As the early NBA regular season continues to develop, discussions of who will be this year’s MVP and the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder are back again.
After the first seven games or so of the season, Philadelphia 76ers’ star and reigning MVP Joel Embiid finds himself second in the rankings, behind only Nikola Jokic. The ranking, published on Nov. 10, highlighted the big man’s performance against the Boston Celtics that led to the Sixers’ win over their Eastern Conference rivals.
Lit up Boston for 13 of his 27 points Wednesday in the third quarter. The Sixers outscored the Celtics 56-40 in the paint with Embiid tallying his fifth straight double-double after none over the first two games.
He notched four blocks, too, after recording just three the previous three games combined. With the James Harden drama in the rearview, the big man should continue to roll.
The center has (singlehandedly in some moments) helped lead the Sixers to their current 7-1 start. He’s averaging 31.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and is also thriving more as a playmaker than ever before, averaging 5.5 assists. Something that won’t necessarily show on the stat sheet is the great physical shape Embiid seems to be in to start this campaign. He’s running a lot more with ease, even getting down the court first in transition, is extremely active off the ball and as a defender, all while still using his immense strength to bully and barrel his way through any defense opponents try to put up against him.
Not much surprise that Embiid is up in the ranks, however. Something a bit more surprising (in a very welcome way) is a name in the “five more” section outside of the top 10 candidates: Tyrese Maxey.
The 23-year-old is averaging 25.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game in this young season and has made leaps and bounds over the offseason as a defender. He’s making better use of his speed in a controlled way, is taking his shots aggressively, and already has two games this season with 10+ assists and zero turnovers.
Sixers’ fans may rightfully think “it’s about time” at the inclusion of Maxey and the young guard finally getting his flowers from national media, and he’s certainly earning it this season. Maxey is already showing yet another jump in play as both a playmaker and a scorer, and is showing signs that he truly has the potential to be a star point guard in this league — and people are finally taking notice.
Embiid, Maxey and the Sixers will look to build on their seven-game win streak when they host the Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night.