Masin-Moyer: George, Embiid shouldn’t be overlooked in MVP race
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Tuesday, February 19, 2019
This past weekend, the NBA’s brightest stars were on full display at All-Star weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. The All-Star Game itself displayed its trademark lack of any semblance of defense, and Oklahoma City guard Hamidou Diallo stole the show with his Vince Carter-inspired dunk over Shaquille O’Neal in the dunk contest. All in all, the weekend provided fans and journalists alike with the opportunity to reflect on who might take home the league’s MVP award this year.
For the better part of the last few months and in the absence of truly stand-out seasons from MVPs of years past like Steph Curry and LeBron James, MVP talk has focused on two players: Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and James Harden of the Houston Rockets. And with good reason.
Antetokounmpo seems to have finally reached his full potential as one of the most athletic, versatile players in the NBA, propelling the Bucks to the top of the Eastern Conference behind his 27.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and six assists per game, leading his team in all three categories.
Harden, on the other hand, has salvaged the Rockets’ early-season failures by going on one of the greatest scoring streaks in NBA history. He has scored more than 30 points in 31-consecutive games before the All-Star break, tying with Wilt Chamberlain for the second-longest streak of its kind in NBA history.
While Antetokounmpo and Harden have hogged most of the discussion when it comes to MVP talk, there are two players who have received tacit support for the award that deserve greater consideration for the award — Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since arriving on what looked to be a one-year rental to OKC in the summer of 2017, George has slowly but surely worked his way into the Thunder organization, surprisingly deciding to re-sign with the team this summer.
Initially, it looked like George’s move to stay in Oklahoma City may have been a mistake. But as the season has progressed, his play has meshed perfectly with that of guard Russell Westbrook, and in the last few months the Thunder have rocketed all the way up to third in the Western Conference. The upward mobility has been powered mainly by George’s elite scoring abilities; the 28-year-old forward currently sits at second in the league in points per game with 28.7, behind only Harden. George has taken the pressure off Westbrook to do it all for the Thunder, and in the process has made the team much more competitive, finally emerging as the superstar he has been long-expected to become.
Despite being one of the most prominent voices in the NBA, Joel Embiid has quietly put together one of the best all-around seasons in the league this year. The 76ers’ center at sits sixth in points per game with 27.3, second in rebounds per game at 13.5, eighth in blocks per game at 1.9 and is second in the league in free throws made, again, behind only Harden.
Embiid’s lack of recognition for MVP may in part be attributed to the 76ers relative underperformance this year. They currently sit in fifth place in the East, 6.5 games behind Antetokounmpo’s top-ranked Bucks. But with the recent addition of forward Tobias Harris, the Sixers look poised to make a run in the second half of the season with one of the most formidable starting lineups in the NBA. With this likely success will hopefully come more recognition for Embiid.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.