Is this the season Joel Embiid finally wins the MVP Award? Many basketball fans, including yours truly, pegged the Philadelphia 76ers superstar as their choice to take home the hardware, though a few other players seem like more deserving candidates at the moment. The numbers are there for the Sixers’ big man and every so often, he reminds everyone that he can do things most players can only dream of.
The Sixers’ rough start to the season — which featured Embiid playing poorly to begin the season and missing games with various injuries — has made Embiid a mention in MVP conversations rather than a focal point of the conversation. His 59-point, near-quadruple-double masterpiece from November kicked his candidacy back into the spotlight and his most recent tear is boosting his case even more.
Embiid has scored at least 25 points in three of his last four halves. Prior to lighting up the Hornets or 28 points on 10-18 shooting in the first half and then 25 points on 10-14 shooting in the second half, he dropped 25 points on 10-11 shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers. He exited the 131-113 win against the Hornets with 53 points and 12 boards.
He also notched his 100th 30-point, 10-board game and did so in fewer games than any player in the last 40 years. He also became one of two Philly players with 30 games of 40 points and 10 boards. The other one is none other than Wilt Chamberlain.
A rim rocking jam by Embiid!
🔥 He finished the 1st half with 28 PTS 🔥
📲 https://t.co/1pomQZMAZK pic.twitter.com/8DjixGeIE2
— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2022
Say what you will about the Charlotte Hornets and Mason Plumlee, who surrendered many of Embiid’s buckets, but 25-point halves don’t come all too often, especially in consecutive games. Embiid is equipped with too many moves to stop — powerful takes to the hoop, skillful pull-up jumpers, post-up push shots, occasional 3-pointers, efficient foul shooting after drawing free-throw line trips consistently. And he is starting to show that double teams, the typical antidote to slowing him down, aren’t always a wise risk because of his improving passing abilities. Oh, and he can lock down opposing offenses with his size, intellect and shot-blocking prowess.
At 32.2 points per game coming into the Hornets matchup, Embiid would be second in the league in scoring if he played enough games. Luka Doncic edges him out by just 0.7 points entering Sunday’s games. The Sixers superstar is averaging career-highs in points per game, assists per game (4.9) and field-goal percentage (52.6 percent) but is also averaging just 9.7 rebounds, the lowest since his rookie season.
Embiid’s Sixers being a lackluster team so far this season has hurt his case, though, and he is not blameless for the inconsistent play they have displayed so far. With guys like Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo balling out and leading their teams to strong records, Embiid will have to help the Sixers get their wins up.
At several points this season, Joel Embiid looks like someone just going through the motions and living with the results. When he goes hard, he’s unstoppable, but he picks and chooses when to unleash the beast. A middle ground — not playing like it’s his last game while playing well enough to be the biggest difference-maker on the floor — evades him a little too often.
There’s no denying the elite talent Embiid has. It’s only a matter of if he brings the mentality that drives him to show all of it and prove his superiority to his opponents in any given game. When he does, next to no one can match up with him.
FanDuel Sportsbook lists Embiid’s odds of taking home the MVP at +1700, which are the fifth-best. As long as the Sixers show that they are a serious playoff team, Embiid should be a top candidate once again. Of course, whether the votes will be there for Joel Embiid remains to be seen but the Sixers’ big man will demand attention as a leading candidate yet again.