Week 21 NBA MVP Ladder: 3. Joel Embiid
Rank last week: 2
Off EPM / Def EPM: +6.2/+1.8
Many felt that Joel Embiid and James Harden would have some growing pains together. The vast majority of superstar teammates need some time to figure each other out as they adjust to playing with a peer instead of a subordinate.
Instead, Embiid and Harden have fit together like a two-piece jigsaw puzzle. The team is 5-0 in their games together, and they’ve drawn an absolutely staggering number of fouls. (Seriously, block off three hours for the next Philadelphia 76ers game you plan on watching.)
Embiid drops a spot from last week due to a couple of subpar performances, including one against Miami without Harden. (Miami, too, was missing key pieces.) Embiid flailed his way to just 22 points on cringe-inducing 4-15 shooting and committed four turnovers to just two assists. He furthered a season-long pattern of struggling against zone defenses, a problem neither he nor coach Doc Rivers has solved.
The 76ers had better hope Harden is a zone-buster. Embiid is a much-improved passer this season, but late double-teams from strange angles (something Miami excels at) still give him problems, and opposing playoff teams will certainly have taken note.
Regardless, Embiid still appears to be the media front-runner for the MVP award. The early pairing with Harden has given the 76ers a real shot at snagging a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference, and if that happens, an Embiid MVP will feel like a fait accompli.