If the NBA season ended today, Joel Embiid would probably be crowned the league’s Most Valuable Player.
In ESPN’s first MVP straw poll of the 2023-24 season, the 76ers star finished in first place with a total of 848 points. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was a distant second with 630 points, followed by Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in third with 352 points.
It’s still very early in the season, of course, but those results give you an idea of how dominant Embiid has been. He’s on pace to lead the NBA in scoring for the third straight season, he’s averaging career highs in a number of categories and he has a 76ers team that entered the season in turmoil in the running for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Here are a few stats in particular that are fueling Embiid’s early-season MVP case.
Joel Embiid stats powering his MVP case
Embiid is playing 34.1 minutes per game this season. It’s the second-highest mark of his career, but that’s not why it’s notable.
In those 34.1 minutes, Embiid is currently averaging 35.1 points, putting him on pace to become the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to average more than one point per minute in a season, per StatMuse.
Chamberlain did it in 1961-62 when he averaged — are you ready for this? — 50.4 points in 48.5 minutes per game. (Yeah, Wilt was something else. There’s a reason he owns just about every scoring record in the book.)
Embiid’s field goal attempts are up this season, but he’s shooting 54.1 percent from the field. He’s also living at the free-throw line. His 11.7 free throw attempts per game lead the league and he’s connecting on his freebies at an 89.3 percent clip.
Here’s the full list of centers who have shot that well on that many free throw attempts per game in NBA history:
- Joel Embiid in 2020-21
- Joel Embiid in 2022-23
- Joel Embiid in 2023-24
Guys Embiid’s size aren’t supposed to have his shooting touch.
Speaking of Embiid’s shooting touch, he’s cooking teams from midrange this season.
As of Dec. 21, only DeMar DeRozan has made more shots from midrange than Embiid. However, it’s taken DeRozan 205 attempts to make 79 midrange jumpers (38.5 percent). Embiid, on the other hand, has made 73 midrange jumpers on only 142 attempts (51.4 percent). He has been automatic.
Again, 7-footers with a 7-5 wingspan shouldn’t be able to do the things Embiid does. If he’s not simply shooting over smaller defenders, he’s losing them with a crossover, creating the separation he needs with a well-timed step back or freezing them with his patented hang dribble.
I mean, this is against Rudy Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who might win the award for a fourth time this season:
Embiid lit Gobert and the Timberwolves up to the tune of 51 points in 36 minutes on Wednesday. A lot of that damage came from midrange.
Philadelphia’s offense rating
James Harden played at an All-Star level last season. The 76ers traded him to the Clippers for a package that included several role players and draft picks, and yet their offense has somehow been even better.
Philadelphia scored at a rate of 117.0 points per 100 possessions last season, ranking third in the league behind Sacramento (118.6) and Boston (117.3). So far this season, only the Pacers (122.8) have a better offensive rating than the 76ers (121.5).
While Tyrese Maxey becoming a star has helped, it’s Embiid who is leading the charge. The scoring speaks for itself, but he’s also averaging a career-best 5.9 assists per game. (More on how head coach Nick Nurse has turned Embiid into a nightly triple-double threat here.)
The 76ers have still been good with Embiid on the bench, but they’ve been unstoppable with him on the court.
|Joel Embiid on court
|Joel Embiid on bench
Oh, and while we’re here, the 76ers also have the league’s second-best defense right now. Embiid has been a monster on that end of the court, too.
Source : ESPN.com