Should Joel Embiid seek a second MVP or focus on his health?

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Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid argues with an official during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

With an MVP and two scoring titles under his belt at age 29, Joel Embiid has become the most dominant center in the NBA and shows no signs of slowing down.

This season, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ superstar has averaged 35 points, 6 assists, and 11.7 rebounds — all increases from last year’s MVP season, in which he averaged 33.1 points, 4.2 assists, and 10.2 rebounds.

If stats alone could tell the story, Embiid would be on track for a second MVP — and this is still likely, as there are 50 regular season games to go before the playoffs and a lot of time for him to continue proving his dominance.

Embiid
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, right, goes up for a dunk against Chicago Bulls’ Coby White during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The MVP race comes down to voting, which comes down to the eye test, which is incredibly subjective. A third scoring title is also looking likely for Embiid, as no one else is averaging anywhere close to his 35 points per game.

Over the course of his eight-year NBA career, it’s become clear that Joel Embiid can be injury-prone at times. Most recently, he’s been sidelined with a right ankle sprain, missing four of the Sixers’ past five games until returning Tuesday night in a matchup against the Chicago Bulls.

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, right, reacts after an injury during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Embiid has played in 26 of 33 games this season, but this injury is his first major setback this year, and his first streak of games is missed. Luckily, over the past few years, he hasn’t been downright plagued with injuries as he often was in the past, but it still makes fans nervous to see him take a second to get up after taking a charge or grab his hand for a moment after a collision with another player.

No matter how many regular season awards a player may receive during their career, nothing is as satisfying as a championship. NBA fans across the board have mockingly declared the reigning MVP unable to get past the second round of the playoffs, and after years and years of never quite being able to carry the team to the conference finals, Sixers fans have begun to worry time and time again that he would request a trade. However, it’s clear that despite everything, Embiid is still dedicated to Philly.

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid reacts after the 76ers won an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Friday, March 10, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This year’s Sixers team has been impressive — they’ve gone 23-10 this season, with two of those losses coming while he has been sidelined over the past week. Despite early-season drama with James Harden, Kelly Oubre being hit by a car after putting up personal-record numbers, and Embiid’s recent ankle sprain, the Sixers have held up remarkably well in the face of adversity. Tyrese Maxey is developing into a young superstar, Patrick Beverly is still walking chaos at 35 years old, Oubre has recovered remarkably and continues to lead the bench unit, De’Anthony Melton is proving himself in an incredibly important contract year, and Paul Reed is becoming a solid young center.

Although the Sixers obviously still flounder in tough matchups without their superstar center leading the way, they are no longer the absolute train wreck they often used to be in Embiid’s absence. With guidance from 2020 Coach of the Year Nick Nurse, the Philadelphia 76ers have become a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference, currently sitting third in the standings.

While Embiid can choose to continue singlehandedly carrying the Sixers as he’s been doing for all these years, it’s clear that he no longer has to and can take some time to rest or not rush back from injuries. With another MVP award likely, he just has to lock in and lead the team to a championship.