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For the last few years, Joel Embiid hasn’t been quiet about his desires to win an NBA MVP award. The Philadelphia 76ers center has lobbied voters for their support to no avail, as he’s finished second to Nikola Jokic in the MVP race two seasons in a row.

Embiid will still be chasing that elusive MVP trophy this year, but he’s adjusting his goals to focus more on team success instead of individual accolades. During media day this week, the big man revealed his lofty goal for the Sixers that has nothing to do with him winning MVP.

Joel Embiid wants the 76ers to be the best defensive team in the NBA

Offense rules the world in today’s NBA. We’ve never seen more points and more three-pointers chucked up in the history of the league, so many teams are building their rosters to reflect the new normal.

With Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey running the show, the 76ers are surely built to outscore their opponents. Philadelphia is perfectly capable of putting up 130 on any given night, but that’s not going to be the focus heading into the season.

According to Embiid, this year is going to be all about defense.

“Our focus is on defense. We aim to be the best defensive team in the league,” Embiid told reporters Monday during media day. “That’s going to take all of us. I got to get back to not waiting until the fourth [quarter] to be that guy, and then doing it all game… For me, coming into this year we just want to focus on that. Because if you get stops, you’re able to run, you’re able to get in transition, you’re able to get Tyrese [Maxey] going.” 

Defense is still the key to success in the NBA

Joel Embiid poses during media day.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers poses during media day | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

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The NBA may have morphed into an offensive league over the last decade, but defense still wins championships. Last season, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors were the only two teams in the NBA that finished with a defensive rating lower than 107. They just happened to be the two teams that met in the NBA Finals.

The 76ers finished last season with the 12th-best defensive rating in the league. They lost in the playoffs to the Miami Heat, which finished as the second-best defensive team in the Eastern Conference.

Defense is still the key to success in the NBA, and the 76ers would be wise to make that a priority in 2022-23. If Embiid can accomplish his goal and lead the Sixers to the No. 1 defense in the league, it would give him the best chance of his career to win a title in Philadelphia.

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