Joel Embiid is coming off of one of the most impressive seasons in NBA history where he broke a variety of records. He proved to be a true NBA superstar and proved his place amongst the NBA’s most elite. The Sixers big man put the franchise on his back, navigated through the Ben Simmons drama, and allowed the team to remain in the contending mix. Embiid set a career-high in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He also was the first center to lead the NBA in scoring since Shaquille O’Neil in the 1999-2000 season.
The superstar seemed to have a strong lead in the MVP race throughout the duration of the season but saw this dissipate near the finish line. For the second consecutive season, Joel Embiid came up second in MVP voting at the hands of Nikola Jokic. The Serbian big man took a late leap in the minds of media members and was handed the award once again last season.
It is frustrating that Embiid left such an impressive season with few accolades to show for it, but he shows no signs of slowing down. The 28-year-old has added layers to his game each season and should be expected to do the same next year. He enters the season as one of the leading favorites for MVP for the upcoming 2022-23 season once again.
- Luka Doncic: +450
- Joel Embiid: +450
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: +500
- Nikola Jokic: +1000
- Kevin Durant: +1200
- Jayson Tatum: +1200
- Steph Curry: +1200
It is extremely clear at this point that the narrative plays a role in the MVP voting. Embiid himself has mentioned how he feels the goal posts have continually shifted and certainly has a point about this. The addition of James Harden seemed to weaken Embiid’s MVP case last year despite his strong play with and without the point guard. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it is likely this media narrative will play a role in this year’s voting. His play will certainly need to be up to par to what he has shown in recent years, but this unfortunately may not be all that matters.
The Case for Joel Embiid
The first thing to acknowledge when looking at Joel Embiid’s chances is who he is going against. There is a strong push for Luka Doncic who led the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals last season in a heroic and high-usage season. Doncic was the only player in the NBA to register a higher usage rate than Joel Embiid last season. The loss of Jalen Brunson further forces Doncic into the spotlight and paves the way for a potential MVP season. If he can continue to push Dallas into the contending conversation there will certainly be a strong case for him.
What about the competition?
Nikola Jokic will search to become just the fourth player in NBA history to win three straight MVPs. Voter fatigue will certainly be a major hurdle in this becoming possible as well as the return of Michael Porter Jr and Jamal Murray. While theoretically, this should not play a role in Jokic’s performance and thus the quality of his MVP resume, previous voting would indicate otherwise.
Giannis also is certain to be in the conversation with his dominant and high-usage play although he won MVP in 2019 and 2020. The Greek Freak has added notable layers to his game since this time but has not seen the MVP voting to show for it. There also are certain to be some surprising candidates emerging during the year.
On the other side of things, there is some sense of feeling that this may be the year Joel Embiid’s red carpet is laid for MVP. He is the most important player on both sides of the ball for the Sixers and has arguably his most complete team surrounding him. Health is always the biggest question mark as he set a career-high with 68 games last season. He is a special talent and it feels he has not received the national recognition he deserves just yet. The Sixers are set to play 34 of their 82 games on national TV and have more eyes on them than usual. Embiid has never been shy to step into the spotlight and has a chance to capitalize on these extra eyes this season.
The Case Against Joel Embiid
There is a pessimistic point of view that makes it tough to imagine Joel Embiid can improve on last season’s heroic performance. Eclipsing 30 points per game is an impressive feat and setting career-highs in so many statistical categories. If James Harden has the bounce-back season that is hoped, or Tyrese Maxey continues his rapid development into stardom, it also could limit the number of offensive touches that Embiid will receive. The offense will certainly still be centered around him, but the 37.2% usage rate which ranked second in the NBA last season could take a dip.
As Embiid himself has indicated, there is no true blueprint for what he must do to receive MVP recognition. The Process himself has stated his intentions are purely on the team’s success and the Sixers will surely be focused on finally getting over their second-round playoff plateau. However, if some well-earned individual accolades occur along the way, they would certainly be welcomed.
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