Joel Embiid’s MVP season
Joel Embiid has been on quite the tear through his first 22 games of his 2020-21 campaign, hitting numerous career-highs with averages of 29.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 triples, 1.3 steals, 1.2 swats and 3.3 turnovers per contest on 54.3% shooting from the field and 85.1% from the stripe, which has him ranked No. 4 overall (No. 1 if you ignore the TOs).
He’s only missed a total of five games thus far with minor back issues, but he’s mostly playing through back-to-back sets and hasn’t had any knee or foot issues thus far, so he could be on track for a career-high in games played in a truncated season. If he only misses another three games for the remainder of the season that’d put him at 67 games played, which would be three more than his career-high (64 games during the 2018-19 season).
He does have some extra incentive to play in as many games as possible, one, to pushback against the injury-prone narrative, and two, to put himself in firm contention for the MVP trophy. It’s a reasonable goal, as the 76ers are currently 18-9 on the year, which has them sitting on the No. 1 seed out East – and the MVP award tends to go to the best player on the best team. He’ll have some strong competition from LeBron James and Nikola Jokic, but he absolutely has to be in the conversation this season – as he’s showing he’s one of the more unique talents in the league who can affect every aspect of the game.
Kelly Oubre Jr. Is Surging
It’s no secret that Kelly Oubre Jr. got off to a disastrous start in his first season with the Warriors, but the 25-year-old forward appears to have finally turned the corner in February (highlighted by a 40-point performance) with averages of 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.9 triples, 0.6 swats and just 1.3 turnovers per game on 46.7% shooting from the field and 81.8% from the stripe, which has been good enough for top-75 value.
I think we tend to underestimate how difficult it can be for a player to be dropped into an entirely new system, and we ignore the pressures of what it can mean to be in a contract year, playing for a former-dynasty team that is trying to make their way back to the promised land – but Oubre appears to have finally cleared those two hurdles.
He’s still trying to figure out exactly who he is as a player – is he a third option? A fourth option? Can he be looked to as a scorer or is he more of a defensive stopped? What’s the right balance between drives and 3-point shots? He’s still sorting through these things, but he’s certainly looked more comfortable in the offense as of late, and he really can only go up from here after such a horrific start. All that said, I think he’s settled into his floor as a top-75 guy, and once the defensive stats start to tick back up, he could easily work his way into the top-50 equation.
Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NBA Season Tools that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code HOOPS10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!
Delon Wright’s arrival
While I was an early advocate of Delon Wright leading up to fantasy drafts back in November, I admit, that I was also a bit too quick to throw him under the bus after a slow start to his 2020-21 campaign – as I prematurely wrote his obituary at the start of January. However, he completely flipped the script since I published that piece, and over the past month, he’s been a top-50 producer in fantasy hoops behind averages of 12.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.5 swats and just 1.4 turnovers per game on 47.1% shooting from the field and 72% from the stripe. Finally.
Finally, Wright is playing like the Memphis version of himself, and while it does come with the caveat that this hot streak has largely corresponded with Killian Hayes (hip) going down with an injury, Detroit also felt confident enough during this hot stretch from Delon to move on from Derrick Rose. I believe the Rose trade was a sign from management that they’d like to guarantee steady minutes for Wright once Hayes eventually gets back, so I think it’s finally time we accept Wright’s arrival in the top-50 club. He’s not a guy who will score a lot of points, but his ability to offer elite production in the defensive categories with solid percentages and low-turnovers is what drives his value. I believe he’s here to stay in the top-50.