When Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid erupted for a Sixers’ franchise-high 70 points against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, he not only made a splash in the Philadelphia record book but also changed the complexion of the 2023-24 NBA MVP race.
Before Monday’s games, Embiid (the current favorite at ) and Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic () were the co-favorites. In fact, some sportsbooks listed Jokic as the favorite, while others had Embiid leading the race, and a few listed both players at the same price.
After Monday’s game, Embiid is the clear favorite across the board.
Joel Embiid Makes History Against the Spurs
Embiid and the Sixers’ home clash with San Antonio and star rookie Victor Wembanyama generated some buzz before tipoff thanks to the battle between Philly’s 7-foot reigning MVP and Rookie of the Year contender Wembanyama ().
Monday night quickly became all about Embiid, though. He finished the first half with 34 points and entered the fourth quarter with 59. By that point, chatter about his historic showing was dominating social media. The praise for Embiid continued all night after he finished with 70 points, sparking viral reactions from Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant, the Lakers’ LeBron James, and many other NBA stars past and present.
Joel Embiid Becomes 2023-24 NBA MVP Favorite
Embiid’s dominant night (24-for-41 from the field, including just two attempts from downtown, plus 18 rebounds and five assists) also immediately resulted in substantial changes to the 2023-24 NBA MVP odds for both Embiid and Jokic.
With a record-setting performance that is dominating NBA media coverage, Embiid may have authored his “MVP moment” with 40 games remaining in the regular season. A year ago, an April game against the Celtics in which Embiid had 52 points in a crucial Sixers win went a long way toward him taking home MVP honors for the first time. Now, after becoming just the ninth player in league history to score 70 or more points in a game, Embiid will likely be the MVP favorite for the rest of the season.
Joel Embiid 2023-24 NBA MVP Case
Embiid’s MVP case starts with his NBA-best scoring (36.1 points per game), which leads the league by nearly 3 points. It’s not just Embiid’s offense that makes him the current favorite, though. He also averages the fifth-most rebounds per game in the league and dishes out an impressive 5.9 assists per game on a team that is just four games out of first place in the Eastern Conference.
Joel Embiid’s Biggest MVP Obstacle
It’s unlikely that Embiid will run away from second-favorite Jokic in the MVP race, but Jokic’s playing style will make it almost impossible for him to close the statistical gap between these players.
What could loom as a possible challenge for Embiid is the league’s updated player participation policy. Thanks to the NBA’s new rule this season requiring players to play in at least 65 games (with injuries as an exception) to be eligible for awards like MVP, the fact Embiid has already missed 10 games (meaning he can only miss seven more the rest of the way) is notable.