Before his injury, Joel Embiid had emerged as the favorite to win the MVP award this season.
Since that time, the odds have shifted away from Joel and towards other names such as former NBA MVP James Harden and Nikola Jokic.
While Embiid still holds the third-best odds to win the award, the longer he stays out of the Sixers’ rotation, the less likely it seems to me that he can actually win the award.
So, can Joel still win the award?
The short answer is yes.
Joel Embiid was already playing at an MVP level before the injury. And with the co-favorite at the time, LeBron James also being out with an injury, had Embiid remained healthy, it seemed unlikely anyone could have caught him.
The main issue with Joel right now is the number of games he is missing. The more games Joel misses, the more likely it will be for one of the other candidates previously mentioned will win.
Embiid’s path starts first and foremost with returning and not just coming back to the lineup. Joel will need to rejoin the team and come back in his MVP form. The sooner he comes back, the better for the team and his chances, but he must also continue his incredible level of play. If the recent reports are to be believed, Joel may be coming back sooner than originally anticipated.
The optimistic timeline had Joel coming back around April 4th. This seems to actually be the case which would be great for him and the team. So long as he keeps up the incredible play, he can capture the award.
As for the other potential favorites, there are some issues to discuss. For James Harden and also the man with the fourth-best odds right behind Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, there is the notion of “voter fatigue.” Both men have won the MVP award already and Giannis twice. The likelihood that either man could win the award again is very slim, Giannis especially. The added point for Harden would be that once Kevin Durant returns to the lineup, he is no longer the best player on his own team. Also, he played a major part in the implosion of the Houston Rockets as a franchise.
But what about Jokic? The Joker ticks all the boxes for an MVP. He is easily the best player on his team, he has a fan-friendly play style, and he stuffs the stat sheet every night. The major lag for Jokic is that he does not have team success.
Even without Embiid for this extended period of time, the Sixers have maintained the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The Denver Nuggets are tied for the fifth seed in the Western Conference with Jokic playing almost every game this season. This no doubt affects his odds of winning the award.
All of that said, the path to the MVP is simple for Joel. He must return to the lineup soon and back to form.
If that happens, and the standings hold true once Durant returns to the Nets’ lineup, he can win the 2021 NBA MVP award.
Featured Image: David Zalubowski/Associated Press