Where is Joel Embiid’s MVP Love?

Joel Embiid
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, tries to get past Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This season may just be Joel Embiid‘s best season, yet the Philadelphia 76ers‘ star and runner-up for the last two MVPs isn’t getting much attention in the National Spotlight. Is it a result of voter fatigue? While Jokic and Embiid have been the winner and runner-up for the last two years, other players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum currently have the highest odds of winning the award, followed closely behind Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks. While each of these players has legitimate claims to the title, so does Joel Embiid.

Right now, Joel Embiid is setting career highs in points (33.0), assists (4.6), field goal percentage (52.9%), effective field goal percentage (55.7%), and steals per game (4.6). The 76ers centerpiece is on pace to once again lead the league in scoring for the second year in a row. He has had 30+ points in all but one game in December, including a monstrous 53-point game against the Charlotte Hornets (which wasn’t even his season high).

If we compare his stats to a few other MVP candidates, the numbers show that he should be getting more attention in the MVP race.

Embiid Compared to Tatum, Antetokounmpo

Jayson Tatum, the current betting favorite to win MVP, is averaging fewer points per game (30.2 to 22.0), fewer assists per game (4.1 to 4.6), on worse field goal efficiency (47.0% to 52.9%). Their three-point percentage is similar, with Tatum narrowly edging out Embiid (35.8% to 35.3%). While Embiid’s rebounding may be down this year (9.9 per game), it is still higher than Tatum’s 8.2 rebounds per game. The only credit Tatum has over Embiid is that the Celtics are currently a higher seed in the standings. This isn’t me discrediting Tatum, but attempting to show the whole picture comparatively to Joel Embiid.

Looking at Giannis, the former MVP is also having a stellar season. He is currently averaging 31.0 points per game (less than Embiid), 11.1 rebounds per game (more than Embiid), and 5.2 assists per game (more than Embiid) while shooting 53.3% from the field (higher than Embiid), and 26.3% from three (lower than Embiid). While the offensive side of the ball may favor Giannis in many categories, Joel closes the gap between the two superstars on the defensive side of the ball.

While it cannot be debated that Giannis is an exceptionally good defender, Joel Embiid’s stats speak for himself. Currently, both players are on teams that value defense. The Milwaukee Bucks hold a defensive rating of 107.8, the second-best in the league. The Philadelphia 76ers hold the third-best defensive rating in the league at 108.5. However, what stands out between the two is the counting stats. Currently, Joel Embiid is averaging more blocks per game (1.5 to 1.0) and steals per game (1.2 to 0.8). While it is not necessarily clear-cut which of these players is the better defender, or even the better player in general, it should be noted that Giannis receives far more MVP talk than Embiid does with very similar numbers.

Where is the Love?

While Joel Embiid may not be the only true MVP candidate, he has shown through his exceptional play that he deserves to be in the MVP talk. He is the best player on an incredible team who has shown the ability to take over games at will. Just look at his performances this year. While Embiid may end up snubbed once again from an MVP, he deserves to be in the conversation this year.