- Joel Embiid put in another epic performance as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz on Wednesday
- Embiid has overtaken LeBron James in NBA MVP odds as a result
- Is now the time to back LeBron or the Cameroonian Superstar? See updated odds below
Joel Embiid led the Sixers to a comeback win on Wednesday. Beating the Utah Jazz, owners of the NBA’s best record, was enough to move Embiid to favorite in the latest NBA MVP odds.
Putting in a 40-point, 19-rebound performance on the night LeBron James missed his first game of the season provided the first change atop the MVP market in several weeks.
James has been the consensus pick to win his fifth MVP this season – have his chances taken a notable blow? Or is this the best time to back him?
2021 NBA MVP Odds
Odds taken on March 4th from FanDuel
Embiid Dominates Gobert
Joel Embiid dropped 40 on the Defensive Player of the Year favorite. He was phenomenal. Rudy Gobert was bullied at times by Embiid, and was kept well below his season averages in field goal percentage and rebounding.
Embiid capped off another spectacular night with a three-pointer to send it to overtime.
This was a statement performance. MVP seasons have moments that change perception. Embiid has had a few already this term, but toppling the league-leading Utah Jazz might be the best of all. LeBron James’ MVP candidacy got a boost when he beat the Bucks and Clippers in quick succession last season – Embiid is experiencing a similar wave of MVP support.
JOEL WITH FORCE 💪 pic.twitter.com/UGyad61vfP
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 4, 2021
Turnovers have always been an issue for Embiid. Perhaps most impressively, he’s turned it over just seven times in his last four games. Even with the Brooklyn Nets surging, Embiid’s performances are keeping the Sixers at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Process Overtakes the King
Embiid has made no secret of his desire to win individual awards. LeBron has been lobbying for this MVP since last season. The change at the top of the MVP odds is understandable given Embiid’s sustained standards throughout this season, and LeBron’s decision to sit out the second night of a back-to-back could suggest he will be load managing in the second half of the season.
Here's the full Embiid quote with the Eskin call out at the end: pic.twitter.com/UBmD1T0fEq
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) March 4, 2021
James taking games off could reinvigorate this MVP race. With an absolutely packed second half schedule, Embiid is definitely going to sit out multiple games. That was perhaps the biggest threat to his MVP case while LeBron hadn’t missed a game.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 4, 2021
Embiid missing 10 or more games with James missing only a couple would have been a significant factor in MVP discussion when it’s time to vote. If Embiid misses 10 and LeBron misses six, it’s much easier to ignore. Then it becomes a straight comparison on impact and performance. In those circumstances, it’s much easier to make an argument Embiid as MVP.
Still Back LBJ
Joel Embiid has been immense this season. He’s probably been the best player in the NBA. LeBron has been typically exceptional throughout too, though, and NBA MVP voting is not as straight forward as the best player in a given season winning. There are other factors at play. Those factors overwhelmingly point in LeBron’s favor if the Lakers can secure a top three seed in the Western Conference.
Joel Embiid is averaging 30.2 points this season.
He’s on pace to become the first center to have a 30-PPG season since Moses Malone in 1981-82. pic.twitter.com/xsoSpiXz71
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 4, 2021
Embiid’s case is strengthening. The Sixers keep winning, and Embiid is a two-way force, but LeBron has narrative on his side.
This is still LeBron’s award to lose. His price might never get better than this after a poor run for the Lakers and his first missed game of the season. The four-time MVP remains the best bet on the board, though there’s no question Embiid is putting him under serious pressure.
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