Joel Embiid is a consensus top-tier player in the NBA and we’re simply not worthy of his greatness at times.
According to the latest NBA.com KIA MVP Ladder, drafted by former Spurs and Bears beat writer Michael C. Wright, Joel Embiid has overtaken Nikola “The Joker” Jokic for the top spot. (Sorry, not sorry, but “The Joker” is such an electric and f’ing awesome nickname). But maybe if the Sixers could ever get it together and help Joel win a title or two, “The Process” would begin to have a similar ring to it.
Per Wright, in his post titled “Joel Embiid leaps Nikola Jokic for top spot,” he opines:
“An illness limited the reigning Kia MVP to only one game this week, but he returned Wednesday with a vengeance. Embiid lit up the Wizards for 50 points, joining teammate Tyrese Maxey, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zach LaVine as the fourth player this season to rack up 50 points or more in a game.
Jot that performance down as Embiid’s sixth consecutive contest with 30 points or more.”
Embiid this season is averaging a league-leading 33.1 points per game. You have to wonder if the Cameroonian legend has his sights set on matching former teammate James Harden for three consecutive scoring titles in a row.
Although, I don’t think many Sixers fans would mind if Embiid relinquished a few more points to teammates and focused even more on the Defensive Player of the Year award, which he has an outside shot at as well.
Following Joel on the list is his now perennial MVP rival, Serbian, Nikola Jokic, who’s followed by Canadian sensation Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
For those with a sharp memory, those are both names who the Sixers could have drafted in 2014 and 2018, respectively. Sam Hinkie once possessed two second-round picks and tapped process legends K.J McDaniels and Jerami Grant ahead of (the then-slightly overweight) Jokic.
As for the 2018 Draft, Sixers owner Josh Harris thought it made sense to assemble a #collaborative front office modeling his (successful in finance) investment committees, led by ownership, minority stake ownership, Interim GM Brett Brown and former Colangelo underlings like Alex Rucker. That group selected Mikal Bridges and promptly traded the current star to the Phoenix Suns for a future pick and the pick that led to Zhaire Smith (not a current NBA player). Derek Bodner with PHLY sports had made the case that SGA possessed the most “All-Star equity” if they wanted to take a big swing. But they were “star hunting” and thought the extra draft capital might help them acquire Kawhi Leonard. I liked their plan at the time so I’m not going to knock it too hard here. But it definitely did not work out.
This stuff is really hard to take for fans. And while they’re certainly not doomed, it’s impossible not to think just how good they could have been had Josh Harris hired an elite GM and not meddled so much (a la Knicks’ James Dolan) back in the Process’ most vital offseasons).
But I’m really digressing now. Let me refocus.
Joel Embiid may just be the best player in the NBA today.
The reason Joker has a ring and Embiid doesn’t could simply be because Joker takes so many less death-defying risks, trying to dunk the ball and catch track-down blocks; and never had an ownership group who tried running the team themselves for a few seasons.
I’m not underselling Joker. I still think he’s the best player in the league, without much competition.
But Joel has the potential to change my mind. And he’s at least changed Wright’s mind to date. Imagine if he won back-to-back MVPs and a third scoring title! Maybe many of us wouldn’t care if the team couldn’t get to the Conference Finals though. It’s a tough town.