Before the season, Joel Embiid gave his ambitious goal of wanting to win MVP.
At the time, it sort of seemed like just Embiid being Embiid. He likes to have fun and never lacks swagger. Then when you started to think about his competition and what he could do with a healthy offseason, and you realize it's not crazy to think he has a chance.
You can count those at the Wells Fargo Center as believers. When Embiid went to the line to secure his 41-point night - the first 40-point night by a Sixer since Allen Iverson in 2006 - in Thursday's win over the Clippers, the crowd showered him with chants of "M-V-P." He also collected 13 rebounds and four blocks.
He started off red hot, scoring 24 in the first half. After a tough loss in Toronto, the Sixers needed their big man to play at an MVP level and he delivered.
"That's my job as the leader. I can do anything I want on the basketball court when I want to. It's just about being aggressive, staying within the concept of the game and the system and dominating. That's what they need me to do. When they need me to take over I need to be there."
Through nine games this season, Embiid's playing like a guy that could take home hardware at the end of the season. He's averaging 28.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 blocks.
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Only three players in NBA history have finished with a stat line of at least 28 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 assists and two blocks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob McAdoo and Shaquille O'Neal. All three of those players were MVPs and are now Hall of Famers.
There's also this nugget:
.@sixers @JoelEmbiid's six 30-point, 10-rebound games are the most by a player through their team's first nine games of a season since @TheDeliverer_32 also had six in 1988-89.
h/t @bball_ref— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) November 2, 2018
Embiid is currently fourth in the league scoring, eighth in rebounding, fifth in blocks and fifth among players listed as centers in assists.
What could hurt him most in his campaign is if the Sixers don't pick up their play as a team. They're currently 5-4 - 5-0 at home and 0-4 on the road - and in the sixth spot in the East. Obviously it's very early and the Sixers got off to a slow start last season as well.
The other thing that could spoil his chances is his position. No true center has won the award since O'Neal in 1999-00. That also means Embiid is feasting on inferior talent. He won't get much love from voters for dominating Marcin Gortat and Alex Len.
But if he keeps playing at this level, The Process could be the first Sixer to take home the award since The Answer in 2000-01.
"It's great," Embiid said with a huge smile. "I stated before the season that I wanted to be MVP and Defensive Player of the Year but I just think that defensively we did a good job as a team believing in ourselves and following the concepts and we did a great job today.
"Of course that's what I want, I want to win Defensive Player of the Year and have a chance to be MVP and the chants … It's nice. I like it."
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