Ever since the start of the season, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has looked more dominant than ever. As the Sixers' revamped front office fixed the starting lineup's awkward fit by adding more reliable shooters to help with the spacing, Embiid has been thriving all year long.
It only took a few weeks before the MVP candidate label was attached to Embiid. At this point, just about halfway through the year, Embiid's campaign for the big award is doing better than ever. In 27 games, Embiid has averaged 29 points, 3.1 assists, 11.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks.
While he's averaging a career-high in scoring, Embiid is doing it much more efficiently too. With 17 field goal attempts-per-game, Embiid is knocking down a career-high of 51-percent of his shots from the field. And as he takes fewer three-point shots-per-game this season, Embiid shoots a career-high of 40-percent from beyond-the-arc.
Embiid has battled with Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic and Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James as the award's favorite throughout the year. And while both players surely remain in the conversation, Embiid has finally taken the top spot on the NBA's MVP ladder as James has struggled over the last week or so.
"Embiid and the 76ers dominated the Mavericks in the paint Thursday, outscoring them 50-26. Embiid shot 10 or more free throws for the ninth consecutive game, which ranks as the second longest streak in the NBA over the last 10 seasons behind James Harden’s 21 straight games in 2019. As the 76ers prepare for Saturday’s matchup against Cleveland (7 ET, NBA League Pass), Embiid has averaged 22 points over the last three games, and he’s hitting just 26.4% overall while cashing in at the free-throw line (34 of 38)" - Michael C. Wright, NBA.com
Embiid hasn't been perfect himself. As of late, he's seen a handful of open looks throughout his matchups, and an unusual amount of his shots haven't been dropping. As expected, Doc Rivers and the Sixers are far from concerned.
Although Embiid is in what you would barely call a shooting slump, his team is more than confident in his shot. The seven-footer always had the tools to become an MVP favorite. This year, he's just been healthy enough to put it all together consistently. He's getting through one-half of the season major injury-free. Now, we'll see if his good health and high level of play can be sustained for the second half.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_