by Raphael Englander
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers, Center
Embiid has been snubbed of the award the last two years, losing out to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić in both 2021 and 2022. This year will be Embiid’s. Last season, Embiid averaged 30.6 points per game (ppg), winning the NBA’s scoring title. Born in Cameroon, he became the first foreign player to win that title in NBA history. Embiid also became the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 2001 and the first center to average at least 30 ppg since Moses Malone in 1982. Both O’Neal and Malone are widely considered top fifteen NBA players of all time.
In addition to his statistical case, Embiid’s qualities as a leader stood out last season, as he kept his team focused and winning despite Ben Simmons’s trade request and subsequent refusal to play. Simmons, the 76ers point guard who, along with Embiid, was once considered half of Philadelphia’s star duo, was traded to Brooklyn last February for former MVP, guard James Harden. With Embiid and Harden preparing for their first full season together, the Sixers seem poised to finish the 2022-2023 season with a top record in the Eastern Conference; the NBA MVP is typically the best player on one of the best teams.
There are many players who will make the case for the award, such as past MVPs Jokić, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, as well as rising stars like Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. However, if Embiid can muster a statistical season anywhere near as good as last year, and Philadelphia can obtain a top-four record in the East, the 76ers center should be the clear choice for the 2023 MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY): Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat, Center
Adebayo finished top five in DPOY voting for the fourth year in a row this past season. The Heat center is not content with these near misses, though, recently stating, “I should have won it the last two years, and I will win it this year.” Adebayo, a one-time All-Star and three-time All-Defensive Second Team player, is regarded as one of the NBA’s most talented and versatile defenders, able to defend any opposing player regardless of position.
Other top candidates include past recipients such as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green and Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert. Phoenix Suns forward and Philadelphia native Mikal Bridges, one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, also has a decent shot. However, voter fatigue may hinder Green and Gobert’s chances — voting media members are historically less likely to give the award to a player who has previously won it, even if they deserve it, because it is viewed as boring for fans to watch the same players win year after year — and the Suns’ recent playoff collapse has cast doubts over their team as a whole. Adebayo’s ability on the court and his avowed commitment to win the award this year combine to make a solid argument that his efforts will be rewarded with the 2023 DPOY trophy.
Rookie of the Year (ROTY): Paolo Banchero, Forward, Orlando Magic, Forward
For most of the summer, any discussion about the 2023 ROTY race concerned two rookies, Banchero and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren. However, following Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury which occurred this August, Banchero is the clear-cut choice. Wowing viewers in both summer league games in which he participated, Banchero demonstrated an ability to score and deliver in the clutch that could signify a future status as an NBA superstar.
Some of the other rookies who could be in the running include Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey, Indiana Pacers forward Benedict Mathurin, Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray, and Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith. That is without mentioning the unanticipated rookie, selected with a later pick in the draft than the obvious ROTY candidates, who seems to throw his hat in the ring every year. However, the fact that Orlando does not currently have an All-Star caliber player means that Banchero will likely be called upon to be the primary scorer in his first year. This level of responsibility sets Banchero apart from his peers, as Ivey, Mathurin, Murray, and Smith will need to play behind established first-options in guards Cade Cunningham, Tyrese Haliburton, De’Aaron Fox, and Jalen Green, respectively.
Banchero is the front-runner for a reason. With a game that is expected to seamlessly transition into the professional league and the space to lead his team from the get-go, he is the definitive pick for the 2023 ROTY.
Most Improved Player (MIP): Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves, Guard
The MIP is always the hardest award to predict due to its nature. How can fans expect which player will make an unexpected improvement? That said, Edwards feels like the right choice.
The first pick in the 2020 draft, Edwards put together a strong rookie season and followed it up with a jump in his second year, scoring more ppg and doing it more efficiently. While Edwards’s regular season last year was fun, it wasn’t until the playoffs that he truly shone, averaging 25.2 ppg and showing glimpses of real basketball brilliance.
It must be said, though, that Philadephia 76ers third-year guard Tyrese Maxey could prove a worthy challenger. Maxey more than doubled his ppg between his rookie and sophomore seasons, going from 8 to 17.5. More impressive, however, was the unreal improvement in Maxey’s three-point shot, skyrocketing from 30% accuracy on fewer than two attempts per game in the 2020-2021 season to 42% on more than four attempts per game in the 2021-2022 season. Reports have stated that Maxey has thrown himself into practice this season, so another leap this upcoming season is not out of the question.
At the end of the day, Edwards will probably emerge victorious. Maxey is the third or even fourth option in Philadelphia, slotting behind superstars Embiid and Harden, and arguably veteran forward Tobias Harris, as well. Edwards, on the other hand, will likely be called upon to be Minnesota’s primary scorer after his recent playoffs success. Uber-athletic and ultra-confidant, Edwards has become a fan favorite and media darling, which won’t hurt his chances, either. Edwards is the favorite to win MIP, but Philly’s promising young guard should not be overlooked.
Sixth Man of the Year (6MOY): Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics, Guard
In Indiana, Brogdon was a solid starter, but injuries hindered much of his time on the Pacers. Now, having been traded to Boston, Brogdon is expected to be the sixth-man in the rotation, not a starter, but the first player off the bench. In this role, he will flourish, giving the Celtics much-needed help as he creates open shots for other players and commands the floor.
Brogdon is by no means the only candidate, as Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole could also come away with the award. After a breakout season last year, and a successful trip to the NBA finals, Poole will be looking to solidify himself as one of the premier players in the league. Poole is perfectly suited for the role of the sixth-man, a natural scorer whose presence off the bench doesn’t give opposing teams any time to relax.
Brogdon’s more varied abilities as a passer and distributor give him the edge for the 2023 6MOY but no matter who wins, it’s fitting that both of last year’s conference champions are represented; they are such strong teams that the captains of their benches would be automatic starters most anywhere else.
**All predictions are based on team rosters as of September 1st, 2022.
New York Knicks
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder
All-NBA 1st Team Guard: Stephen Curry Guard: Luka Dončić Forward: Jayson Tatum Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo Center: Joel Embiid
All-NBA 2nd Team Guard: Ja Morant Guard: James Harden Forward: Kawhi Leonard Forward: Kevin Durant Center: Nikola Jokić
All-NBA 3rd Team Guard: Trae Young Guard: Devin Booker Forward: Jimmy Butler Forward: Zion Williamson Center: Bam Adebayo