Can Joel Embiid make a late push for MVP despite injuries?
Since his return from injury, Joel Embiid has been on an absolute war path. Over the last four games, Embiid has been averaging nearly 35 points and 12 rebounds per game. There is no question that Joel is one of, if not the best players in the NBA this season. Thanks to EMVPIID the 76ers sit in first place in the Eastern Conference with just a few weeks remaining in the regular season with a record of 39-18.
When it comes to MVP talk, Embiid deserves to be in contention, but the main thing holding back Joel is how much time he has missed. Through 57 games, Joel has missed 18 games due to injury, rest, and COVID-19 protocols. Talent-wise Joel is definitely on par with the other MVP contenders, including front runner Nikola Jokic.
Jokic is the clear-cut favorite as it stands today. The Joker averages 26 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists per game while not missing a single game this season for the Denver Nuggets. Denver is also one of the West’s top seeds, currently holding the fourth seed with a record of 37-20. There is a wrinkle that could hurt Jokic’s case for the MVP. Embiid is clearly more dominant, but Jokic has not missed a single game this season.
Last week Jamal Murray tore his ACL and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Murray was having a fantastic season, and the injury was something you never want to see. With the loss of Murray, Jokic has played just as well, going 3-0 averaging a fantastic 31 points and 13.5 rebounds.
Although a large majority of the season is completed, award voters love recency bias, and it has shown in several MVP votings in the past. Joel might have missed a large chunk of the season, but if can remain dominant to close out the final 15 games of the regular season, the issue of missing games could go away. The big question will be how the Nuggets finish the season without Murray compared to the Sixers’ tough schedule. If Denver does just enough to maintain their recent performances and Jokic puts up the same numbers while Embiid and the Sixers roll through teams Phoenix and Milwaukee, there is a genuine case for Joel.
There is too small of a sample size for Jokic without Murray so far to see how the end of the season will go. It won’t be an easy path though, Denver faces Brooklyn, both LA teams, and the Utah Jazz before the season wraps up.
Joel is in a prime position to land his first-ever MVP before heading into the postseason. The 76ers are getting healthy and are slowly integrating George Hill and Anthony Tolliver into the rotation. Alongside that, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, and Dwight Howard have been given some well-deserved rest before the home stretch begins. If Embiid wants to bring home some hardware for his historic season, he is definitely in a prime position to do so.
Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum