Ex-Celtics Player Debates Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic for MVP

Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic

Getty Who would you rather start an NBA franchise with: Sixers center Joel Embiid or Mavericks guard Luka Doncic?

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid is the odds-on favorite to win NBA MVP this year. It’s barely debatable, with Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić his closest competition.

Embiid has turned into the true foundational building block the Sixers anticipated when they made him the third overall pick in 2014. He’s a “special talent, a 275-pound Hakeem Olajuwon,” according to Kendrick Perkins. The former Boston Celtics center turned ESPN analyst has been greatly impressed with Embiid’s development.

Perkins was asked to pick the one player he would want to start an NBA franchise with on ESPN’s “Get Up” show. He chose Embiid over Dončić in a hotly-debated topic, adding Dončić has a “lot of miles on him.”

“When I look at a guy to start my team today, if I had to draft a guy number one, it would be Joel Embiid,” Perkins said. “He is the closest thing. He is a 275-pound Hakeem Olajuwon. Special talent. Averaging 30 points and 11 rebounds. And by the way you talk about youth? He’s only 26 years of age, he hasn’t even reached his prime. And guess what? He’s on the verge of probably winning the MVP.”

The 7-footer has been filling up the stat sheet in 28 games: 30.0 points, 11.3 rebounds 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 41.5% from beyond the arc. He’s also shooting 50% from the field. Insane. The last four players to win the MVP award while averaging 30 points and shooting 50% from the field were Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Michael Jordan (back-to-back years).

Embiid, Harris Questionable vs. Pacers

The Sixers may have to play without their 26-year-old big man tonight versus the Indiana Pacers. Embiid was listed as questionable after rolling his left ankle in Saturday’s overtime loss. He stayed in the game despite soreness and finished with a gritty 42 points and 13 rebounds.

“We’ve got to create for each other,” Embiid said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think we still don’t shoot enough threes. I think we’ve just to create for each other and if you’re wide open, just let it fly.”

Meanwhile, swing forward Tobias Harris (right knee contusion) sat out Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers after leaving early on Feb. 25. He’s also listed as questionable for Monday’s contest. The Sixers host the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m.

Doc Rivers Getting Most Out of Embiid

Embiid has been widely criticized in previous years for not honing his craft, sometimes goofing around too much and not taking care of his body.

Well, that appears to be in the rear-view mirror since new head coach Doc Rivers took the reins. Embiid admitted that Rivers has played a key role in his marked improvement. However, the Sixers big man didn’t want to throw old coach Brett Brown under the bus.

“It’s no different than what coach Brown did in the past, but there’s an emphasis on just doing that all the time,” Embiid said, via Yahoo! Sports. “If I’m taking a bunch of jumpers, especially depending on how the defense is guarding me, he’ll tell me just keep attacking, just attack, gotta get to the basket.”

There has been one other factor in Embiid’s maturity this year. He and his girlfriend, Anne De Paula, welcomed their darling son — Arthur Embiid — into the world in September. It’s inspired him to play better, too.

“Just watching him grow every single day makes me better,” Embiid said of Arthur. “I think that’s also part of me being better this year.”

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