Despite only playing one game last week, Philadelphia 76ers‘ star and reigning MVP Joel Embiid made such an impression in his return to the court that he has taken over the top spot on NBA.com’s Kia MVP Ladder.
After his 50-point outburst against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, Embiid has further extended his lead as the league’s scoring leader, now averaging 33.1 points per game. The next closest player is Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who is averaging 31.8 points a night.
While there remains much of the season to be played, Embiid has been on a torrid scoring pace for years now but over the past three seasons, he has taken it to another level as the top scorer in the league. Should Embiid finish this year atop the scoring leaders once again, he will join such notable names as James Harden, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, George Gervin, Wilt Chamberlain, Neil Johnston, and George Mikan as the only players in NBA history to do so.
The story for Embiid this season goes beyond his elite scoring numbers. His rebounding numbers have improved from last season but it’s been his improvement as a passer that as truly been exciting. Embiid is far exceeding his previous career-highs in assists per game (6.6) and assist percentage (33.7), which only tell a part of his success story as a passer this season.
He’s not on the level of Nikola Jokic as a passer, obviously, but no one is, and Embiid doesn’t have to be either, at least not in that regard.
These two stars are the faces of the greatest rivalry that never was. The two have often seemed publicly disinterested in playing up the rivalry as not only the league’s top two centers but also the top two players in the entire NBA—though Embiid’s sincerity could be fairly questioned, but the narrative will continue as long as they’re atop the league.
There’s a long way to go and some intriguing new names trying to force their way into the conversation, but for now, it looks like a two-man race for MVP for the third consecutive season.