As we're more than halfway through the 2021-2022 NBA season, the league's Most Valuable Player conversation is beginning to heat up once again.
Last season, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was arguably the favorite to win the award when the All-Star break rolled around.
This season, the situation is no different. With the big showcase less than a month away, Embiid is once again putting on a stellar campaign to win the award. And lately, many have stated their case for Embiid to be the frontrunner to win MVP right now.
Count NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal in as a Joel Embiid believer as he went to war for the Sixers' big man on Wednesday night.
Shaq States His Case for Embiid
"I just hope Joel doesn't get penalized because, over the last 10-15 years, it's been unclear to me what the definition of Most Valuable Player is," O'Neal said. "He does have my vote [right now], but there are some cuckoos that say, 'Oh, this team had a better record, so this guy's MVP.' I always thought Most Valuable Player was a single award, which means you're the baddest guy in the league. And the baddest guy in the league right now is Joel Embiid. But they're in sixth place, so hopefully, the media doesn't penalize him if another guy who's close and his team has a better record."
As the Sixers sit in sixth-place in the Eastern Conference with a 28-19 record, some argue that the team isn't good enough for Embiid to be considered for the MVP award. However, you can make two counter-points to that argument.
First, despite being in sixth place, the Sixers aren't too far from the top. As the Eastern Conference is a tight race right now, the Sixers are only 2.5 games back from the first seeded Miami Heat.
Second, it's evident the Sixers are like night and day when they are without Joel Embiid, which should be a positive factor in the argument for Embiid's case.
While the Sixers center has been relatively healthy so far this season, he's missed a handful of games earlier in the year. When he was off the court, the Sixers achieved a record of 3-8. With Embiid on the court, the Sixers center has dominated and won his team games they probably wouldn't typically win without his contributions.
There is still a lot of time left in the season. Therefore, the MVP race could change. However, based on how everything played out in the first half of the season and beyond, Embiid is certainly up there with the favorites to win MVP.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.