for only the third time in their NBA careers tonight when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Denver Nuggets.
You can watch the game on TSN Network at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Before the two All-Star centres do meet, our NBA.com staff debated over which one is having the more impressive season.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Nikola Jokic is a nice story, Joel Embiid is an absolute behemoth.
Allow me to point to Denver's and Philadelphia's last game against the defending two-time champs.
On January 15, the Nuggets welcomed the Warriors into Denver in a meeting of the top two teams in the Western Conference. Golden State punched Denver in the mouth early, dropping 51 points in the 1st quarter. How did Jokic perform amidst that onslaught? He had as many fouls (2) as points (2) and did not snag a single rebound. The Nuggets would go on to lose by 31 in a game that Jokic managed only four boards while finishing with 17 points and no blocks.
Just over two weeks later, the 76ers rolled into Oracle Arena to face a Warriors team on an 11-game win streak. Though he struggled to finish (8-24) and coughed it up far too many times (eight turnovers), Embiid left his mark on the game in a big way as he finished with 20 rebounds (no Warriors player had more than eight) and altering shots left and right. He willed the Sixers to perhaps their biggest win of the season on a night that Jimmy Butler scored just seven points and Stephen Curry poured in 41.
Great players and great seasons are defined by moments. Though both are certainly great, those two games illustrate the difference between Jokic and Embiid. One of them imposes his will against a dynasty, one of them isn't quite there yet. That's the difference.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): The guys here at NBA.com will tell you I may have done the biggest 180 on Nikola Jokic of anyone. He's the best passing big man in the game, his ability to impact the game without scoring may be second to none and he's better defensively than people think.
All that being said, he simply isn't Joel Embiid.
Embiid is the best big man in the game today. He's virtually unguardable on offence in the low post and has a respectable jumper from long range. Defensively, he'll always be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. The one knock he had on him was that he was rarely available to play. That doesn't apply to him anymore as he's only miss four games this season, which is on pace for his most appearances in his career.
At 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 48% shooting from the field, Embiid shouldn't be compared to Jokic. He should be in the conversation for league MVP.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I agree with Carlan that Joel Embiid is the better player. However, the question is who is having the more impressive season. And for that reason, my answer is Nikola Jokic.
We've seen this side of Embiid before. Not necessarily to this extent, but he's coming off of a season in which he was named an All-Star and a member of the All-NBA Second Team for the first time of his career. Jokic, on the other hand, has gone from being a star on the rise to a legitimate MVP candidate.
Jokic is doing it with numbers we've only ever seen from Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Roberston and Russell Westbrook on a Nuggets team that currently has the second-best record in the Western Conference, trailing only the Warriors in the standings by 1.5 games. That's a remakable feat considering the Nuggets have dealt with a number of injuries to key players this season, such as Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap.
The one constant, of course, has been Jokic.
Again, that doesn't mean he's the better player. I just think he's had a more impressive season than Embiid, all things considered.