The 2021 NBA MVP race is heating up with Joel Embiid at the heart of it, along with some usual suspects (LeBron James) and past winners (Stephen Curry) coming to the fore once again for their respective teams. While the 2020 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a frontrunner once again, a recent informal ESPN survey came up with as many as 7 different top choices, with the likes of Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard all considered to be in the reckoning.
However, one player that has hugely impressed on both ends of the court has been the Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid, who is currently one of the frontrunners along with four-time MVP and Lebron James.
Why Joel Embiid deserves the 2021 NBA MVP award more than Lebron James
While the LA Lakers have arguably been a more dominant outfit this season with an impressive 22-9 record, the Philadelphia 76ers are not that far behind, and are currently 1st in the NBA Eastern Conference with a 20-11 record.
Lebron James has featured in each of the 31 NBA games that the LA Lakers have played in thus far. However, Embiid has been the more impactful of the two and has the statistics to show for it.
The numbers: Embiid leads in most advanced metrics
Lebron James is having a rather underwhelming offensive season by his lofty standards. While a common argument he has put forward in the past is that he is often compared to his own past seasons and not other basketball players, Joel Embiid has the numbers to show for his 2021 NBA MVP bid.
What’s more, the LA Lakers have struggled in the absence of Anthony Davis, while 5 of the Philadelphia 76ers’ 11 losses this season have come during the 6 games that Joel Embiid sat out of.
The likes of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic lead LeBron James in multiple advanced metrics, who has seen question marks being raised on his efficiency, especially in recent weeks.
While it might be a bit too early to judge the two on the basis of statistics alone, Lebron James until now has not done enough to become the runaway favorite for the 2021 NBA MVP award. Joel Embiid on the other hand, needs to continue on the same trajectory.
Two-way impact: Embiid has outscored and outdefended Lebron
Another impressive highlight, apart from Joel Embiid’s improved passing in the 2020-21 NBA season has been the way he has dominated opponents defensively. Joel Embiid is the defensive mainstay of a hugely impressive Philadelphia 76ers side.
Apart from the 2021 NBA MVP, Joel Embiid is also a frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year award, and is producing some extraordinary numbers on the other end of the court as well. While Lebron James is averaging a steal, 7.6 defensive rebounds and .5 blocks per game, Joel Embiid has been nothing short of a revelation, with 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. He has had to single-handedly lead the Philadelphia 76ers to victory in multiple games, and has been regularly devastating.
Net rating: The 76ers rely on Joel Embiid more
Joel Embiid is comprehensively outscoring Lebron James by around 5 points, and has been the most efficient player in the 2020-21 NBA season thus far. As a matter of fact, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are the only two NBA players with an efficiency rating of 30+, with Embiid currently leading marginally.
Lebron James on the other hand lags behind at the 20th position, and has an efficiency rating of 24.01. He is trailing behind the likes of Zion Williamson, Christian Wood and his own LA Lakers teammate Anthony Davis.
The Philadelphia 76ers 1-5 record in Embiid’s absence this season translates to an increase of +11.3 in the Net rating with James giving his side a boost of +9.9. Additionally, Joel Embiid's absence results in a -6.5 Net Rating for the 76ers, which when compared to Lebron’s -4 paints a clearer picture.