Joel Embiid’s production has never been an issue. Through five NBA seasons, the 76ers center has career averages of 24.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. He’s one of five players in league history to average 24 and 11, and the other four (Pettit, Baylor, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar) are all in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
And yet, in Embiid’s five NBA seasons, the talented 7-footer has never finished higher than 7th in MVP voting. The reason? Availability.
After sitting out his first two NBA seasons (2015 and 2016) with various injuries, Embiid has appeared in 229 of a possible 344 games. He has missed every third game over a five-season span, and his career-high in games for a single season is just 64, in 2019.
But the 2020-21 season has been different. Embiid has appeared in 20 of Philadelphia’s 25 games, with four absences scattered throughout due to back tightness and another for knee maintenance. A healthy Embiid has meant both availability and production: Embiid is averaging career highs in points (29.1), field-goal percentage (54.7%), 3-point field-goal percentage (37.7%), steals (1.4) and Player Efficiency Rating (an NBA-best 31.1).
Embiid’s remarkable season has resulted in his MVP odds shortening considerably. He entered the season with +4000 odds – again, a byproduct of his inability to stay healthy rather than his talents – but has seen those odds shorten to as low as +400 at Pennsylvania online betting sites in an airtight NBA MVP race.
Stats matter, but so does team success. And like Embiid, the 76ers have taken a leap forward. While the Bucks and Nets grab headlines, and while the Raptors and Heat are the last two conference winners, the 76ers are at the top the Eastern Conference with an 18-7 record, including an NBA-best 11-2 record at home.
Embiid, of course, has been a major reason why. His averages by month have only gotten better, and his MVP odds shortening have followed after his +4000 start:
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Embiid’s MVP candidacy is here to stay. LeBron James leads the way given the numbers he’s putting up in his 18th NBA season, while Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and the Warriors’ Steph Curry all are building legitimate cases of their own.
However, Embiid’s case will be a difficult one for voters to overlook. It’s impossible to predict injuries, and Embiid has a history of them, but if he’s finally able to stay healthy for an entire season and vaults Philadelphia to the top seed in the East – and potentially the league’s best record – Embiid’s numbers will speak for themselves.
If you believe in his ability to remain healthy, meaning he’s worth a bet, the time to jump on his MVP odds is now. Because if he remains on the floor, his odds likely will shorten further.