Devastating news for the NBA came out Thursday, leaving some Philadelphia sports fans in despair. In the last 6 months alone they’ve seen their Philadelphia Phillies fail to reach the World Series after having a 3-2 lead in the NLCS, their Philadelphia Eagles collapse in the second half of the season, losing in the Wild Card round of the playoffs after looking like the team to beat the first half of the season.
Now perhaps the biggest star in Philly, Sixers star center and reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid was diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee on Thursday. It’s even more heartbreaking considering the historic season Embiid is having (we’ll get into that shortly), as he is having a career year and looked on pace to repeat as MVP, helping the Sixers have a top-three record in the Eastern Conference at one point before their current skid of losing five of their last six games.
That skid was largely due to Embiid dealing with nagging injuries such as a sore knee he was dealing with before the news of his torn meniscus which comes as no surprise.
Many members of the media have called out the NBA’s 65-game policy they implemented in October before the start of the season that stated for a player to be eligible for MVP and All-NBA they must play 65 games minimum to qualify.
Embiid already missed nearly a dozen games before the Golden State Warriors game on Tuesday where they lost 119-107 (the game he suffered the injury) as he was trying to play in games while being hampered to be able to qualify for All-NBA and MVP, putting his health in jeopardy.
Now Embiid is having the best year of his career averaging 35.3 points (1st), 11.3 rebounds (6th), 5.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks (12th) on 53% from the field with all but field goal percentage and steals being career-highs.
Embiid was on pace to lead the league in scoring for the third consecutive season averaging 30+ points per game while also averaging over 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
He leads the league in player efficiency rating (PER) at a ridiculous 34.3 and was fourth in win shares (7.0) and third in win shares per 48 (.289)
How Does Embiid’s Injury Impact the MVP Race?
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Embiid’s injury drastically impacted the MVP race as he was the clear-cut favorite to repeat for the award before his injuries that were causing him to miss games before the unfortunate turn of events of him tearing his meniscus.
With him being injured now that leaves Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic, Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo, Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic with Jokic the favorite at -135 odds on FanDuel according to Vegas Insider.
Jokic, Giannis, and Shai are all dominating individually while leading their teams to top four records in their conference. Meanwhile, Luka's Mavericks aren't a world beater (sitting just 8th in the West) but Luka's ridiculous stat line of 34.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 9.4 assists on 49% from the field while doing most of it with his co-star Kyrie Irving out warrants him beingin the discussion.
If it weren’t for nagging injuries throughout Embiid’s career we could perhaps be talking about him being a three to four-time MVP, but sadly that’s not the case.
How does Embiid’s Injury affect the Sixers?
The injury to the Sixers franchise pillar is a devastating blow to their title chances as contenders as Embiid was the team's best player on both ends of the court who completely impacted the game and the way opponents strategized their game plan against the Sixers.
Embiid’s absence now calls for first-time All-Star Tyrese Maxey who was the secondary scorer to Embiid’s batman to now fill that role. That should be no problem for the fourth-year speedy guard out of Kentucky who’s having a career year across the board and just dropped a career-high of 51 points that included seven three-pointers made against the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
This will also call for Tobias Harris, who was the third option of the offense to have to step into a secondary role as a scorer who’s been having a solid season in his own right.
The Sixers currently sit 5th in the East at (30-17). With Embiid now out indefinitely with no timetable for his return it’ll be interesting to see if they can stay afloat as the season progresses especially if Embiid is somehow able to return before the postseason.
If Embiid is ruled out for the rest of the season, then the Sixers are better off just continuing to develop Maxey and see what valuable pieces they have they can see as a part of the future to help build around their two cornerstones in Embiid and Maxey.
In the end, Embiid’s injury is a devastating blow for not only Sixers fans but NBA lovers as well.
Let’s hope he has a speedy recovery and can return to the level he was playing at whether that’s this season or next season.