In both of the last two NBA seasons, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has finished second in MVP voting behind Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
Embiid, along with Jokic and plenty of other stars, is firmly in the MVP race yet again this season. Here is the dominant big man’s case about halfway through the year to finally take home the hardware.
MVP Scoring Ability
Embiid, who won the scoring title last season, has continued to prove he has unlimited scoring ability.
No matter where the big man is on the floor, he’s a major threat. Whether it’s a pull-up in the midrange, a catch-and-shoot from deep, being physical in the paint, or drawing contact to get to the line, Embiid is as close you can get to unguardable.
“The Process” is averaging 33.6 points per game on 53.7/35.2/85.6 splits. While he does currently trail Luka Doncic in the scoring column, his current scoring average would still be the highest since his current teammate, James Harden, put up 34.3 points per game with the Houston Rockets in the 2019-20 season.
Embiid’s nearly unmatched ability to put the ball in the basket should give him an edge over other candidates when it comes to scoring workload.
[Related: Joel Embiid Posts Career-High 59 Points]
The 76ers had a slow start to the year. Injuries to Embiid, Harden and Tyrese Maxey hurt the team early on, but the team has started to surge ahead in the Eastern Conference, going 17-4 in its last 21 games.
Philadelphia is tied for the second seed in the conference with the Milwaukee Bucks right now, trailing the first-seeded Boston Celtics by 4.5 games.
With Embiid at the forefront of the squad’s success, he certainly has the team success argument that factors into an MVP race. Maintaining a top seed in the conference will be key if he wants to take home his first MVP award.
Embiid’s Defensive Impact
One area where Embiid may stand out the most from other MVP candidates: his two-way impact. Not only is he dominating opponents offensively, but on the other end of the floor, he has anchored one of the top defenses in the NBA.
The 76ers have allowed the third-fewest opponent PPG mark in the league. When its star center is off the floor, the Philadelphia defense is allowing 6.5 more points per 100 possessions, signaling the defensive impact of Embiid.
Embiid, averaging 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steal per game, can shut down opposing team’s drives to the bucket, and is a massive piece to one of the league’s best defensive units.
Narrowing Down the MVP Candidates
There are many names that have been brought up in the NBA MVP race this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Donovan Mitchell have come up in many talks. However, the real race for the award seems to be coming down to four players.
Embiid, Jokic, Doncic and Jayson Tatum have been at the top of MVP talks all year, with each having special seasons that deserve a lot of attention.
Doncic is averaging a league-leading 33.7 points a night, along with 8.8 assists. His Dallas Mavericks are just 24-22 though, hurting his chance over the other candidates.
Tatum certainly has the team success argument, with Boston’s 34 wins being the most in the NBA. He doesn’t quite have the numbers advantage over the other three standouts, however.
The Celtics’ star forward is averaging 31.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists; his numbers are undoubtedly impressive, but not quite to Embiid, Jokic or Doncic’s level.
Doncic, Tatum and the rest of the field have a few strong arguments, but just like the last two seasons, this MVP race is all about the big men.
Embiid vs. Jokic
Picking between these two centers is like picking between your two favorite foods. Both are fantastic in their own ways, so you have to nitpick a bit to choose a winner.
Jokic has the edge in team wins, along with assists, rebounds and steals per game. “The Joker” has been absurdly efficient as a scorer while orchestrating the Denver offense with his passing.
Embiid has been the better scorer and defender this season, and the 76ers only trail the Nuggets by three wins.
No matter which way the MVP swings this year, it will come down to the wire.
Jokic is cruising his way to a third-straight MVP; Embiid seems to be the only one capable of snatching that from him right now, unless Doncic or Tatum can solidify their argument.
In order for a Joel Embiid MVP season to happen, he will have to avoid missing more games, continue his outstanding play and keep Philadelphia at the top of the Eastern Conference.
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Featured image courtesy of Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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