Sixers: NBA executives expect Joel Embiid to compete for MVP

Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Sixers(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Sixers(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The 2022-23 NBA season is right around the corner. Joel Embiid, fresh off consecutive second-place finishes in the MVP race, will look to once again assert his dominance on the national stage. Never has Embiid been better positioned for success: the Sixers have put together the deepest team of his career, while the presence of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey makes life easier than it ever was during the Ben Simmons era.

That being said, Embiid should be right back in the mix for MVP. He’s too dominant scoring the ball, and too important defensively to overlook. NBA executives agree. In a recent ESPN straw poll — asking coaches, front office execs, and scouts who will win MVP — Embiid received four out of 15 votes, tying him for second with Luka Doncic.

Is Sixers center Joel Embiid the MVP frontrunner in 2023?

It is fitting, in a cruel joke sort of way, that Embiid finishes the poll in second place. Giannis Antetokounmpo received the most votes (five), while Stephen Curry (one) and Ja Morant (one) were the only other players to receive votes.

Here’s what one anonymous Eastern Conference executive said regarding Embiid:

"“They’ll have a good regular season, and I think people will think he deserves it.”"

“Deserves it” is the key phrase here. Narrative has always played a role in the MVP discourse, in some years more prominently than others. Embiid has now finished second to Nikola Jokic twice. A large chunk of national pundits hold Embiid in higher regard (he’s a sexier name in a bigger market) and, at a certain point, it feels almost rude to keep putting a player of Embiid’s caliber in the No. 2 slot (even if Jokic more than deserved his two MVP awards).

That should not be how the MVP award is decided. It should go to the most deserving player, no matter how many times Embiid has to finish second. But we live in a human society, and humans are fallible creatures. The lure of narrative can distract even the most logical members of the NBA voting body.

There’s also the matter of Embiid’s skill level and production. There’s a good chance he deserves it outright, especially if Jokic’s production takes a slight step back with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. re-joining the rotation in Denver.

It’s hard to be upset with Giannis being the preseason favorite. He’s Giannis, probably the best player in basketball. Luka Doncic also feels like an inevitably — he’s going to win MVP at some point, it’s a when-not-if equation. I’m mildly surprised that Jokic received no votes. He has rather commandingly won the award twice now, and while it’s extremely uncommon to three-peat, he’s an all-time offensive talent in the middle of his prime. We shouldn’t count Jokic out.

So, will Embiid win? Only time will tell. How does his scoring output look if Harden returns to form and Maxey takes another leap? Are the Sixers a one-seed or a four-seed? Does he play in enough games? There are all questions we don’t have answers to yet. That said, it’s safe to expect Embiid to be in the conversation.

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