Joel Embiid had another big week. And the native from Yaoundė, Cameroon has surged past a couple superstars in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic on NBA.com’s KIA MVP ladder.
The Sixers won two of the last three games Embiid has appeared in. They’re now the third seed in the Eastern Conference, just a half game behind Giannis’ Milwaukee Bucks. But unlike The Greek Freak, who has enjoyed help from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday most of the season, Embiid has carried his team without the help of disgruntled former Sixers’ All-Star Ben Simmons. Embiid has only enjoyed playing in 12 games so far with new star running mate James Harden. (Although if I were a Nuggets fan, I’d certainly be making the case that Joel got to play all year with a budding star in Tyrese Maxey).
The Denver Nuggets lost three of their last four games. That’s probably why Jokic, the reigning MVP, lost the top spot he maintained a week ago.
The latest per Michael C. Wright of NBA.com on the newest front-runner for the 2022 MVP award:
“Embiid put together four straight games with at least 32 points, before finishing with 21 points in a loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors. Embiid sat out the following night against Miami due to back soreness, before returning Wednesday to drop another 30-piece against the Lakers that included 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals. Embiid leads the NBA in both 30-point games and 30-point outings with 10 rebounds, as Philadelphia sits just a half game behind Milwaukee at third in the East. The Sixers are 26-8 this season when Embiid scores 30 points or more. But they’ve got to be careful with the big man down the stretch because it’s apparent his back issue continues to linger.”
Just a week ago, Embiid was actually tied with Giannis for second place, and both international unicorns sat behind another in Jokic, who had recently helped defeat the Sixers at Wells Fargo Center. Joker, Process, and Freak are still mostly neck-and-neck. Sort of sounds like a new Marvel franchise, doesn’t it?
But Joel’s consistent dominance combined with the Nuggets mini-skid seems to have vaulted Embiid back to the top, a place he’s enjoyed for a fairly large portion of this season now. Oh yeah, and former MVP Kevin Durant thinks Embiid deserves the award too. So does another in James Harden. Bangs gavel.
The Sixers face the Bucks this coming Tuesday in what figures to be a critical game for determining playoff seeding. But it remains to be seen if both teams will really compete for that win.
Now that Brooklyn Nets’ superstar Kyrie Irving is back to full-time player status, he and Kevin Durant lay in wait to knock off one of the best teams in the Conference during round one of the playoffs. That just might give the top seeds more incentive to load-manage and prioritize health down the stretch.
Embiid’s back has bothered him a bit since the hard fall he took vs. the Nuggets, when JaMychal Green flagrant fouled him. JoJo seemed to favor the area in the last game vs. the Lakers as well.
But if both Bucks and Sixers came to play, that game might have some serious MVP implications for us to unpack as well.
If the Sixers win one of the top two seeds in the East, and the Bucks slide to three or four, that wouldn’t hurt Embiid’s case. If the Nuggets in sixth (just one game up on the Minnesota Timberwolves) looking to avoid the Play-In tournament, don’t even earn home court in the first round that wouldn’t hurt Embiid’s case.
If somehow Embiid won MVP but didn’t even make All-NBA first team, (because voters somehow talked themselves in circles that someone less valuable fit the squad more traditionally) it might force the NBA to reconsider their All-NBA criteria.
There are just 10 games to go with a wide range of outcomes. Philly could climb all the way up and steal the one seed. They could fall down as far as a six seed in some less-likely scenarios.
We’ll probably know a lot more by this time next week. For now, the third overall pick out of Kansas is destroying almost everything in his path. With averages of 29.8 points (yes, a scoring title is within range here as well and no, that wouldn’t hurt his case if he surpasses LeBron James in ppg over the final stretch), 11.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.4 steals. He’s shooting 36 percent from long range and 82 percent from the stripe on almost 12 free throws per outing.
You came this far trusting The Process, when seemingly countless pundits told you this team was dumb for even drafting players with injury histories. Guess they preferred Julius Randle or Dante Exum.