Despite seemingly being second-fiddle to Nikola Jokic for the third consecutive season in this year’s MVP race, the narratives for Joel Embiid’s bid are starting to shift.
In the past, no matter what the big man did, he couldn’t quite top Jokic for the award. But while Jokic has still been great, and continues to do things no center has done before, Embiid’s chances of snagging the MVP seem to be rising.
Here are three reasons Embiid is trending upwards lately towards his first career MVP.
Everyone knows Embiid can score; he won the scoring title last year and is on pace to win it again with his 33.4 points per game.
But on the other end of the floor, he’s one of the game’s most feared rim protectors. And lately, he’s been just as great defensively as offensively.
Embiid is sixth in the league in blocks per game, and he’s notched three blocks in three consecutive games. While he’s always been a great rim protector, he’s been more engaged on that end over the past few weeks.
The 76ers star has a clear argument over Jokic on the defensive end; if the voters value defense, it will lean them towards Embiid. He’s been the anchor of a 76ers defense that ranks third in the NBA in allowed opponent points per game.
If Embiid remains locked in defensively, and steps up to the challenge of guarding the other teams’ best bigs while protecting the rim, his two-way dominance can’t be ignored in MVP talks.
Recent 76ers Hot Streak
As Embiid continues to play even better all-around basketball, the 76ers have gone up with him.
Philadelphia is now just three games back from the Eastern Conference’s first seed, and their .672 winning percentage is fourth in the league, behind the Bucks, Celtics and Nuggets, who have just one more win.
If a voter values winning, Embiid has that argument. Since December 9, the 76ers have the best record in the NBA. They were 12-12 then, and have gone 33-10 since.
Embiid is the centerpiece of all the success. The more he dominates, the more the Sixers win; the team is currently on a five-game win streak.
Jokic’s Nuggets are atop the Western Conference, but the 76ers are sneaking up on them in the win column; either way, Embiid has strongly contributed to victories over the past few months.
Sometimes it isn’t just about the points and blocks; it’s about when they happen.
When things are close down the stretch for the 76ers, Embiid only gets better. On Friday, Embiid hit a turn-around game-winner to complete a comeback over the Portland Trail Blazers, adding another big moment to his highlight reel this season.
In crunch time, Embiid has had some huge buckets from all over the floor; whether it’s from deep, in the midrange or hitting clutch free throws, he’s proven all season long that he can will the 76ers to victory in the last few minutes of a game.
Typically, voters will look for an “MVP moment” that helps solidify a player’s case. There’s plenty to pick from for Embiid.
He’s had massive clutch moments against the Grizzlies, Bucks, Trail Blazers, Jazz, and Bulls, just to name a few.
If you’re looking for MVP moments in clutch situations, Embiid has a clear argument.
Featured image courtesy of Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images