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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Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

Defensive Player of the Year

If Joel Embiid could bottle up his defensive intensity from the last couple weeks and sprinkle it out over the course of an entire season, he might end up with a Defensive Player of the Year award one day. He’s that good, but his offensive burden (and injury history) is currently too vast to permit such arduous defense.

1. Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies 

Jaren Jackson Jr.’s early-season return from injury propelled the Grizzlies from defensive mediocrity to world-beater status. Jackson’s 3.1 blocks per game leads the NBA, but his case goes far beyond that. Jackson’s long arms are everywhere in passing lanes and he’s perfectly comfortable switching onto the perimeter. Add in the fact that he’s in the back of every ball-handler’s mind when they venture down the lane, and there aren’t many chinks in the All-Star’s defensive armor.

2. Brook Lopez, Bucks

On one hand, Brook Lopez shares the floor with two undeniably elite defensive forces in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo is an elite roamer, waiting in the shadows before breaking up plays with his once-in-a-generation athleticism. Holiday is the best on-ball stopper in the world.

So, why might Lopez win Defensive Player of the Year? Because he unlocks it all for Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo and Holiday are free to take risks most elite defenders aren’t able to take because Lopez is providing elite backline defense in the paint. He has been the most prolific drop coverage rim protector in the NBA this season.

3. Bam Adebayo, Heat

There are several strong contenders for the No. 3 spot, but ultimately it falls to Bam Adebayo. He’s just one of the most reliable defensive backbones in the NBA: a modern cheat-code with his ability to switch and contain the point of attack while still providing staunch rim protection in the paint.

Also in the mix: Nic Claxton, Evan Mobley, Jrue Holiday