Sixers: Joel Embiid and the early 2023 MVP ladder

Sixers, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Sixers, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

2023 NBA MVP ladder — 1. Joel Embiid

If this were based strictly on performance and resumé, Jokic and Giannis (in some order) would probably rank first and second. That’s not to knock Joel Embiid, who is a dominant, Hall of Fame talent. It’s simply an admission of circumstance. Health issues have limited Embiid in the past, Philly hasn’t made it past the second round yet, and his statistical profile (while, again, historically great) doesn’t quite match up with the others.

And yet, the MVP race is never strictly about stats. It’s about wins. The Sixers will win games this season if everyone stays healthy. It’s about narrative. Embiid has finished second twice now, and there’s a large faction of NBA fans (and media) who think it’s past time to reward him for his unprecedented scoring dominance at the center position. There’s no better individual scorer in the game right now. Embiid puts up points. He doesn’t always get them in the sexiest fashion, but he’s too big and strong to guard straight up, you can’t just throw doubles at him willy-nilly anymore (he’s a good passer now), and he’s an ace at the free throw line. No one visits the free throw line more than Embiid.

There’s a good chance Embiid is right back at the top of the NBA scoring ladder next season. If he’s back in that position and the Sixers are competing for a top seed in the East, then it’s hard to imagine Embiid not being the favorite. I’m not sure I agree with saying it’s past time for him to win — Jokic deserved both of his trophies — but a lot of people would disagree with me. It’s not quite Leonardo DiCaprio winning his Oscar for The Revenant, but there’s a strong chance that Embiid wins MVP even if his case is weaker than in years past. He doesn’t have to overcome the weight of his own accolades like Jokic and Giannis.

There’s also a strong chance Embiid is the deserving winner. He’s a flat-out, game-breaking, awesome-sauce talent. Philadelphia fans know that better than anyone else. Embiid can win games on both sides of the ball, and at worst, he’s a top-five player in the NBA right now. His time is coming. Does that mean he’s the 2023 MVP? We’ll have to wait and see.

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