The Philadelphia 76ers had a very up and down 2021-22 season. With All-Star point guard Ben Simmons demanding a trade and eventually refusing to play even a second more for the 76ers, the season expectations started low. The Sixers starting off relatively slow this year compared to years past but there was one stabilizing force. It was the Embiid Show early on in the year for Philadelphia, with Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Seth Curry taking turns being Embiid’s sidekick.
However, despite this slow start, Simmons’ continued absence, and the inconsistency of the supporting cast, Embiid carried the 76ers to a top-four seed, accumulating multiple Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards this season. Thanks to this high level of play, the Sixers came to the trade deadline as a playoff team with a Ben Simmons trade ready to be executed in exchange for Brooklyn’s James Harden.
Beyond just what he overcame this year, Embiid’s stats back up that he was amazing this season, if not slightly undersell just how “valuable” he was this season. Joel Embiid led the entire NBA in points, becoming the first center to do that since Shaquille O’Neal in the 99’-00’ season. Embiid also averaged over 30 points per game at 30.6, something that hadn’t been done for a center since 1982, when Moses Malone accomplished the feat.
Joel Embiid also set a career-high this year in games played, showing how his conditioning and maturity only continue to grow. Yet, despite his scoring, his increase in games, all the awards, and what he had to overcome, Joel Embiid finished second in MVP voting behind Denver’s Nikola Jokic for the second straight year.
Despite the voting, many now, especially with the hindsight of the playoffs, recognize that Embiid should have been the MVP. The man played extremely well in the Raptors series, including a game-winning three-point shot in overtime. He averaged 26.2 points per game for the 76ers in the six-game series, all while playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb, but his season was in jeopardy when he suffered an orbital fracture and mild concussion against the Raptors, an injury that would keep him out for the start of the 76ers’ next series against the Miami Heat.
Without Embiid, the 76ers lost their first two games of the second-round series, but Embiid made a miraculous recovery and returned from concussion protocol with a new mask and energy for his team. With Embiid returning, the Sixers would win their first two home games, although the Heat would go on to win in six games as Embiid’s long line of injuries would prove too difficult to overcome.
Embiid had a historical season and should have won the League’s Most Valuable Player. He was dominant on both sides of the ball, as he always is but had to carry an especially large offensive load this season, and he did so to near perfection. However, the former Jayhawk still has not left the second round of the playoffs, and despite his absolute dominance, his injuries in this year’s playoffs prevent him from getting an A+.