Sixers center Joel Embiid is having an MVP level season (which is INSANE)


As time wound down at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Sixers center Joel Embiid stepped to the line to help finish off the Utah Jazz and improve the Sixers record to 10-7.  As the Cameroonian 7-footer knocked down both of his free-throws, echoes of the chant “MVP! MVP!” sounded throughout the center.  And, for the first time since one Allen Iverson won the award in 2001, the Sixers have a legitimate candidate for the highest award someone in this league can win.

Embiid’s free throws at the end of this game put him at 23 for the night, a low number for the Embiid we’ve become used to this season who seems to put up 32 and 16 every other game.  OF course, Embiid responded the next night in Charlotte, putting up 18 points in the first quarter and finishing with 33 points and 11 rebounds.

Heading into Monday’s game against Phoenix, Embiid is averaging 27.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.  He is top-5 in all three categories and trails only Lebron James in point.  From last season, Embiid has improved his PPG, RPG, APG, free-throw percentage, three-point percentage, and is averaging nearly a turnover less per game.  He leads the league in FTA and FTM per game, getting to the line with ease and increasing his impact on the game. Even with the Jimmy Butler addition, Embiid is clearly the focal point of this team, one that should finish near the top of the Eastern Conference.

The insanity of Embiid’s transformation is one of the most underrated in all of pro-sports.  Embiid, who only started playing organized basketball eight years ago, played in only 28 college games before breaking his foot.  He was still drafted third overall, but it took him two full seasons until he could finally come back to the court following re-aggravations of his injury.  Embiid considered quitting the game in 2014, as his brother died and he was frustrated about his injury issues.  Flash forward a few years, and Embiid is one of the best players in the game.

Traditionally, the Most Valuable Player of the NBA is on a team that finishes near the top of its conference.  One recent exception was Russell Westbrook, who had such a historical season in averaging a triple-double that it did not matter that his 47-35 Thunder finished 6th in the Western Conference.  Overall, though, position in standings matters, and this should not be an issue for Embiid and the Sixers, who will finish top-3 in the conference barring injuries.

Embiid may still have an uphill battle to winning the award.  A center has not won the award since the 1999-2000 season, when Shaquille O’Neal did so.  It is hard for a center to win favor over other players in a league that has become dominated by guards.  Embiid isn’t a traditional center, however, and his domination inside the paint coupled with his ability to knock down all kinds of jumpers make him a good fit in today’s NBA.

There is still plenty of season left to be played, and many players have jumped out of the gate with great starts.  But, for now, Joel Embiid is in the thick of the MVP race, and he has earned it.


. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports