Joel Embiid lives in an alternate reality where he’s the MVP. In the real world, we all know it’s New York Knicks savior Julius Randle.
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid may share a division with the New York Knicks, but he clearly hasn’t been watching them much this season. Julius Randle has had a breakout year and made Madison Square Garden fun again, earning chants of “MVP! MVP!” in the process.
Yet, as Embiid said in an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium this week, “there’s no doubt” he’s the MVP.
76ers star Joel Embiid sits down with @Stadium: “There’s no doubt (I’m MVP). I’ve been dominant all season. I’m not going to stop.” On motivation from feeling disrespected and frustrated last season, Shaq’s criticism “opened my eyes to actually realize that I can be that guy.” pic.twitter.com/Ud3O2APOkV
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 22, 2021
Um, Joel? Not to rain on your parade, but you’ve always been great for the Sixers. Hell, win a championship this year and they’ll probably put your statue right next to Rocky Balboa’s near the Art Museum!
But Julius Randle? There’s an MVP. He has been incredibly valuable for the New York Knicks.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia went 7-3 over the ten games Embiid recently missed with a knee injury. This is because the team has plenty of talent around him, namely Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. If Joel Embiid can’t play, the Sixers are still in pretty decent shape.
But take Julius Randle away from the New York Knicks? The team could very well crumble without him for an extended stretch. We all know the truth even if we’re afraid to say it out loud, so let me do the honors (again).
Joel Embiid is just having a great season. Julius Randle, however, is the real MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, none of this is to discount Embiid’s season. He’s averaging a career-high 30 points per game with 11.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The former Jayhawk is also shooting a career-best 51.3% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range.
On the numbers alone, it can be confirmed. Joel Embiid has had a great season.
Julius Randle’s has just been better.
Look at it this way. Randle is averaging career highs in all categories: 23.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. He’s shooting 46% from the field and an excellent 41% from long range. After being streaky his whole career, he showed up in top shape this season and has become the go-to guy for the New York Knicks.
Now, look at Randle’s numbers next to Embiid’s, but put them in a deeper context. Embiid is a seven-footer with range and length, so he can create mismatches everywhere. Almost a third of his scoring comes in the paint, so shooting over 50% from the field isn’t exactly hard for him to do.
Julius Randle, meanwhile, is more of a point forward. Not only has he played power forward and center this season, but he’s also run the point. It isn’t uncommon to see the Knicks gain possession and have him bring the ball up the court.
Fast forward to today, and Randle has five triple-doubles on the season. Moreover, he’s leading the league in minutes and has missed a single game. He’s more reliable than the subway. Do you know how much that means to New Yorkers who’ve watched their basketball team struggle this badly for almost 20 years??
And the deeper numbers give Randle an edge too, albeit a slight one. Both men have the exact same Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) on the year at 3.3. In baseball terms, that makes them both at about an 8.9 WAR. That’s almost Mike Trout territory.
Given the tie there, let’s dig a little deeper. Embiid has a total Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of 8.2, and the offensive side outnumbers the defensive 6.9 to 1.3. Randle’s total BPM is much smaller at just 4.0 even, and his offense outweighs his defense 3.1 to 0.9 in this case.
The BPM gap is easily explained: Embiid’s more of a high volume scorer than Randle. That’s his role in Doc Rivers’ system, plain and simple.
Granted, Randle could average 30 or more per game, and is even averaging exactly that during the Knicks’ eight-game winning streak. Yet, he’s also posting nearly 6.9 assists over that stretch.
This is exactly why Julius Randle is a more viable MVP candidate over not just Embiid. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is the current favorite and probably has the trophy on numbers alone, and that’s fair. He’s having a ridiculous season across the board.
But think about Embiid and Jokic for a second. Philly already went 7-3 without Embiid thanks to having Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons to cover his absence. Jokic has Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon, and also had Jamal Murray up until Murray tore his ACL earlier this month.
Who does Julius Randle have to back him up? RJ Barrett has been great this year, but is still developing. Derrick Rose is a good spark off the bench, but isn’t the MVP of yesteryear.
All this to say Randle has carried the Knicks on his back. If he misses time, the ship all but certainly sinks. Because unlike Embiid and Jokic’s respective teams, New York doesn’t have as much top-tier talent.
And it doesn’t matter, because Julius Randle’s selflessness and leadership have made his teammates better. Joel Embiid is basically a glorified scorer who missed ten games, his team was fine without him and is still at the top of the East, and he thinks he’s an MVP?
Let’s call it like it is. This is little more than Philadelphia, per usual, trying to flex on New York. Seriously, the Sixers make the playoffs for a few years, the Eagles win a Super Bowl, and the city suddenly acts like it isn’t just New Jersey’s annoying little brother?
Oh, and have I mentioned the last time Joel Embiid even played against Julius Randle and the Knicks, it was Dec. 26?
Let it be known loud and clear. Joel Embiid is having a great season but if he thinks he’s the MVP, he has an inflated opinion of himself.
The selfless Randle is the stronger candidate, and everyone knows it.