Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid’s MVP campaign is only getting started

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

After dominating the league to the tune of 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has officially been named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month for December/January.

Now really, this shouldn’t be too surprising. Embiid was named the Player of the Week on January 25th and has dropped 30-plus points on six separate occasions and 40-plus twice, versus Miami and Boston.

In games featuring Embiid, the Sixers are 14-2 versus 1-4 in games without him and have all but crafted their offensive and defensive identities around the big man on both ends of the court.

No matter how you slice it, the Sixers are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and Joel Embiid is their best player, so it’s only natural to award him with such an honor, right? You’ve gotta do something to build help build up that MVP campaign.

Joel Embiid can be the Philadelphia 76ers’ second MVP of the 21st Century.

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Through the first month of the 2020-21 NBA season, Joel Embiid has been labeled a favorite to win league MVP.

Kendrick Perkins likes him for the honor, as does Max Kellerman and Skip Bayless. Truthfully, you’ll seldom find an objective basketball opinionist with many bad things to say about “The Process” since coming back to the game with a leaner, meaner physique and a new killer mentality disinterested in the former trolling ways that made the Cameroonian big man a household name.

Embiid is averaging the most points, third-most rebounds, the most steals, and the fourth-most blocks of his career. He’s also knocking down a career-high 40.4 percent of his 3 point shots on a career-low 2.9 attempts a game, signifying a player with a newfound offensive maturity.

Contextually speaking, Embiid ranks fourth in ppg, seventh in rpg, 34th in spg, and 18th in bpg, which, *spoiler alert* is what you’d expect from a player with a very real MVP candidacy.

But Embiid’s contributions to the game aren’t purely evident in his stats.

No, Embiid has rapidly become the 76ers’ entire offensive identity, both on the offensive and defensive end of the court. You’ll seldom see an offensive halfcourt sequence with Embiid on the court where the big man doesn’t impact the play one way or another, either as a scorer, a passer, or as a screener. Heck, there are times where a look isn’t going well, and a player like Tobias Harris will hand the ball off to Embiid as a sort of rest, only to receive the ball a few seconds later and try it all again.

As well as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Nikola Jokic have been playing in 2021 – and yeah, they are all playing well for sure – none have been as specifically impactful at both ends of the court as Embiid.

Would it be uncommon for the Philadelphia 76ers big man to bring home the MVP award? Most definitely. The team has had only had one MVP this century in Allen Iverson back in 2001 and the last true center to bring the award home was Shaq one year earlier (Tim Duncan is a power forward, I don’t care what anyone says).

With that being said, Embiid isn’t a particularly common player.

While it may get thrown around a bit too often for the phrase to hold any weight anymore, Embiid is quite literally a “generational player” the likes of which the NBA has never seen before. With a newfound maturity, a team-first mentality, and a much-improved handle that has made him an unstoppable force within 15 feet from the basket.

You give Embiid the ball, and you get points, either through a made bucket or a trip to the free-throw line. In 248 professional games of action, Embiid has scored more points than minutes played 33 times and has surpassed 40 points 10 times.

Between you and me, I’d probably buy stock into Embiid’s MVP candidacy stat, as his +550 odds are just going to tighten as the season pushes forward.

Next. Ben Simmons at center just hit a breakthrough. dark

As the Philadelphia 76ers continue to ride high atop the Eastern Conference standings, they will fall further and more intently under the focus of the national spotlight. If they continue to play well, it’ll go a long way to further strengthening the candidacies of Joel Embiid for the MVP, Ben Simmons for Defensive Player of the Year, and Shake Milton for Sixth Man of the Year, and if not, we’ll be back to the sort of meddling national coverage that only seems to want to touch on the Sixers when it involves breaking up the duo now known forever as Joel Simmons. Are the Sixers legit? Or will they falter? Either way, it’s clear naming Joel Embiid the Eastern Conference Player of the Month is just the start of what may just be the most impactful season of his NBA career.