This season’s MVP race has involved the usual suspects: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Nikola Jokic. However, this morning NBA.com’s MVP ladder underwent dramatic changes, and one of them has undoubtedly caught the attention of Sixers’ fans everywhere: All-Star Center Joel Embiid has rocketed from the ninth spot to fourth, one spot ahead of Steph Curry.
Embiid, who finished second in last year’s MVP voting (which, barring injuries and missed games, he would’ve won, but that’s a story for another day) was off to a rocky start this year. Offensively, his touch wasn’t there, and the NBA’s switch to Wilson basketballs might be partially responsible.
On his cold shooting at the beginning of the season, Embiid told reporters, “I’m always looking for excuses but the ball is different. Still don’t feel comfortable with it… Last year, I was the best midrange shooter in the league. So some point it’s gonna come back.”
A few days later, Embiid tested positive for COVID, which sidelined him for nine games and further delayed his adjustment to the new season. Following this heartbreaking news, Sixers fans wondered when, if ever, they would have a chance to see that MVP-caliber Joel Embiid we saw last year.
Now that he’s back, the narrative has changed completely. Embiid returned from health and safety protocols and started playing with the dominance, skill and attitude Sixers fans know and love. Remember when he said he was the best midrange shooter in the league, and at some point it would come back? Well, he is certainly a man of his word. So far this season, Embiid is a few buckets shy of averaging 50-40-90, which would make him the first seven-foot big man to join the club since Dirk Nowitzki. Although it’s still early in the season, I don’t think it’s too unrealistic for him to have a shot at joining the 50-40-90 club, especially with the way he’s been playing lately.
In the month of December, Embiid was nothing short of incredible. Across the Sixers’ 13 games in December, The Process averaged 29.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. He tallied eight double-doubles, one triple-double, and a season-high 43 points. On top of all that, Embiid has had five straight 30-plus point nights, and he’s looking to extend his streak tonight against the Spurs.
His contributions haven’t gone unnoticed, as Embiid’s stellar performances on both ends of the floor earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Month and the third most NBA All-Star fan votes in the East for frontcourt players. Now with the big fella breaking the MVP ladder’s top five, Sixers fans can be more optimistic with his chance to earn the award and recognition that he rightfully deserves.