As the Philadelphia 76ers keep winning, and star center Joel Embiid continues to put up absurd numbers, the national media narrative appears to be shifting in the big man’s favor. On NBA.com’s latest MVP Ladder posted by Michael C. Wright, Embiid is now listed as third, behind Nikola Jokic and Jayson Tatum, and ahead of Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetoukounmpo. Sixers teammate James Harden is listed in the “five more” section after the top ten.
Here’s Wright on Embiid, who was listed as 5th in the last edition of the MVP ladder:
“The steady rise continues. Embiid missed three straight games from Jan. 4-8, but returned with a vengeance, averaging 34.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 1.8 bpg in the six games since. The Sixers have won four in a row on their current five-game West road trip and have won eight of their first 10 games in January to move into a second-place tie with the Bucks in the East. “I think we’re good, and I think we can be really, really good,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. Much of that depends on Embiid’s continued production on both ends of the floor, as the big man and James Harden seem to be hitting their stride.”
As Wright outlines, the MVP narrative is most often a construct of both team and individual success. The Sixers are one of the hotter teams in the league, winning 17 of their last 21 games. They are now tied with Milwaukee for the fourth-best record in the entire league. Joel is, of course, the primary driving force for that success. He is a tenth of a point behind Doncic for the league scoring title, 33.7 to 33.6, and the anchor of the league’s fourth-best defense. If you’re not rewarding the top player from a top-four team, who stacks up statistically as well as anyone in the league and gets it done on both ends of the court, what are we even doing here?
Embiid made it clear before the season that he no longer cares about winning MVP and is focused on winning a title. Still, while fans appreciate the team-first sentiment, those that have borne witness to his prodigious rise to superstardom over the years are pulling hard for the big man to get some individual hardware. If Joel continues dominating on the court and the Sixers keep dominating on the scoreboard, maybe this latest MVP ladder can be a canary in the coal mine for the franchise’s first MVP award winner since Allen Iverson.
Now, if we could only convince folks that the person third in the MVP race should be an All-Star starter.