James Harden has been a member of the Philadelphia 76ers for less than two months, but that's been more than enough time for him to appreciate the brilliance of Joel Embiid. The duo is expected to help the Sixers compete for a championship, but Harden believes another trophy should be on its way to Philly this year.
In an interview with Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Harden backed Embiid for MVP, saying "he deserves it, man."
"I've only been here for a few weeks, but I already see his mindset," Harden said. "He wants to win. Some guys just want numbers, but he has both. He has the mentality of winning, and he scores the ball at a high level. I think he's prepared himself, especially coming off last year, for this year to be one of his best years."
This has indeed been one of Embiid's best years. He's averaging a career-high 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 blocks while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point land. He's second in the league in scoring, behind only LeBron James, seventh in rebounding and ninth in blocks -- the only player in the league in the top-10 in all three categories. If you want to get into the advanced stats, he's third in win shares (10.5), third in VORP (5.7) and third in box score plus/minus (9.4).
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There's no question the numbers are there for him to be one of the leading candidates for MVP, and he checks the box for team success as well. With Ben Simmons sidelined all season, Embiid put the Sixers on his back, leading them to a 35-23 record before Harden made his debut. For the season, they're now in third place in the Eastern Conference at 45-27, and just 1.5 games behind the Miami Heat for first.
"Most of the games he's played this year, we've been fighting for the No. 1 seed," Harden said. "And he's not only top 2, top 3 in scoring but he's impactful to our team winning."
Whether Embiid ends up winning the award for the first time in his career remains to be seen, but for what it's worth he is currently the betting favorite at Caesers Sportsbook with -160 odds. But with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (+135) and former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (+900) making strong cases of their own, the race figures to go down to the wire.