It’s way too early to talk about MVP, but Sixers center Joel Embiid is making us
Basketball-Reference.com released their initial MVP Award Tracker, which gives Embiid a 35.5 percent chance at winning MVP this season. The next most likely candidate is Nikola Jokic, 17.8 percent.
Here’s a look at the top 10 players so far (also, Tobias Harris!).
Sixers: Joel Embiid has the strongest odds at MVP so far
"The NBA MVP Award Tracker ranks candidates based on a model built using previous voting results. This list does not represent the opinion of this site. Rather, these are the players that the voters are likely to target (maximum two players per team)."
We knew Embiid topped internal comparisons, but for him to look this good compared to the league’s best so far, that’s impressive.
Ultimately, this initial projection means nothing. There are some outliers here that have made it on the list due to a few hot performances (Harris being one of them) and strong starts that may fizzle out throughout the season. As with any stats or stat-infused models this early in the season, everything is subject to major sudden changes due to small sample sizes.
That said, it speaks volumes about Embiid’s start.
Embiid maintaining an actual place in the MVP discourse depends on him maintaining his 23.2 point, 12.3 rebound, and 3.0 assist per game performance, the Sixers winning, and his health.
This ranking is well-deserved. Embiid has been an All-Star in each of the last three seasons, and his major stats all trump his previous career-highs. His season-high for effective field goal percentage was 51.7 percent before this year, so far this year it’s 55.8.
Embiid is also playing 32.0 minutes per night, which comes close to the 33.7 he played in 2018, which was his healthiest season to date.
There are a lot of “ifs” and a long road for Embiid to win MVP, but the groundwork is being laid. No one in Philly has even been in the conversation since Allen Iverson. Perhaps the biggest roadblock for MVP and Embiid is his role. A non-primary ball-handler hasn’t won the award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007 (since him: LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo).