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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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Most Valuable Player

And now, the good stuff. Joel Embiid is the odds-on favorite to win the MVP award right now and all the momentum appears to be shifting in his favor. Denver has struggled to maintain its intensity of late, with Jokic looking particularly disengaged on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Giannis and the Bucks currently have the best record in the NBA. It’s hard to deny that he, too, has a strong case.

1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Currently the most efficient volume scorer in the NBA, as well as being top five in rebounds (11.9) and assists (9.9). Very few players have ever influenced the game offensively at Jokic’s current level. He lets the game come to him, never feeling pressed or out of control. He never misses the open teammate, but also, the general public tends to underrate Jokic as a dominant scoring threat. He can hit every manner of jump shot, his footwork in the post is textbook, and he has no shortage of impressive late-game moments on his résumé.

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers

Joel Embiid is the best scorer in the NBA, bar none. Defenses can’t stop him straight up and he’s better than ever at eviscerating double teams, be it with a contested jumper, a head-down drive to the cup, or the simple pass to an open teammate. Embiid also defends at an exceptionally high level (despite his effort wavering at times). In most normal NBA seasons, Embiid would be the runaway favorite. And right now, maybe he still is. Unfortunately, Embiid’s peak three-year run has bumped up against equally historic stretches from Jokic and Giannis. But if Embiid does finally win, it will be fully deserved.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Giannis is the consensus pick for best player in the NBA. A terrorizer on defense and a blunt-force destroyer on offense, he can make his impact felt on any game by sheer force of will. No superstar gives more consistent, unrelenting effort than Giannis. He doesn’t shy away from contact on either end and it’s pretty much impossible to keep him away from his spots offensively — he’s just too big, too fast, and much too strong.

4. Luka Doncic, Mavericks

If the Mavs weren’t in the play-in right now, Luka might have a case to be legitimately in the mix with Jokic, Embiid, and Antetokounmpo. He’s a fraction behind Embiid for the NBA scoring title and he’s one of the most prolific playmakers in the sport, shouldering a sky-high usage rate as really the only consistent force of good on Dallas’ roster before the Kyrie Irving trade. The Mavs have failed to build a balanced team around Doncic, but he can elevate just about any group of players to borderline contention at this point.

5. Jayson Tatum, Celtics 

Jayson Tatum no longer has the “best player on the best team” argument in his favor, as Milwaukee has taken the top seed away (and Philly is right on Boston’s heels). The Celtics’ recent slip has eliminated Tatum’s chances of actually winning, but he remains a dominant two-way force who is cementing his place in the top tier of NBA talent.

Also in the mix: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Donovan Mitchell,  Domantas Sabonis

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