On the Best Run of his Career, Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid is Playing Like an NBA MVP

Ben Simmons has been missing in action, Tobias Harris has been hot and cold, and various other Philadelphia 76ers have been in and out because of illnesses and injuries. As for superstar center Joel Embiid, all he has done is put the franchise on his rather broad shoulders and play like a potential Most Valuable Player of the NBA.

All the 7-foot, 280-pound Embiid has done of late is resemble the NBA’s most dominant inside presence that he is. While sparking Philadelphia’s season-best six-game winning streak, Embiid has scored at least 31 points in all of those victories and has posted a jaw-dropping 33.2 points and 10.5 rebounds a game during the spree.

Joel Embiid has helped the Philadelphia 76ers overcome their inconsistency with his recent run of dominant, 30-point performances

It’s no coincidence that the Philadelphia 76ers best run of the season has come at a time when Embiid has been unstoppable, whether he’s posting up down low or using his show-and-go move from the 3-point line.

On Friday, Embiid completely embarrassed the artists formerly known as the San Antonio Spurs with a couple of backboard-shaking dunks. In Embiid’s dominant 32 minutes on the floor, he had 31 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. He was so good that the Sixers outscored the Spurs by 26 points while he was on the floor.

As TNT analyst Charles Barkley might infamously quip about San Antonio’s futile defense against Embiid — as only Chuck can, of course — “David Robinson and Tim Duncan are rolling over in their graves.”

“The game is becoming easy because we’re moving the ball, playing with each other, and the ball is not sticking,” Embiid said afterward in the postgame news conference as reported by The Associated Press.

Joel Embiid has joined some Philadelphia 76ers all-time greats with his recent run

Friday’s beatdown of the Spurs gave Embiid his sixth straight game with at least 30 points. That allowed him to join Sixers royalty Wilt Chamberlain (two times) and Allen Iverson (eight times) as the only players in franchise history to string together six straight 30-point games.

Also, Embiid’s performance was the 85th 30-point game of his six-year NBA career. He is the eighth player in Philadelphia history to do that, and it’s interesting to note that the other seven are all Hall of Famers.

“At this point, it’s kind of routine,” Harris said of Embiid’s domination in Friday’s postgame news conference as reported by The Associated Press. “ You can kind of see the fear in the defender’s eyes. He knows how to pick apart a game.”

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid is playing his way into the MVP conversation

The 27-year-old Embiid is in the prime of his career. He has become the franchise fixture that the Sixers thought he had the potential to be when they picked him No. 3 overall in 2014 and waited two seasons for his injuries to heal.

The complexity in his game has shown just how much he’s grown as a player. On Friday, rather than bang in the post with San Antonio’s Drew Eubanks, he took him back out the perimeter, crossed him over with a dribble to get inside position along the baseline, and then rammed the ball in with one hand. Later in the night, he avoided the temptation of launching a 3-pointer — often the Achilles’ heel of Embiid’s game — and instead drove by guard Dejounte Murray and Euro-stepped his way to another dunk.

Thus far, Embiid ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring (26.8 ppg.), 10th in rebounding (10.7 rpg.), and he’s third in ESPN’s Player Efficiency Rating (29.3). His most important stat of all, however, might be his career-best 4.3 assists a night. He’s taken over some of the playmaking duties that became available when Ben Simmons refused to play this season for the Sixers.

Embiid’s Player Efficiency Rating trails only that of reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (32.9) and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (32), according to ESPN.com. If he can stay healthy and lead the Sixers back to the top of the East without Simmons, he almost assuredly will be a top candidate to win his first MVP award.

Embiid is clearly in the prime of his career, and he seems to understand that it is his job to lead the 76ers beyond the drama and distraction of Simmons and ultimately to greatness.

“It’s been fun,” Embiid said in his postgame news conference as reported by The Associated Press. “We’re just playing as a team. These guys trust me to make plays. I need to keep on doing and climb in the standings.”

Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com

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