After two consecutive seasons of being robbed of his MVP status, Joel Embiid has made clear he’s not putting himself in the running this year. While a bummer, this offseason has shown us that these guys are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to secure a ring. And nowhere is that more clear than Embiid- and the teams’ – renewed focus on defense.
Joel Embiid sets the record straight
One of Embiid’s highlights from the 2022 Media Day was his goal of making the Sixers the biggest defensive threat in the league. And between the team’s offseason signings (just look at Danuel House absolutely torching Devin Booker!), the noted defensive strides by players like Paul Reed and even Tyrese Maxey(!), and the focus on defense in training camp, it sure seems like the team is making strides in that direction. And if Embiid – already a top-tier defender – is as laser-focused here as the reports are saying, it wouldn’t be shocking to hear his name come up as a potential candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
This isn’t the first time Embiid has hinted at a DPOY run. After his first MVP robbery in 2020-2021, he shared his goal to win a DPOY and make the league’s All-Defensive Teams. And after nabbing Game 3 against the Raptors in the playoffs’ first round this year, Embiid expressed disdain about the lack of attention his dominant defensive performance has gotten.
Is 2022 the year of Joel Embiid?
And he’s got a point. As in all other aspects of his game, Embiid has taken steps to improve defensively over the past several years. While Matisse and (formerly) Ben Simmons were widely touted as the Sixers primary defenders, Embiid has been quietly building his presence as a fearsome rim protector. He ranked in the top 5 of DFGM and DFGA ratings (field goal percentages of opponents while being guarded by him) this past season, and jumped from 8.4 defensive rebounds per game in 2020-21 to 9.6 this past year. That’s the highest it’s been since the 2018 season. For what it’s worth, that was the last time Embiid had another explosive offensive threat in Jimmy Butler, allowing him to better distribute his energy.
If there was ever a time for Joel Embiid to legitimately make a DPOY run, you can’t really pick a better season. Harden and Maxey have taken a ton of offensive pressure off of him and he no longer needs to be the primary scorer on a nightly basis. As the Sixers aim to FINALLY win a championship this season, now is the perfect time for our MVP to remind everyone that he’s only continuing to get better.
As far as betting odds go, Joel Embiid is currently +1800 to win the DPOY award. Rudy Gobert is the favorite at +425 and Embiid is currently 8th place in the betting odds. If there is ever a time to bet on his success, it’s now.
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