24 Jan

Joel Embiid is MVP if he plays enough, can Celtics win it all?

The 2023-24 NBA season has reached the midway point, which means it’s time to zoom out and take stock of the league. Part of that process is reassessing the award races and making predictions about which team will lift the trophy in June. All of our experts have submitted their ballots, so let’s take a look.

To little surprise, there was a clear leader in the MVP race, with Joel Embiid tabbed to go back-to-back. The Philadelphia 76ers big man — fresh off a jaw-dropping 70-point performance on Monday night — is averaging a league-leading and career-high 36.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.9 blocks. As it stands, Embiid’s health looks to be the only thing standing between him and another MVP. He’s on pace to play 62 games, which would fall short of the new 65-game threshold.

Coming into the season, No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama was the runaway Rookie of the Year favorite. That’s changed, as the San Antonio Spurs phenom has been matched by Oklahoma City Thunder center Chet Holmgren, who is now the slight betting favorite. Holmgren also received five of seven votes from our panel.

Defensive Player of the Year was the only award that a player swept. Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert has been the centerpiece of the league’s best defense, and our experts fully expect him to take home that trophy for the fourth time in his career.

Off the court, there was much more debate about Coach of the Year than Executive of the Year.

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault and Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse each received three votes for Coach of the Year, while Chris Finch of the Minnesota Timberwolves picked up one.

Brad Stevens, meanwhile, was the unanimous choice for Executive of the Year after bringing Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday to Boston for the league-leading Celtics.

Finally, it was time to gaze into the crystal ball and make picks for the Eastern Conference finals, Western Conference finals and NBA Finals.

Every single expert picked the Celtics to win the East, though some thought it would be over the Milwaukee Bucks, while others had them toppling the 76ers. Out West, the Denver Nuggets were the clear favorite, though the Los Angeles Clippers did receive one vote. As for the Finals, the Celtics got five votes, while the defending champion Nuggets received two.

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