Joel Embiid has always had the potential to be the best player in the league and this season it may finally happen.

All stories out of Embiid’s camp this off-season suggest he is coming into this season in shape and motivated. While Sixers fans have heard this story before this time could be different.

In an interview with Brian Seltzer Embiid explained:

“For the past month and a half, almost two months, I’ve been doing basketball basically every single day trying to get better and stay in shape because last year was very disappointing.”

From reading the interview you get the impression that Joel is more motivated coming into this season, he went on to say:

“I got to do better. I got to go back to the Joel Embiid from two years ago when I averaged 28 points and was the best defensive player in the league. I also need a little bit of luck with injuries. That’s why I’ve been working so hard to trim down and just stay in shape and keep on getting better. The skills are there. I just need to keep working and perfect it. As soon as we lost [in Orlando] and after having a baby, I just wanted to come back in and do what I got to do.”

Photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today

The excuses are running out for Embiid too. Philadelphia’s front office has done a nice job getting shooters to space the floor and while another playmaking point guard would certainly help, the roster already looks to fit better around their star. Embiid now also has a proven head coach who should be able to best utilize his skill set, that along with seemingly every defender Joel has struggled with is now out of the conference should lead to a big year.

There is a historical precedent for big men ascending to MVP status in their mid-20’s. in the 1999-00 season at age 26 Shaquille O’Neal was coming off an injury-plagued season in which, by his standards, he under-performed. The Lakers then hired Phil Jackson, a championship-winning head coach (sound familiar?), and added some perimeter shooting with the likes of Brian Shaw.

Jackson was able to get Shaq motivated and O’Neal came into the season in shape which led to him having the best year of his career. O’Neal averaged 29.7 points 13.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game leading the Lakers to 67 wins and gaining his first and only league MVP award.

Hopefully, Joel Embiid can do the same in 2021.

Featured Image: Bill Streicher/USA Today
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