Only one man in the history of the NBA, Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, has won the MVP award without his team reaching the postseason playoffs. That all but rules Steph Curry out of the running for the same honor in 2021, which will leave two players in the hunt – Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid.
Joel Embiid had all of Philly on its feet after this and-one ? pic.twitter.com/6kWuQ873cy
— ESPN (@espn) May 27, 2021
Jokic has been an outstanding performer for the Denver Nuggets, and he has almost single-handedly taken his team into the playoffs with some heroic efforts on the court. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, dominated the Eastern Conference thanks to their overall qualities, but at the center of everything positive they did was Joel Embiid, the beating heart of the team.
Statistically, Embiid has been as impressive as Jokic, and in terms of leading his team deep into the business end of the campaign. Remember, the 76ers haven’t won an NBA Championship in nearly 40 years. So, few could argue that the 27-year-old isn’t deserving of his maiden MVP crown.
Points on the Board
When you dive into the numbers, it’s only then that you realize what a gargantuan season Embiid has had in Philadelphia.
He averaged 28.5 points per game during the regular season – more than Jokic, incidentally – and delivered the second-highest free throw rate per possession in NBA history. What’s more, Embiid still found the time to get down the other end of the court and rank ninth in the competition for defensive rebounds.
While Jokic has been more of a creative force both around the net and in assists, Embiid has been the more clinical finisher of plays. Ultimately, that might be the difference-maker once the MVP poll results are revealed.
Defensive work very rarely catches the eye in basketball when compared to the showier offensive stuff. But even so, Embiid’s work in his own half – particularly his blocking percentage – is just one other reason why he has to be considered a favorite for MVP status. It’s true that he played fewer regular-season minutes than the NBA’s other premier exponents due to injury, as reported at thehoopdoctors.com. But that should not detract from what the Cameroonian ace has achieved when he has been fit, available, and on the court.
In the end, it may just be postseason performances that swing the voting in Embiid’s favor, with the 76ers hitting form at just the right time.
More Than a One-Man-Band
John Lennon may have been the most revered member of The Beatles, but take Paul McCartney, Geogge Harrison, and Ringo Starr away from the band and you wonder how far they would have gone. A similar concept is in place in Philadelphia, because the fact that the 76ers outperformed the Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic Division this term is not solely down to Embiid’s magnificence.
The Nets are actually the favorites in the NBA Championship betting odds as shown at asiabet.org. These sportsbooks allow you to bet on a variety of markets, from moneyline and point spreads per game to outright tournament winners. And it’s in this latter category where the 76ers look to be excellent value at +700. The Nets may have James Harden and Kevin Durant, amongst others, to call upon, but it’s arguably the all-around talents of the 76ers, and the depth of their roster, that make them a more fully-formed team.
Ben Simmons tonight:
Doc Rivers: "I'm amazed that people don't see what he does" pic.twitter.com/JLt0AEY3E9
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) May 27, 2021
Embiid leads the way, but how about Ben Simmons – the rebound specialist who has been an excellent accomplice to the MVP elect? Indeed, in some ways, Simmons’ ability to feed Embiid the ball at the right time and place has been central to the 76ers’ dominance of the East this term.
Tobias Harris has been a reliable contributor to their field goal success too, and Danny Green has been outstanding from downtown – it’s a myth to suggest that the 76ers are merely a defensive team. In fact, at the time of writing, the leading data analysis firm fivethirtyeight.com gives Philly an 82% chance of reaching the Eastern Conference final and a 46% mark for making the NBA Championship game. This is higher than any other team left in the running.
What’s more, the 76ers carry a 24% chance of winning the Championship game according to their analysis. So, right now, a case can be made that says Embiid and co should be the favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy later this year. If they do, surely Embiid would have to be considered the rightful NBA MVP this season?