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Joel Embiid becomes betting favorite and ESPN straw poll leader for MVP

Following a 51-point masterpiece and victory against the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves, Joel Embiid is the new 2023-24 NBA MVP favorite.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Joel Embiid is fresh off winning the 2022-23 NBA MVP, and he’s somehow reached a whole new level this season.

On Wednesday, Embiid decided to dominate against the top team in the Western Conference with the league’s top defense. He dropped 51 points on 17-of-25 shooting, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 36 minutes, as the Sixers beat the now 20-6 Timberwolves, 127-113.

Following this latest statement performance, DraftKings have Embiid as their new favorite for this season’s MVP.

Embiid is currently in the lead +225, followed by Nikola Jokic (+275), Luka Doncic (+550), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+900), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+1,000) filling out the top five.

I just wrote about the crazy stats Embiid has been putting up this season and some of the historic company he’s been joining, so I won’t repeat everything here. But his ridiculous stat line for the season so far has to be highlighted again. He’s averaging a career-high 35.1 points (leading the NBA for the third straight year) with a 65.2 true shooting percentage, 11.8 rebounds, a career-high 5.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. In fewer minutes than last season (34.1, down from 34.6), his points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks have all increased.

In his last eight games alone, Embiid has scored at least 40 points five times, including two 50-pieces. In this stretch, he’s averaged 41.4 points (with 61.5/37.5/92.5 shooting splits), 12.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.9 blocks in just 33.4 minutes per game.

We’re running out of ways to describe what he’s doing at this point. Embiid is an unstoppable scorer, levelling up as a passer in Nick Nurse’s more fluid offense, and providing excellent rim protection at the other end of the floor.

There are no signs that Embiid is going to slow down with the historically dominant run he’s been on recently.

It wouldn’t be too surprising to see some MVP voters use simple (albeit flawed) arguments against Embiid this season. Some may use him winning last year as an excuse to vote for someone else, while there’s also the argument of wanting to see him replicate this play in the postseason to go on a longer playoff run. There’s also still the majority of the season left. Who knows what could happen for all the top candidates and their teams by the time it comes to actually voting.

But right now, Joel Embiid is dominating like the best player in the league. He should be the MVP frontrunner as 2023 comes to a close.

Update: ESPN has now published its first MVP straw poll, involving 100 media members. Embiid is miles ahead, taking 63 of the 100 first-place votes and 848 total points, while Jokic is second with just 21 first-place votes and 630 total points.

Again, it’s still early. The first straw poll hasn’t been a great indicator of actual winners in the past either — plenty can change at this point of a season. Nevertheless, what a start to the 2023-24 campaign for Embiid. He well and truly deserves the early MVP buzz he’s getting.

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