PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - FEBRUARY 23: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Wells Fargo Center on February 23, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Two years ago Joel Embiid put on a crazy performance. Somehow it was not good enough to win MVP. Last year he played even better, becoming more efficient facing double teams. That still was not enough for him to win MVP. And now for a 3rd  straight season, he is putting up historic numbers, while leading his team to a top seed in the competitive Eastern Conference. And it is starting to look like it may finally be enough to bring home the trophy for him. After Nikola Jokic was the odds-on favorite all season, Embiid has suddenly seen the odds flip to his favor. As I write this, Embiid is somewhere around -220 on most Sportsbooks to win MVP. 

But now we have to deal with cries of sympathy votes for him getting MVP. Jokic stans and Nuggets fans are preemptively putting Embiid down. Clowns like George Karl and Gilbert Arenas are now trying to paint him as lazy. But none of their tears or their random made-up stats can change how great Embiid is. If Embiid is putting up performances like this, while being “lazy” then he must be the best player of All-Time. Because what he is doing this year is unbelievable. Embiid is without a doubt, the greatest basketball player on the face of this Earth right now. No one is doing the things he does. 

And to prove it we are going to use the things Jokic fans love most. Numbers. Not their made-up stats like Raptor. No, real numbers that we can actually explain the meaning of. The eye test will never be enough for them. Because they don’t actually watch basketball to utilize the eye test. So I broke out my calculator to make the MVP case for Joel Embiid using their language. Stats. Here are 5 numbers that more than make the case that Joel Embiid is the MVP. 

[Source: Stat Muse]

  • .85

    Embiid is not just a good scorer. He is scoring at an All-Time level. Literally. In his career, he averages .85 points per minute. That is more than any player in NBA history. Yes, it is a little unfair to compare a player in his prime to players who played full career and saw the later years hurt their averages. So let’s compare it to singular seasons. Michael Jordan had just 4 seasons with a points per minute over .85. Embiid now has 3 over .90. Including this season with .96. Which ties him with Giannis for most from a qualified player.

    And he is doing it as a big man. Compare him to Shaq, and Embiid has 4 seasons with more points per minute higher than Shaq’s career high (.79). And before you ask, the same is true if you compare him to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose career high was also .79. Centers are not supposed to score like this. Even if you go all the way back to Wilt, he had just 2 seasons where he averaged more points per minute than .85. Granted in one of those seasons Wilt averaged 1.04 points per minute. But the point remains that Embiid is doing things no center since Wilt has done.

    And as Dan Roche points out below, lately he is scoring even more than a point per minute.

  • 6.4

    One of the knocks on Embiid is that “he is not a good passer”. Well, I am here to debunk that claim. Is he as good of a passer as Jokic is? No. As annoying as the Jokic love gets, he is an elite facilitator. But people use that to say there is this massive gap between him and Embiid. There isn’t. Embiid has turned into a pretty good playmaker in his own right. We don’t get to see it at the same rate as we do with Jokic, because Embiid plays with Harden, who is an elite facilitator, maybe the best in the league.  

    But when Harden sits, Embiid’s new skillset gets to shine. In games without Harden this season, Embiid averages 6.4 assists per game. He averages just 3.3 when Harden plays. With the increased role in the passing game, you would expect him to have more turnovers. The opposite is true. In games with Harden, his assist-to-turnover ratio is even 1. Without Harden, he averages 1.99 assists per turnover. He gets more efficient despite a higher volume of passing. And despite the larger role in helping run the offense, he still averages 32.8 points per game and .96 points per minute.

    That 6.4 per game would put him tied for 15th in the NBA. And only two other players, Luka and Dame, also average over 30 points per game. Embiid is known for his scoring, But he has also turned into a pretty damn good passer. 

  • 34.4

    Another weird and wrong knock on Joel Embiid is that he falls off in the 4th quarter. This one is courtesy of Gilbert Arenas, who is known for his good judgment. It falls apart with even the bare minimum amount of research. Embiid averages 7.1 minutes per 4th quarter. He usually misses the start of the 4th, because in most games he plays nearly the entire 3rd quarter. In those 7.1 minutes, he averages 6.8 pts per game. Stretch that over 36 minutes, it equals 34.4 points. And it is .96 points per minute.

    Maybe the confusion comes from Gilbert watching the Sixers recently and not seeing him in many 4th quarters. Because it turns out the Sixers have been playing so well, Embiid hasn’t even had to play in many 4th quarters. But the overall point is just dumb. If anything, Embiid steps his game up in the 4th quarter. We have seen it ourselves. He takes over late in games when needed. He also averages 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes.


  • 2.81

    Of course, the main argument for Embiid to be MVP comes on the defensive end. It is hard to quantify defense in stats. The advanced stat people try. But as you can see by the players those stats claim are good defenders, the formula is flawed. But there are two traditional defensive stats we can track. Blocks and steals. Embiid averages 2.81 combined blocks and steals per game. That is 5th in the NBA.  

    That stat doesn’t begin to show the real impact Embiid has on defense. It does not quantify all the shots he effects in the paint even without blocking them. But it is a start to expressing his impact on that end. Embiid’s elite defense should be the end of any talk of Jokic being the MVP. On offense, they are both elite players. But on defense, one of them is elite, and the other one is average at best. For what it is worth, Jokic comes in 35th in this stat, and Giannis comes in 70th.  

    If we want to talk about Giannis vs Embiid, that could have some merit. Because despite the low counting numbers on D, Giannis impacts that end of the floor too. But watch a Nuggets game, and you will see Jokic get picked on. You never see that from Embiid.

  • 5

    Only two players have ever had 5 straight games with at least 30pts and 3 blocks. Shaq (won MVP that year) and Joel Embiid. That is the level to which Embiid is playing right now. There is something to be said for playing your best basketball down the stretch. Games in November technically matter the same as a game in March. But if you ask any player if would they rather be playing better at the start of the season, or the end, they would pick the end. And Embiid is getting better as the season goes on. He is dominating on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis. He just broke a Sixers record for most consecutive games with 30pts. And he has his team winning and pushing for the one seed.  

    Meanwhile, Jokic’s Nuggets are going the other way. And yea he is still getting his triple-doubles. But his team is losing. And his poor defense plays a large part in that.  

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