Support for Joel Embiid’s MVP candidacy has poured in from around the NBA world recently. Embiid and Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic are neck-and-neck per the recent ESPN MVP straw poll.
As Liberty Ballers’ Erin Grugan recently wrote: “for most of this season, betting odds and debates around the subject seemed to skew toward Jokic winning the award for a third time. However, the tide has somewhat turned in the past few weeks following a run of utterly ridiculous games for Embiid that have led to a number of Sixers’ victories.”
Golden State Warriors Draymond Green knows a bit about the importance of rim protection and defense. That’s apparently part of why he feels Joel Embiid is the most deserving.
“There’s no one else like [Embiid and Giannis] in the league. No one...as far as the MVP race goes, I think over the last couple of weeks, Joel has started to create some separation. He’s done a good job and his team continues to win.”
Draymond Green told me on Friday night that Joel Embiid has started to create some separation in the MVP race pic.twitter.com/gsqURhAD8G— Jason Dumas (@JDumasReports) March 25, 2023
Draymond Green says after the game Joel Embiid told him he played like he did tonight because he heard Green call Nikola Jokic the toughest guy to guard in the league and took it personally.— Kendra Andrews (@kendra__andrews) March 25, 2023
Green now says Embiid is the hardest guy to guard.
Chicago Bulls’ star Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard Mike Conley Jr., Indiana Pacers’ head coach Ric Carlisle, former Sixers snipers Tim Legler and JJ Redick, former Kings big Demarcus Cousins, other prominent ESPN personalities Stephen A. Smith, and Kendrick Perkins (who both voted for Joel first on their ballots a year ago) chimed in. And now let’s add Dame D.O.L.L.A. to the list as well.
On a recent appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” the loyal Portland Trailblazers superstar Damian Lillard made his case for why the phenom out of Kansas deserves his first ever MVP after knocking on the door the last few years.
Dan Patrick: Who’s your MVP this year?
Damian Lillard: Joel Embiid.
Lillard: I pick Joel Embiid because he’s, you know, I feel like he’s been dominant all season long. His team is winning. I feel like he coulda won it one of the last two years but I think Jokic won it both times. And I just think because he’s been to me the most dominant player, he’s been carrying his team, I think you can’t continue to give it to a guy who’s won it twice in a row, and especially when you have a guy like this that’s performing at the same level or maybe even higher. And he also didn’t get it one of the last two times when he was at that level, I just think that’s not how it should work.
Patrick: And you could give it to Giannis [Antetokounmpo] again this year.
Lillard: Yeah, you could. The one thing is that I feel like I would choose Embiid over both guys is cause with Giannis as great as he is, he won those back-to-back MVP’s. And that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be able to win it again but when you look at the depth of their team, they’re just so deep. They’re gonna win a lot of games. You know you got guys like Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Joe Ingles, I mean they’re so deep, Bobby Portis, they’re so deep that they’re gonna win games and that doesn’t take the credit away from how great Giannis is, but I just feel like the team success factor is gonna be played in so you also have to consider just how good that team actually is. This year I would give it to Embiid, I think it’s his turn.”
Joel is averaging a league-leading 33 points per game, to go with 10.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 4.1 dimes, one steal with 54.4-33.7-86 shooting splits.
The Sixers have a dominant 42-21 record whenever Joel suits up this season. He’s had to deal with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey missing a significant number of games.
If the Philadelphia big man can fend off Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić down the home stretch for the points per game lead, (32.8 ppg) he would become the first center since Kareem Abdul-Jabaar to win back-to-back scoring titles. Kareem, second all-time in total NBA points, recently surpassed by LeBron James, accomplished the feat between the 1970-1972 seasons.
Joel has the second most total points in the NBA right now with 2,082. He’s only 103 points behind Jayson Tatum’s total, despite appearing in nine less contests than the Celtics star forward. Embiid has scored 50 more total points than Dončić, and each player has five games remaining on their respective team’s schedules.
Maybe that’s what the two international superstars were discussing here:
There are only a few games left to sort this MVP thing out. Nikola Jokic has missed his last two games with a calf ailment, the same body part that kept Embiid out of a recent game up in Denver.
But now we know who Dame would vote for. Last season Kevin Durant said he felt Embiid deserved the honor.
"Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant for me, those are my top three [for MVP] and I'll probably go Joel. Jokic, you can throw throw Jokic in there. But I'll probably go Joel."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) March 19, 2022
-Sounds like Kevin Durant gives his vote for MVP to Joel Embiid. pic.twitter.com/755IgFVoMG
And this season, LeBron James picked Joel first overall for his All-Star team, while Jokic had to select himself to avoid being the last starter picked.
Nikola Jokic really picked himself pic.twitter.com/41tp8tP6AR— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) February 20, 2023
You almost get the sense that if the NBA All-Stars determined MVP, Joel might be a shoe-in for his second in a row right now.