NBA awards race: Can 76ers’ Joel Embiid come from behind to win MVP?

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /
4 of 5
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

NBA 3/4-season award picks: Rookie of the Year

  1. Paolo Banchero, ORL
  2. Walker Kessler, UTH
  3. Jalen Williams, OKC 

The Sixers do not currently have a rookie on the roster and therefore do not have a contender for Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, the race is about as lopsided as you’ll find, with Orlando’s No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero firmly in the driver’s seat. I’m not sure anything — even missing the remainder of the season — could halt the Duke product’s momentum.

Banchero already looks like a fully-fledged star on the offensive end. The list of 6-foot-10 players who can move like Banchero and score from all three levels like Banchero is exceedingly short. He can bully smaller defenders in the paint, or torch bigs with swift feet and precise footwork on the perimeter. His pull-up jumper is money in the bank.

The “favorite” to end up second right now is probably Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin, and not without good cause. He’s putting up impressive scoring numbers for a team that, until recently, was actually in the postseason hunt. But Mathurin peaked very early in the season and has been quite the mixed bag for a few months now.

Walker Kessler already grades out as one of the league’s best rim protectors. He should be getting plenty of minutes down the stretch for the rebuilding Jazz. Jalen Williams has provided valuable connective tissue as a four-position Swiss Army Knife for the Thunder, who are firmly in the Western Conference play-in hunt.