Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Joel Embiid is listed out for the Philadelphia 76ers game against the Portland Trail Blazers with a left knee injury, and while in the grand scheme of things Embiid missing back-to-back games isn’t too alarming, it could impact his MVP candidacy. Embiid’s absence against the Blazers will mark his 12th missed game this season, and the only reason we’re keeping track of how many games he’s missing is because of a new stipulation the NBA added to the CBA this past summer that impacts end-of-season awards.

In order to be eligible for MVP, as well as other awards like Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA honors, players are required to play in a minimum of 65 games. Players must also play at least 20 minutes across those games to be eligible. So for those keeping score at home, Embiid missing the Portland game means he’ll need to play in a minimum of 32 of Philadelphia’s final 37 games to remain eligible to win MVP. In other words, he’s only able to miss five more games over the next two and a half months to still be in the running for MVP, as well as All-NBA honors. 

That seems doable for Embiid, as long as he remains healthy, but he’s getting rather close to that cutoff point. When Embiid’s played this season he’s certainly looked like he could win back-to-back MVP’s, especially after a stunning 70-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs last week. But his ability to stay on the court has always been a concern during his career. 

He missed the Sixers most recent game, a meeting against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, which could be investigated by the league as Embiid didn’t show up on the injury report until 15 minutes before tipoff, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. And now he’ll miss his second consecutive game with left knee soreness.

If Embiid is actually hindered by the knee issue, that should be a concern for the Sixers. But if him missing games falls more into the category of load management, then the league could step in and assess a fine to the Sixers as it violates the player participation policy introduced this season. The policy states that any team that sits a star player for a nationally televised game, sit multiple stars in the same game or shut down a star player for a long stretch of the season will be given hefty fines. The first violation will see the team given a $100,000 fine, the second is a $250,000 and for any fine after that $1 million will be tacked on to the previous amount (i.e. $1.25 million for the third violation, $2.25 million for fourth, etc.). 

We’ll have to see if the league does step in, but either way, Embiid’s candidacy for MVP continues to dwindle with each game he misses, which would be a shame given how well he’s played this season. Jokic and Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander both had better MVP odds than Embiid as of Monday afternoon.

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