Joel Embiid hasn't had an easy season. He spent the first half of the season shrouded in the Ben Simmons drama, as his All-Star teammate refused to play for the Philadelphia 76ers and requested a trade, The 76ers held on to Simmons until the trade deadline, when they sent Simmons out for a disgruntled James Harden to finally complete the pairing that the 76ers tried when Harden left the Houston Rockets in early-2021.
Through Simmons not playing, Embiid led the 76ers to one of the best records in the league and had become a runaway front-runner in the MVP conversation. However, the second half of the season has seen Embiid stumble a few times while contenders like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo have risen.
Embiid recently spoke about how the media doesn't like him and that the standards for who should be the MVP keep changing. He doubled down by saying he will know the media hates him if he doesn't get voted as MVP this season.
Skip Bayless, who has been on record supporting Embiid's MVP case in the past, didn't take the comments too kindly and responded to him by telling him why he still needs to go out and earn the MVP, with a roadmap of how he can do so.
"I am a big fan of Joel Embiid and want to share my two cents of advice. This was wrong, wronger, and wrongest. You cannot bite the hand that has been feeding you, you cannot shame them into voting for you. 'What do I have to do?' Did the season end yesterday? You have four games left and by the way, you, Philadelphia have the second-easiest schedule. You are at the Pacers, and then you're at Toronto, which is a tough one. But then you're facing the Pacers at home again. They aren't very good. And you get to end with the Pistons. Bring it on home, big man."
Bayless then went deeper into discussing why Embiid went from being an almost universal favorite in January for the award to possibly coming third behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, the two players that have won the last three MVP awards. Bayless believed the addition of James Harden is the albatross around Embiid's MVP case.
"The big problem that he has faced, is that he isn't acknowledging this elephant in the room that is James Harden. James Harden came, you didn't have Ben Simmons, remember Joel was the betting favorite, he was the runaway media speculation favorite because he kept Philly at or near the top of the East with no Ben Simmons. The whole year was Joel or bust. He was just saying watch this, stayed healthy, stayed happy. He was a seven-foot monster on both ends of the floor. I thought he was a towering rim protector. But all of a sudden when James Harden comes to your team and the media says 'that is the greatest perimeter scorer we have ever seen in the history of the league', you would argue Kyrie, but I am talking about at 6'5 when he is right, he is just impossible. He has the game on a string. If he becomes your teammate, what is going to happen to your MVP chances? Did they take off and win 20 games in a row? No, they went 13-7 since James joined. It's okay but it's not great. It's the eighth-best record in basketball since James joined, and can you sell that to voters? You can't.
The MVP race does have inconsistent criteria from year to year, that has been well-established. Giannis and Jokic both have MVP cases for different reasons, with Jokic having an incredible individual statistical season and Giannis leading a strong team to a strong record as their best player. For those reasons, other players like Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and Devin Booker are also outside runners in this race.
The award will come down to one of the three big men, with Embiid being the third. After Harden joined the 76ers, a lot of the goodwill Joel had developed in his MVP case for fighting alone was gone. Harden left the Brooklyn Nets in very tenuous circumstances, so the larger perception of the 76ers changed.
Big-time losses to the Bucks, Nuggets, and Nets since the trade have docked the respect Embiid had built up with voters. However, a four-game stretch of utter dominance from Embiid could help him take a late lead in the MVP race and clinch the scoring title as well.