2023 NBA awards ballot: Joel Embiid’s MVP chances with two weeks left

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden, Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

We have roughly two weeks left in the NBA season. Then the games really start to count. Between now and then, however, a considerable amount of the NBA discourse will be dedicated to the ever-evolving awards race.

The Philadelphia 76ers are front and center once again thanks to the prodigious offensive (and defensive) production of Joel Embiid. He is neck-and-neck with Nikola Jokic in the MVP race, and in the grand tradition of the last three years, Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t that far behind either.

Philly will also be involved in other award conversations. But, can the Sixers ultimately take any of them home? Here’s how the award ballots should look right about now.

NBA awards ballot: Can 76ers take any hardware home at season’s end?

The All-NBA teams are Philadelphia’s strongest bet for inclusion. Joel Embiid is a first or second team lock and James Harden should be in the mix as the league leader in assists. Philadelphia currently has the third-best record in the NBA and the most potent offense in the association since Harden’s return from injury in December.

All-NBA first team

G — Luka Doncic, Mavericks

G — Jayson Tatum, Celtics

F — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F — Joel Embiid, 76ers

C — Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Ultimately, the MVP winner between Jokic and Embiid will likely get the first team center spot and push the other to second team. That has been Embiid’s fate two years running. That’s silly, of course — it should be positionless to match the fluidity of “positions” in today’s NBA. At the very least, both Embiid and Jokic are eligible as forwards (and, by extension, Jayson Tatum is eligible as a guard). The voters shouldn’t get so precious about positional specificity. Jokic, Embiid, Giannis, Tatum, and Doncic have been the five best players in the NBA this season.

All-NBA second team

G — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder

G — Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers

F — Jaylen Brown, Celtics

F — Lauri Markkanen, Jazz

C — Domantas Sabonis, Kings

All-NBA third team

G — Stephen Curry, Warriors

G — Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

F — Jimmy Butler, Heat

F — Julius Randle, Knicks

C — Bam Adebayo, Heat

James Harden has earned the right to be considered here, despite his egregious All-Star snub earlier this year. Missed time could count against him, but some of his primary competition — Stephen Curry, Ja Morant, and Devin Booker in particular — have missed time too. Harden’s table-setting has been critical for arguably the league’s most potent offense and he’s still capable of carrying the load as a scorer when called upon.

That said, Curry has only played six fewer games and, despite Golden State’s team-wide struggles, it would feel wrong to keep him off the board here. He is putting up prime Steph numbers and influencing winning at a high level — at least when the Warriors play at home.

All-Defense first team

G — Jrue Holiday, Bucks

G — Mikal Bridges, Nets

F — Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies

F — Bam Adebayo, Heat

F — Brook Lopez, Bucks

All-Defense second team 

G — Alex Caruso, Bulls

G — Derrick White, Celtics

F — OG Anunoby, Raptors

F — Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

F — Nic Claxton, Nets

De’Anthony Melton deserves a shout here and P.J. Tucker even appears on NBA.com’s top-10 defensive player ladder. Unfortunately, neither quite cracks the mix here (Joel Embiid might have the strongest case of any Sixer, but his recent defensive surge has been too little, too late).

All-Rookie first team

G — Jaden Ivey, Pistons

G — Jalen Williams, Thunder

F — Keegan Murray, Kings

F — Paolo Banchero, Magic

F — Walker Kessler, Jazz

All-Rookie second team

G — Andrew Nembhard, Pacers

G — Bennedict Mathurin, Pacers

F — Jeremy Sochan, Spurs

F — Jabari Smith Jr., Rockets

F — Jalen Duren, Pistons