I know it’s early in the season to make a case for MVP, but while the national media finds itself enthralled in Giannis Antetokounmpo’s breakout season, I’d prefer to focus on a seven-footer who’s shooting better than 5.9% from deep – yes, seriously, Giannis is 1-for-17 on the year from three – and his name is Joel Hans Embiid.
The Process, who recently received his own hashtag:
has been simply magnificent through the first ten games of the season. Entering Sunday, his 296 total points, 87 2-Pt field goals, 124 total rebounds, and 0.7 defensive win shares are good enough for second in the NBA. He leads the league in free throws made (80) and free throw attempts (99). His per game averages of 29.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks rank second, sixth, and sixth respectively. Perhaps most importantly for a player who’s suffered a myriad of injuries throughout his early career, Embiid is tied for the most games played (10) and third in total minutes played (344); he’s 15th in minutes per game at 34.4.
So what makes him an MVP candidate? How does this qualify as a “historic” season?
It goes beyond the traditional counting stats in a few categories. The extent to which Embiid’s all-around game has been on display this season has never been seen before. Even with some modifications, only a few Hall of Fame players have operated in this stratosphere.
Embiid is averaging 29.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks, while shooting an effective field goal percentage of 52.2% and 31.1% from three. The only players to put up 29+ PPG and 10+ REB on 50+ eFG% and 30% 3PT were Karl Malone in 1988-89 and 1989-90 and David Robinson in 1993-94.
The list of players who have averaged 29.6 points per game while shooting 53.7% on two-point field goals, 31.1% on threes, and a 52.2+ effective field goal percentage is a bit lengthier: eight. Only George Gervin (1979-80), Adrian Dantley (1981-82) Larry Bird (1987-88), Karl Malone (1989-90), Michael Jordan (1989-90, 1990-91), LeBron (2009-10), Kevin Durant (2013-14), and Steph Curry (2015-16, 18-19) have put up the requisite shooting numbers.
Embiid is also one of only four players in NBA history to average 29+ points, 12+ rebounds, 3+ assists on an effective field goal percentage of at least 50%. The three others are Hall of Fame centers: Wilt Chamberlain (1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65, 1965-66), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1974-75), and Shaquille O’Neal (1999-2000).
Whether “The Process” will become the thirteenth center in NBA history to win the MVP award remains to be seen, but if he continues to put up these numbers at this rate, it’d be hard to argue against it.