The stage has been set for the NBA season as each team prepares for training camp to begin. Expectations are high for many teams around and the Philadelphia 76ers are certainly ones feeling the pressure. The organization has failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs for five consecutive seasons and the championship window is beginning to narrow. However, there is plenty of reason for optimism surrounding the team. James Harden has now had a full offseason to get healthy and more familiar with his teammates while Joel Embiid remains in the prime of his career. Tyrese Maxey has also taken notable strides forward and emerged as the team’s third star.
A recent article by Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report pointed to these reasons for optimism in his bold predictions for the upcoming season. In addition to some team success, he expects the Sixers to be active in the end-of-year awards. The article predicted Embiid to finally win his MVP Award and for Harden to find himself back onto an All-NBA team.
Joel Embiid Wins MVP
It is no secret how close Joel Embiid has been to this prestigious award. The Kansas product has been the runner-up in back-to-back seasons and has voiced his frustrations about how the qualifications for the award seem to change. The Sixers superstar was the frontrunner for the award for the majority of last season but Nikola Jokic swooped in to win it for the second consecutive year.
If Embiid can mirror his production of last year, in which he averaged 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks, he will certainly find himself among the front runners.
As things currently stand, Embiid is listed as the second favorite for the award- trailing only Luka Doncic. Voter fatigue, as well as decreased touches due to the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, may rule out Jokic from being in the running again. There have only ever been three players to win MVP in three consecutive years (Bill Russell, Oscar Robinson, Larry Bird). Embiid certainly has the ability and will look to break his streak of coming is second during the 2022-23 season.
James Harden Makes an All-NBA Team
In the 13 seasons he has been in the NBA, James Harden has made an All-NBA team seven times. He was most recently recognized for this accomplishment during the 2019-20 season in his final full season with the Houston Rockets.
While the perception of Harden has decreased greatly, his numbers still look strong. In the 21 games he spent with the Sixers last season he averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists, and 7.1 rebounds per game. He provided the team with the best playmaking it has seen and he proved to be a deadly pick-and-roll partner with Joel Embiid.
After having a full offseason to recover from his lingering hamstring injury and more time to build chemistry with his Sixers teammates, there are plenty of reasons for optimism for increased production. There has been a great deal of talk about his decision to opt-out of his $47.4 million player option this offseason in favor of a more team-friendly deal. The Sixers greatly benefitted from the extra money this has provided, but the contract also gives Harden the option to opt-out following this season and negotiate a new deal.
If Harden is in search of another max contract, he will need to prove it with his play. Turning back the clock and producing at a high level will certainly make the Sixers comfortable in handing him this money. The star guard has proven he is one of the top 15 players in the NBA throughout just about the entirety of his career and will look to do this again in 2022-23. If this proves to be the case and Harden secures the All-NBA honors all parties involved will certainly be thrilled.