One of the most intriguing stories in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2019-20 regular season involves C Joel Embiid and his quest to help the Philadelphia 76ers reach the NBA Finals. Embiid looked borderline unstoppable when he was 100% healthy last season, averaging 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists over 64 games. However, he was seemingly constantly plagued by a nagging knee injury that forced Philadelphia to monitor his minutes and scratch him from the lineup in 14 games down the stretch. Embiid was also all over the injury report during the postseason as well, as he was listed as doubtful in several games against both Brooklyn and Toronto and even missed Game 3 of the first round due to lingering knee soreness.
Perhaps the most troubling factor was that his health was often negatively impacted by both flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems, which are often caused by various lifestyle factors. Moving forward, there is little doubt that Embiid is clearly one of the most dominant players in the entire NBA when fully healthy. Oddsmakers currently have him listed at +1600 to win the regular season MVP Award, which puts him behind only a handful of other stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Nikola Jokic. However, Joel Embiid’s MVP odds may offer bettors some value if he finds a way to successfully change his habits off the court during the season this year.
Joel Embiid’s MVP Chances Are All About His Health
When on his game, Embiid is arguably the most dominant center in the entire NBA. All positive Philadelphia 76ers predictions are based around the assumption that Embiid can stay on the court for an entire season. Unfortunately, since that has yet to happen over the past several seasons, it has shifted the narrative to some of Embiid’s decisions away from the court. Not only did former teammate Landry Shamet comment on Embiid’s love of fast food at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, there also seemed to be a lot of whispers about his poor diet and high-flying nightlife leading up to the 76ers second round playoff exit.
A huge x-factor this year for Joel Embiid’s odds of success could be the newly acquired Al Horford. The 76ers signed the veteran center to a four-year, 97 million dollar contract at the start of July and if all goes according to plan, he should be a massive positive influence for the young core on this Sixers team – especially Embiid. Former teammates in both Boston and Atlanta rave about Horford’s mental preparation and professionalism both on and off the court.
If even a small part of that rubs off on Embiid, the Sixers should give the Milwaukeee Bucks some tough competition for first place in the East. It is also important to remember how upset Embiid was after the Sixers dropped Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Toronto. If he is able to harness some of that heartbreak and use it as motivation to come back stronger and more committed, Embiid is an intriguing sleeper candidate for MVP honors this season.