Joel Embiid has made a strong push for the NBA’s 2021 MVP Award, but his case should be built on production, not politics.
Unsurprisingly, Sixers star Joel Embiid has been listed as one of three finalists for the NBA Most Valuable Player award- alongside Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Warriors guard Steph Curry. Embiid, 27, has long been on the shortlist of options to take home the MVP honors and earn the title as one of the upper echelon talents in the league. All season long, Embiid has anchored the East-leading Sixers on both sides of the ball. Already an incredibly talented all-star, the former top-five draft pick evolved into one of the top players in the NBA this year.
This season, his first under head coach Doc Rivers, Embiid averaged 28.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.4 BPG, and 1.0 SPG in 51 games played. The skilled big man was flat out dominant in his fifth NBA campaign, proving to be the superstar Philly dreamed he could be when they selected him third overall in the 2014 draft.
Averaging just shy of 30 points per outing, Embiid serves as one of the most unstoppable forces the league has to offer. When matched up with the Philly star, opposing defenders are rendered helpless as Embiid has his way on the court.
“As far as MVP, I’ve been dominant all season, Embiid said following a regular-season win over Brooklyn. “When I get the ball, it’s either a foul or a bucket. I feel like I’m right there.”
The Sixers star has every right to be confident in his play and MVP chances. The last two players to reach the 28 PPG and 10 RPG on 51% FG numbers that Embiid has this season each won MVP- Giannis Antentokounmpo last season and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000-01.
Joel Embiid has played like a man possessed all year, bullying defenders in the post to generate points on a routine basis. The Cameroonian big man seemed to have no flaws this season as he grinded his way into the MVP conversation. Already known for his superb defense, Embiid proved to be equally adept on the other side of the floor.
His 23 games of 30+ points are tied for the most of any center in the NBA with Nikola Jokic, and he is the only big man to score 40+ points five or more times this season.
“I don’t think teams really know what to do when guarding him,” said Ben Simmons. “I think he’s clearly the MVP this season. He’s been so dominant and consistent this whole year, and he’s been healthy, which has been great for us. So, I don’t know how to stop him.”
At his size, Embiid is simply too much for defenders to handle. His blend of size and skill is what makes him such a dangerous offensive threat, and his play is a huge reason the Sixers are so confident in their title chances.
Unfortunately, many people have tried to discredit Embiid’s MVP candidacy, arguing that he has played in too few games this season to take home the honors. Those who are unsure of Embiid’s MVP worthiness tend to point out that Nikola Jokic, another MVP finalist, played in every game this season and thus carried more value to his team.
The argument carries a little weight on the surface, as one must be present to be valuable to a team. Embiid, however, was present for most of the year. If it weren’t for a knee injury knocking him out of the lineup for ten games, Embiid would have easily played in over 80 percent of the regular-season games. Additionally, even with the injury, Embiid still played in enough contests to qualify amongst the NBA stat leaders- making it harder to ignore the legitimacy of his MVP case.
Furthermore, when on the court, Embiid clearly carried tremendous value. In the 51 games he started, the Sixers went 39-12. His play helped the Sixers overcome a highly competitive Eastern Conference and paved the way for them to secure the No.1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
Finishing the season fifth in points per game, Embiid proved to be one of the top five talents in the NBA and is absolutely deserving of MVP honors. Only time will tell if he winds up winning the award, but regardless of the outcome, he is certainly the Sixers team MVP and the engine behind their title quest.