Before the 2018-19 NBA regular season began, the top-three consensus choices for MVP were Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.
None of these selections were necessarily bad as when you look at each individual player’s situation, it lends the opportunity for them to have an outstanding season. However, two weeks into the season, it is strong possibility that the MVP race might become a four-player race with the inclusion of Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.
The third-year big man is out to an impressive start and is one of the reasons why the Sixers have an above .500 record.
Embiid is averaging a career-high across the board with 29.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 34.4 minutes per game. In the Sixers’ last two home games against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Detroit Pistons, Embiid has had his best performances to date.
On Thursday night against the Clippers, Embiid posted a double-double consisting of 41 points on 16-of-32 shooting from the field and 13 rebounds. It was the first time a Sixers player scored that many points in the Wells Fargo Center since Hall of Famer Allen Iverson did it 2006.
Los Angeles did not have an answer for the 7-foot Embiid, who did damage inside the paint, but also on the perimeter, showcasing his silky smooth jump shot.
After the game, Embiid was asked about his chances of winning the MVP. The 24-year-old big man did not mince his words.
“I stated, before the season that I wanted to be MVP and Defensive Player of the Year,” he said. “Me personally, that’s what I want. I want to be the Defensive Player of the Year and if I have the chance, be MVP.”
If Embiid wants that then he is well on his way to earning that accomplishment. Out of the 10 games that the Sixers played, Embiid had four games in a row, where he posted double-doubles consisting of 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Along those same lines, if you take a look at how he performed through the first 10 games last season and compare them to this season, it is almost night and day.
Last season, Embiid only averaged 19.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game in the first 10 games. Those statistics were not bad by any means, but they are not MVP caliber.
In fact, he did not have a 40-point game until Nov. 15 against the Los Angeles Lakers, where he posted 46 points and 15 rebounds. That night he was completely locked in and it almost resembled the clinic he was putting on Pistons’ big men Andre Drummond and Zaza Pachulia on Saturday afternoon.
The former third overall pick finished the game with another double-double consisting of 39 points and 17 rebounds, but what was more impressive was Embiid’s first-half performance. In the first two quarters alone, Embiid torched Detroit for 32 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and lived at the free throw line, converting 15-of-17 makes.
According to Basketball-Reference, Embiid is the first Sixers player to have nine-or-more double-doubles over the first 10 games of the season since Hall of Famer Moses Malone did it back in 1984-85.
It is not often you hear a 24-year-old big man being mentioned in the same breath statistically with a hall of famer. But when it does happen, you take notice immediately of the historic pace that the player is on.
Nevertheless, it should be interesting to see how Embiid continues to progress throughout the season. It is very clear that he is in a zone right now and the only player or team that can stop him is himself.
If he were to somehow capture the MVP over the likes of Davis, James, and Antetokounmpo, it would be the first time a center won the award since 2002-03 when Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs did it back-to-back seasons.