Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid felt disrespected when he failed to pick up any personal accolades after last season. While the Sixers' big man clarifies that winning games is the priority, he still believes his personal play should be acknowledged on a bigger scale.
After his 'snubs' last season, Embiid came into the 2020-2021 NBA season with a chip on his shoulder. As he changed his lifestyle, diet, and workout regimen to keep him in better shape and hopefully stay healthier, Embiid has looked much better on the court to start the season.
In 12 games, Embiid has averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds-per-game. Offensively, he's becoming the 76ers' closer, and he's proved he can take over games if needed. Defensively, he's the same old Embiid, which is a great thing as he's been one of the most dominant defensive players in the NBA since entering the pros.
Several times this season, Embiid flashed his star power and willed the Sixers to victories. On Wednesday night, the big man did it again against Philly's rival, the Boston Celtics. In 32 minutes on the floor, Embiid knocked down 12 of his 19 shots from the field. He also collected 17 points off of 21 total free throws.
As the Sixers picked up an impressive 117-109 win at home, Embiid put up 42 total points while collecting 10 rebounds, securing the double-double. Embiid might wow viewers every time he takes a game over as he did on Wednesday night, but it's certainly not because that kind of performance is rare from the big man.
Throughout the entire 2020-2021 season, Embiid has been dominant all-around. And his veteran teammate Tobias Harris is certain that his All-Star teammate is in the MVP conversation early on this year.
"It's not sort of, it's for sure MVP-caliber," Harris said on Wednesday in regards to Embiid's season so far. "Night after night, he controls the game and controls the paint. More than anything, defensively, he's a force for us. His activity in pick and rolls, his presence out there is huge."
Embiid currently doesn't lead in the NBA statistically in any categories, but his numbers are up there with some of the best. Not to mention, his team's 10-5 record, which ranks best in the Eastern Conference right now, helps his early MVP campaign, considering he's a significant reason why the Sixers are competing so well.
"I think for sure he's putting on an MVP year," Harris continued. "One of the biggest things is that he continues to sustain it game after game. And we continue to progress, and even himself continues to progress throughout this year. I'm happy for him because this is what he's put in. When you win and are successful as a team, you get that type of notoriety for sure."
There's still plenty of basketball left to be played, so a lot can change over time. So far, though, it's hard to deny Embiid's progress early on. Through the first few weeks of the season, he's been a clear-cut candidate for being named the NBA's best player. Now, he just needs to stay healthy and keep riding the momentum.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_