Why Joel Embiid Will Make an MVP Push This Season
Joel Embiid has made a case for himself as one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Unfortunately, he has always fell short of one legitimate push for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award. Embiid has been left out of the conversation over the years due to his own individual health, and the Sixers not finishing as a top seed in the East. History will tell us that the MVP award tends to go to a player on a top seeded team in either conference respectively.
Luckily for Joel, I think health and the Sixers’ team success will both be on his side this season. The Sixers have a whole new regime, from the coaching staff, to the roster. They are finally equipped to be a legit title contender this season. Not to mention, the roster appears to compliment Joel’s skillset very well.
Joel looked dominant in the Sixers first preseason game. Head coach Doc Rivers had this to say about Joel:
“Phenomenal,” he started. “It’s a great example, Joel, we ran our stuff, but we didn’t run his stuff and he still got 18. That’s one of the things that I was telling him, we can run continuity offense, and not even run any plays for you, but you’re still going to end up with the ball because you’re the best player, and you’ll see that happen. That happened tonight, and I thought that was a great thing for Joel.”
Joel looked like he was in great shape too. That was the most nimble and quick I have seen Joel in quite some time. There have been major question marks about whether Joel can actually keep up and play the up-tempo style of ball that Simmons runs. Embiid was able to start squashing doubters during their first preseason game. The fact that Joel scored 18 points in 17 minutes, without a single play called for him, is impressive.
The Sixers newfound shooting and floor spacing will do wonders for everybody but Embiid is set to benefit the most. Joel averaged 23 PPG last season with no floor spacing around him. He had Al Horford clogging the paint, Brett Brown running horrible offensive sets, and no legit perimeter shooting around him. Just imagine what Joel is going to do with two career 40% three point shooters in the starting lineup. Let’s not forget about Tobias Harris, who shoots better than what his numbers showed last season.
The last time the Sixers had half-decent floor spacing, Joel averaged 27.5 PPG. There’s no reason why Joel can’t get back to the level. He looks to be in better shape, and has even better shooting around him. Joel’s scoring should climb back up to career high numbers. I also expect his assist numbers to reach new career highs. Joel will be facing a lot of double teams and he has gotten better at passing out of them over the years. However, this year he will be kicking it out to legitimate shooters.
Joel has always been known as a post up player and it’s where he generates his the majority of his scoring. Whether that’s punishing the defender in the post, drawing fouls, or simply creating open looks for teammates, Joel has done his damage from the foul line to the basket. We all know Joel can space it out and shoot the perimeter shot but establishing a perfect balance between doing that and attacking the rim will be an important emphasis this year.
With this newfound roster and coaching staff, Joel should get some of the easiest looks he’s had in his career. Rather than just mashing down low all the time, I expect Joel to thrive in a variety of ways. Doc River seems to be implementing a heavy pick and roll offense and Embiid should benefit greatly from it as we finally have scorers and ball handlers to get him open looks in the roll game.
Joel’s body and health will be preserved due to this new offense. Posting up is the most physically taxing offense in basketball. I expect to see Joel play more games this season than he ever has. Even though this season is only a 72 game season, I think Joel plays a higher percentage of games this season than he ever has in years past. Combine that with the Sixers finishing as a top 3 seed in the East and Joel will be a serious contender for the NBA MVP award this season.
Mandatory Credit; Philadelphia Inquirer