Halfway through the season and Joel “The Process” Embiid has apparently pulled even with LeBron James in the race for league MVP. Having a career year, with his team in first place in the Eastern Conference, Embiid has been a dynamic force on both ends of the floor all season long. And despite being the subject of criticism for everything from social media, to injuries, to his diet, to his motivation, the shape he’s in, he’s at least now getting the respect he deserves among betting sharps. He’s averaging 30.2 points per game, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 steals, 3.3 assists, 11.6 rebounds, 85.6 percent from the free-throw line (!) on a league-leading 11.6 FT attempts per game (!) and 41.6 percent from downtown. Oh, and he’s probably headed for one of the two All-Defensive teams.
To borrow a phrase from former Liberty Baller, Kyle Neubeck, who writes for The PhillyVoice, it’s some “alien s*it.”
To borrow a phrase from former Liberty Baller, Mike Levin, and his cohost Spike Eskin of Rights to Ricky Sanchez pod “we were always right.” But honestly, did even Joel’s ultimate believers', people like Kevin Boyle, Bill Self, Brett Brown or Sam Hinkie have any idea he’d be this good?
“But LeBron now has some company: 76ers center Joel Embiid (also +225) has been an utter force this season. Philadelphia’s big man has finally been optimized on offense, completely dominating in the post with little resistance. Philly sits atop the Eastern Conference heading into the break, largely thanks to Embiid’s career year (30.2 ppg/11.6 rpg on sublimely efficient 52/41/85 shooting splits). As the season progresses, it’s looking more and more like the MVP will come down to James and Embiid.”
According to Jenna Ciccotelli, of Bleacher Report, Embiid is actually the odds on favorite to win the award on Fanduel. Over at OddsShark, LeBron James is still a sizable favorite, but Embiid has overtaken names like Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic, and the man with a heck of a claim in his own right for the award, Nikola Jokic of Denver (+450). Embiid’s odds of +225 give him an implied 30.77 percent chance to win the 2021 KIA MVP Trophy.
He began the year at less than 2.5 percent, a meteoric rise.
Not even this flagrant foul by LeBron, which may have exacerbated some back tightness Jo was dealing with, really slowed him down:
Joel Embiid on LeBron James flagrant foul— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) January 28, 2021
“That was a very dangerous play. I guarantee if it was me I would have been thrown out of the game”
Joel is hoping back is ok
(By the way, when was the last time Daryl Morey didn’t have a top MVP candidate on his roster, he must be getting used to this, huh?)
Battle for the sexiest narrative
One of the most important factors when it comes to winning this award is the ever-important narrative that swirls amongst the national media like a cyclone of tepid and scorching takes and that’s where the Sixers record might come into play.
According to MyBookie.AG, the Sixers have an implied 17.5 percent chance to maintain their Eastern Conference first-place standing. Bettors actually predict the Nets (rumored today to be favorites to sign Blake Griffin via buyout market) to wind up with the best record in the East, and the Bucks to finish second overall. Nate Silver’s projection model at 538 predicts the Nets to finish a game ahead of Philadelphia by the season’s end, as the top two seeds. But it feels like the Nets trio of dominance in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden might cannibalize each other’s individual MVP odds a bit.
Would the Sixers need a top seed in order for voters to deliver The Process the upcoming award? If the top three candidates as of today are LeBron James, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic, it would at least imply the voters are comfortable punching their ticket for a player on a team that did not wind up with a top seed; after all, the Utah Jazz have a 3.5 game lead over the Lakers, and neither Donovan Mitchell nor Rudy Gobert is among top favorites as of today.
An All Star Game MVP award wouldn’t hurt his cause, but there is still half of a season to play, so let’s not get too excited.
Are we dreaming?
OK, sorry it’s too late, I got excited! Can you even imagine how cool it would be if Jo won MVP? After Philadelphia was a national punching bags for years of tanking and then having to listen to everyone on TV take a victory lap for another few years that it wasn’t worth it as Jo nursed foot injuries, then knee injuries. Then Ben Simmons had a foot injury. And having to hear everyone on ESPN and TNT (hell, even Team President Twitter burner accounts) for YEARS always talk about how he’s injury-prone, out of shape, unmotivated, too interested in social media, doesn’t play just like Shaq, shoots too many 3s, isn’t a true top star because he voiced concerns regarding the virus entering the bubble....
Sigh. I’m almost out of breath reliving the cacophony of hatorade the franchise and its stars have endured in large part because of Sam Hinkie’s unabashed cunning and resourcefulness.
But many of you showed up in 2014, long before Embiid was even active, and the average ticket was still about $39 bucks, although you could still score a nose-bleed for $14. Stephen A. Smith roared on television that it was a disgrace the team charged so much for tickets while shamelessly tanking, but what he didn’t talk about was how his beloved Knicks were even worse around 2015 while charging more than three times per ticket at the Garden. Oops.
Now look at the results of that friggin’ process so far.
Joel has most often been compared to Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, and it almost kind of feels like we’re the ones dreaming.
This dude played pick-up games with regular doofuses like us on Lombard street.
If you were the one in blue shorts who got doinked would you ever wash your face again? How much could dude make on E-Bay auctioning off the blue shorts this went down in? I’d bid.
Embiid is beyond likable.
After everything this franchise went through, from tanking to yips to sesame allergies, to draft busts having bar fights, for all the highs and lows Joel has now lived, everything from losing a brother, the injuries, the electricity of his first NBA game, Kawhi’s shot, getting engaged, losing a puppy, becoming a father... man I know the ultimate goal is a championship, and I’d much much prefer that, but it would still be surreal if Joel Embiid won that trophy, wouldn’t it?
He’s an international treasure and he lives down the block from many of you reading this, you may have unknowingly played against him online in video games, and he’s playing like the best basketball player alive right now. He has a realistic shot to become the first Sixer since Allen Iverson, who did it 20 years ago, to win an MVP. This is why you Trusted the Process.