During his first season as a (mostly) healthy NBA player, Joel Embiid was named to the All-NBA Second Team, All-Defensive Second Team, All-Star Team, was 7th in Rebounds Per Game, 12th in Points Per Game, 4th in Blocks Per Game, and placed second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. Not bad for a guy’s second season in the NBA, I’d say. With the Sixers’ frustrating second round exit in last year’s playoffs, I imagine Joel will come out this season even more determined to be the best player on the court.
According to Bovada, a large presence in the sports betting world, Joel Embiid has the 9th-best odds to win the Most Valuable Player award this season. While this may not be as high on the list as I would have like to seen, it still provides me with hope that the MVP award will Joel Embiid’s in the near future. The only problems I forsee holding Embiid back from achieving this accomplishment are his history of injuries and the fact that a center has not won the MVP award since Shaquille O’Neal in the 1999-00 season. This second point, however, also provides me with some hope for JoJo.
Centers and the MVP Award
Eleven centers in NBA history have won the MVP award a total of 25 times (thanks to Kareem for contributing six). In the past 20 years, however, only one center, Shaquille O’Neal, has won the prestigious award. Does this drastic shift in which position is most likely to win the award mean that the center position is no longer as important? Possibly. Could it also simply mean that no center in the past 20 years beside Shaq deserved to win the award? That is also possible. It is most likely a combination of both trains of thought. With the new, flashy brand of basketball that the NBA seems to promote now-a-days, it is hard for centers to stand out. This is where Joel Embiid comes in, as Joel is the perfect center for today’s NBA. His play style is flashy enough to garner attention from the media and from fans, and his outgoing personality is enough for NBA fans to either hate him or love him, and nothing gets the people going like a polarizing player.
Aside from his play style and his personality, we can also look to Embiid’s numbers to see where he ranks compared to past center MVPs.
1993-94 Hakeem Olajuwon (31 years old)
27.3 PTS/11.9 TRB/3.6 AST/3.7 BLK/1.6 STL
1994-95 David Robinson (29 years old)
27.8 PTS/10.8 TRB/2.9 AST/3.2 BLK/1.7 STL
1999-00 Shaquille O’Neal (28 years old)
29.7 PTS/13.5 TRB/3.8 AST/3.0 BLK/0.5 STL
2017-18 Joel Embiid (24 years old)
22.9 PTS/11.0 TRB/3.2 AST/1.8 BLK/0.6 STL
As you can see, Embiid’s numbers are very similar to the stats of the MVP seasons of the last three MVP centers, with the only major points of improvement being points per game and blocks per game. We must also keep in mind that Joel is still four years younger than Shaq was when he won MVP, so he still has time to improve even more so than he already has.
With last season’s production, his potential to improve as a player, and the fact that he rivals former MVP center seasons in only his second year in the NBA, I firmly believe that Joel “The Process” Embiid will win the MVP award in no more than three seasons.
Sean Zarzatian, Underdawg Sports Writer
Image Courtesy of Sports Illustrated