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March 08, 2023

Where does Joel Embiid stand in the NBA MVP race?

Embiid has been producing at an insane (and historic) clip, but still has to get past Nikola Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo in voters' minds.

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Joel-Embiid-Sixers-Timberwolves-3.7.23-NBA.jpg Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid has been near unstoppable this season.

Joel Embiid torched the Minnesota Timberwolves for 39 points Tuesday night, which isn't an unusual occurrence for the Sixers' star center against any opponent. 

But how he did it, that was different. 

Wrote our own Kyle Neubeck following the Sixers' 117-94 win on the road:

Embiid has put together a ton of dominant performances this year, but this one exists in rare company, a night where he didn't need free throws and physical dominance to put up a monster line. This was just Embiid being more skilled and silky smooth than anybody else on the floor. The Wolves were chasing ghosts all night, leaning on pass fakes and jumping at jab steps and pump fakes. As soon as he had space, the Wolves were cooked.  They started sending doubles as the game wore on, and Embiid beat those with speed...

In the third quarter of this game, Embiid scored 22 points. The Minnesota Timberwolves scored 23 as a collective. If that doesn't spell out how big of an ass whooping he handed these guys, nothing will. [PhillyVoice]

Another outstanding game in a season already full of them, pushing the Sixers along in a race for the Eastern Conference's top seed and all while he's gunning for a second consecutive scoring title...as a center.

He's gotta be the MVP, right?

Daryl Morey's take:

He may be a bit biased though, so what about Minnesota's Anthony Edwards, who was on the receiving end of the beatdown despite 32 points of his own?

And the odds?

They are still favoring Nikola Jokić on the first-place Nuggets in the West and the idea of a third-straight MVP.

Via DraftKings:

 PlayerMVP Odds 
Nikola Jokić -450 
Joel Embiid +500 
Giannis Antetokounmpo +650 

What's it going to take to finally break through?

Continued dominance, for sure, but probably a couple more statement wins against the NBA's elite as well. 

Embiid and the Sixers already bested Jokić and the Nuggets at home back in January and Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on the road this past weekend. 

Denver is coming up again on March 27, Milwaukee on April 2, and Boston one more time on April 4 before the regular season slate wraps up. 

The MVP award accounts for the entire season, and the Sixers' record by the end might play a factor too, but key moments can also often stand out in voters' memories, as Andy Bailey wrote for Bleacher Report:

Fair or not (for a full-season award), some voters will remember the hurting Embiid and his 76ers put on Jokić in late January. In a game Philadelphia trailed by 15 with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter, Embiid scored 12 of his 47 points in the fourth quarter, while Jokić wilted in the second half against the defense of P.J. Tucker (a switch by Doc Rivers that kept his superstar out of foul trouble and freed him up to focus his energy on dominating offensively).

Signature performances like that one help. He had another on Saturday against Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks when the Sixers came from behind for the win and ended their opponent's 16-game winning streak. Embiid had 31 points and 10 dimes in that one. Two days later, he dropped 42 on 11-of-16 shooting on the Indiana Pacers.

...

On March 27, in Denver, Embiid will get his second crack at the Nuggets. Right now, a second domination almost feels like a prerequisite to winning the award for Embiid, but a few 40-point performances before then could change that. Beating Jokić on the road might carry more weight than the January game too. [B/R]

Additionally, those MVP-caliber matchups serve as important measuring sticks for where Embiid and the Sixers really are. 

In years past, they were liable to stumble in those big games. This year, Embiid is leading the team on both ends of the floor and the Sixers are finding a way. 

Wrote Fox Sports' Melissa Rohlin, who has Embiid ranked as her leading MVP candidate:

Embiid is tied for first in the league in scoring, averaging a career-high 33.3 points a game. But what truly separates Embiid is his defense. He's one of the best two-way players in the league right now. 

Last week, the 76ers snapped Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks' 16-game win-streak after Embiid made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 41.4 seconds left, finishing with 31 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Embiid also led the 76ers to a win over Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets on Jan. 28, finishing with 47 points and 18 rebounds in that game. He has been huge in games against other top MVP candidates, which is an important measuring stick. 

Not to mention Embiid is coming off of a 42-point game on 68.8% shooting in a win over Indiana on Monday, and dropped 39 and seven in a win at Minnesota on Tuesday without James Harden on the floor. He has put the 76ers on his back this season, leading them to the third-best record in the East (43-22), only four games behind the first-place Bucks. [Fox Sports]

And come on, just look at Embiid's stat lines in the last 11 games. His production is insane:

Historic even:

And on a mission.

"It doesn't matter who I'm playing, just feel like I'm gonna do my thing regardless," Embiid told TNT's Chris Haynes following Tuesday night's win. "I'm gonna dominate. It's no disrespect to any of them, but MVPs, Defensive Players of the Year, that doesn't mean anything to me. I'm still gonna be the best player on the floor."


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