Joel Embiid is sitting on top of the world right now. Monday night he dropped 70 points on the San Antonio Spurs, flexing his incredible power over the very player who may be the future of the league.
It is understandable that the reigning MVP came in with a need to put Victor Wembanyama in his place, remind everyone of just how amazing a player he is. Wemby may be the future, Embiid is right now.
The 7-foot Cameroonian two-time scoring champion put on a show for the ages, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson 60+ point outings.
But at what cost?
Right now Embiid’s numbers are better than they were last year when he was named MVP. But as Sean Elliott and Dan Weiss pointed out, he might be on the wrong side of the new rules pertaining to eligibility for honors including NBA MVP and All-NBA teams.
Specifically, players must be on the floor for 20 minutes in at least 65 games.
At the halfway point, Embiid can only miss seven more games this season, and he has never played more than 68 games in any given season.
Not to mention that Embiid’s chase of that 70-point game could have ended tragically for him when considering the way a player like Blake Wesley (ahem) knocked him to the ground!
Seriously though, there’s also a consideration of the ultimate goal — an NBA championship.
As pointed out in yesterday’s OT, the 76ers’ mid-2010s tanking efforts did not acquire a group of great players through the draft. Of the six lottery players they drafted between 2013-2020, only Embiid remains.
While Tyrese Maxey’s rise elevates the team’s chances as a whole, and Tobias Harris consistency keeps them relevant, it may not be enough to propel them against the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics. Additions of Patrick Beverly and Marcus Morris, both of whom were unavailable against the Spurs, could carry that x-factor quality to push through the best in the East.
Indeed, Joel Embiid will go down as the highest single-game scorer in 76ers franchise history. He will forever be celebrated in Philadelphia, and rightfully so. He has an MVP and should rightfully repeat if health stays on his side. And if we live in a fair world Joel Embiid should retire as one of the greatest big men to ever play the game.
But without bringing a title to Philadelphia, he will get overshadowed by contemporaries Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic.
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