For the second-straight season, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid is in the discussion for Most Valuable Player. Despite another strong campaign in 2022, the All-Star center finds himself in of the tightest MVP races in recent history.
After falling just short last year to Nikola Jokic, Embiid pulled out all the stops this time around. Coming off a career year, he managed to take his game to new heights once again. En route to building an iron-clad MVP resume, Embiid also etched his name in the history books.
With Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting out the regular-season finale, Embiid secured the NBA scoring title. He became the first international-born player to lead the league in scoring and the first center to do so since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. It’s also worth noting Shaq took home the MVP award that year.
While there are multiple players worthy of winning MVP, few have the full all-around case Embiid has after the year he had.
When dissecting Embiid’s case for MVP, the first thing to look at is the numbers. This season, he posted career-highs in points (30.6), assists (4.2), and steals (1.1) per game while bringing down close to 12 rebounds and blocking two shots a night. Embiid was also very efficient shooting the ball, posting shooting splits of .499/.371/.814.
Dating back to last season, Embiid has cemented himself as the most dominant force in the NBA. While his dominant box scores jump off the page, how efficient he is with his time is what should stand out. This season, Embiid posted one of the lowest minutes per game in history for a player who scored at least 30 points a night.
Embiid did it all for the Sixers every night and on both ends of the floor. From a raw numbers perspective, he certainly belongs as a frontrunner for the award.
As we know, averages and stat lines aren’t enough when it comes to securing the MVP trophy. Easily the most important element of a player’s case is their narrative. In that department, Embiid trumps the competition.
Dating back to last summer, the Ben Simmons saga was one of the biggest storylines in professional basketball. While the former no. 1 pick sat out in hopes of a trade, a dark cloud formed over the rest of the team.
A public stalemate between player and organization of this degree would have derailed most locker rooms, but not the Sixers. Part of what kept the group close together was the leadership of Embiid. No matter how ugly things got, Embiid remained professional and kept the team afloat with his dominant play.
Nikola Jokic also had to play without the services of his best teammates, but Embiid’s situation is much different. On top of being without an All-Star teammate, he had to regularly field questions regarding the holdout and see his team in headlines every day.
To endure the mental fatigue of that months-long ordeal while keeping your team competitive is an incredible feat. Pairing this narrative with Embiid’s dominant production and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be the favorite to win MVP this season.