In a league with players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo performing at high levels, there is no way Joel Embiid has a shot at the MVP award, right? If the Sixers first 12 games are any indication, he absolutely has a chance at bringing home the hardware.
The league quickly saw why he was selected third overall after his two year delay. Embiid has proven to be one of the league’s premier centers by averaging 20 points a game every year since entering the league. The two most common grievances I see people have for Embiid are his ability to stay on the court, and his lack of winning. These need to be disputed for him to end the year as MVP.
Through the 10 games Embiid has played in this year, he is averaging 26.6 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on .544/.387/.860 shooting. Embiid has never shot above 50% from the floor for an entire season. If Embiid somehow becomes the ninth player to join the 50-40-90 club, I think it would almost warrant an automatic MVP considering he would be the tallest player to do so and probably the best player on defense of the other eight.
MVP Embiid was on full display in their game against the Miami Heat. The Sixers have been one of the more impressive Eastern Conference teams so far, but COVID got to them quickly. Mass amounts of players out forced three straight Sixer losses. Following the game, Embiid said “I just felt like I needed to take matters into my own hands.” He did just that posting 45 points, 16 rebounds, 5 steals, and one block. On top of the ridiculous stat line, Embiid scored all eleven of the Sixers overtime points, and came away with a W.
He has been almost unstoppable at the offensive end, but it’s his defense that is really propelling him into the MVP talks. Coming off a game with a career best five steals, he has posted at least one steal or block in every game and had 2 or more blocks and steals in 7 of his 10 games.
Embiid has shown his MVP ability through 10 games so far, but what must be done for him to actually win the award? In my opinion the first thing that he needs to do is simple: play. Many players are going to miss games because of the odd offseason. Voter fatigue, stars resting, and others’ weak supporting casts could hurt the top candidates chances. Embiid needs to consistently be out there to remind voters of his importance. The best ability is availability, and he won’t win it if he can’t stay out there.
The other part of his MVP campaign that would bolster his case the most is the Sixers finishing top 2 in the East. Many people wrote off the Sixers before the year started because of them being in a conference with Milwaukee, Boston, Miami, and Brooklyn. If we see the Sixers pass all their preseason expectations and get a top 2 seed, Embiid’s case for MVP might be better than anyone else’s.