Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid said Saturday his performance throughout the 2021-22 NBA season warrants strong consideration for the MVP Award.
"The play speaks for itself ... and I don't plan on stopping," Embiid told reporters ahead of his appearance Sunday in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game.
The MVP is still very much up for grabs at the All-Star break.
Embiid is a top contender alongside Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who've combined to win the award each of the past three years. The Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul and Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry are also in the mix.
It's hard to argue against the Sixers' superstar as he's carried Philly to a 35-23 record, which ranks third in the Eastern Conference, despite playing the entire first half of the season without Ben Simmons, who opted to remain sidelined while focusing on his mental health amid frustrations with the franchise.
Simmons was ultimately traded to the Brooklyn Nets ahead of the deadline earlier this month as a part of a blockbuster deal that brought James Harden to the 76ers, so some support is on the way for Embiid once Harden recovers from a hamstring injury.
The Sixers center leads the NBA in scoring at 29.6 points per game to go along with averages of 11.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 blocks while shooting 49.5 percent from the field across 46 games. He's also knocking down a career-high 1.3 threes per contest.
Last month, Embiid told TNT's Ernie Johnson he's embraced his crucial role for the 76ers.
"To be the MVP, you know my focus is on winning," he said. "And obviously, I'm asked to be our best defensive player, offensive player and playmaker—and I love it."
NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT
"To be the MVP, you know my focus is on winning."<a href="https://twitter.com/JoelEmbiid?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JoelEmbiid</a> tells <a href="https://twitter.com/TurnerSportsEJ?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TurnerSportsEJ</a> what he has to focus on in order to win the MVP trophy this season. <a href="https://t.co/1MvguzxmQg">pic.twitter.com/1MvguzxmQg</a>
Much the same could be said about Jokic and Antetokounmpo, which sets the stage for an MVP race that could go right down to the wire.
The arrival of Harden adds a variable to Embiid's case since it's putting another high-end player in the lineup to take some pressure off the five-time All-Star. So, while it improves the Sixers' chances of chasing down a title, it could hurt his MVP hopes.
That's a trade-off the standout center is probably willing to accept.