By Joel Deering
“My goal going into the offseason was to get better. I want to win the MVP. I feel like at the end of the day it might be an individual award, but when I play better, the team also does. I feel like if I’m an MVP candidate or if I win the MVP, that means we are on another level.”
Joel Embiid has made it known he wants to win MVP next season, but is this even a realistic goal for the young Philadelphia 76ers star? Embiid has some good things going for him, but there are also some things standing in his way. Let’s take a look at the major factors that will determine if Embiid can be MVP next season.
The first thing I think about when I think about the possibility of Joel Embiid winning MVP, is the health factor. In the two seasons Embiid has actually played in the NBA, he’s played 31 and 63 games. Both seasons have been cut short because of injuries. I can tell you right now, if Emiid only plays 63 or fewer games, he’s not winning MVP. You can’t miss a fourth of the season and win the award. His injuries were the reason he didn’t win rookie of the year, and it won’t be any different with MVP.
The last player to win MVP who missed that much time was LeBron James (62 games) when he won the award after the 2011-12 season. That was LeBron James, and Embiid is no LeBron. The last player before LeBron to win the award with not a full season of games played was Karl Malone (49 games), but it wasn’t because Malone was hurt, it was because of a lockout that season, so technically he did play a full season. There have been a few MVP’s who have played around 70 games, but most of the time MVP’s play games in the high 70’s or low 80’s. Embiid has yet to prove he can stay healthy for a full season, which will be a major factor in him winning MVP.
Joel Embiid is a talented player, but the talent he has to face is far above where he is at this point in his career. Some of the recent players to win MVP are James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. When I think about those players, I don’t put Joel Embiid in the same category as them. Embiid is good, but he’s not one of the best players in the league. With that being said, he’s only played two seasons in the NBA and he’s only 24 years old right, meaning his best seasons should be ahead of him.
The position Embiid plays is a factor going against his chances to win MVP. The last time a center won MVP was after the 1999-2000 season. That player was Shaquille O’Neal. The last time a player who wasn’t a guard or small forward won the award was after the 2006-07 when Dirk Nowitzki won it as a power forward. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are also some recent power forwards to win the award, but we’re talking about some of the best power forwards to ever play in the NBA with those names. Embiid isn’t in the same category with those guys yet, and he plays a position which rarely gets chosen as MVP.
Embiid averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.8 blocks last season. When Shaq won MVP as the last center to do so, he averaged 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 3.0 blocks per game. Embiid isn’t super far off in some of those categories, but he’s not at that level. Four out of the last five MVP’s have averaged 30 points or more. Steph Curry was the only player of the last five years to average less than 30 points (23.8) and win MVP, but he led the best team in the NBA.
Stats do matter in the MVP race, but so does team record. You can’t be on a bad team and win MVP, even if you do put up big stats. Joel Embiid helped his team earn the three seed in the Eastern Conference last season. It looks like he should be able to help his team get one of the top seeds in the conference again this season. The 76ers will be competing with teams such as the Raptors, Celtics, Wizards, Bucks, and Pacers for one of those top spots. I like their chances.
Most of the time, MVP’s need to lead their team to a top two seed in their conference and one of, if not the best record in the NBA. The recent exception to that was Russell Westbrook when he led his team to a six seed and still won the award, but he was the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double. Joel Embiid isn’t going to average a triple-double, so he has to lead his team to one of the best records in the NBA to even be considered for MVP. I think the 76ers will be a good team, but I’m not so sure about one of the very best teams in the NBA.
Can Embiid Win MVP?
Based on the information above, I’d say the odds are against Joel Embiid in his pursuit of being the league MVP next season. Can he win it? Yes. Will he win it next season? I don’t think so. If Joel Embiid is going to win MVP, I’d say it’s going to be at least two or three years down the road. Despite what I think, I’ll be keeping my eye on Embiid as next season goes on to gauge just how much of shot he really has at winning MVP.