NBA Awards Rankings: New No. 1 in MVP race

Tyrese Haliburton is that dude.

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Center. Joel Embiid. player. . 76ers. Joel Embiid. 3. 3. . 93

Joel Embiid has missed a few games lately, but he continues to put together his best individual campaign to date. Embiid has been caught on the wrong side of a few postseason narratives, but he deserves immense credit for his unique ability to improve every season, without fail. His job is much harder in 2023-24 without James Harden, but he has upped his scoring numbers (again) while taking off as a passer.

The primary knock on Embiid has always been his playmaking limitations. He would force shots against double coverage, spin into turnovers when his pocket collapsed, and generally take too long to read the floor. Embiid hasn't completely erased his turnover problems (3.7 per game), but he's averaging 6.4 assists — a 50 percent increase over his previous career high.

It's not a flash in the pan either. Embiid has embraced his role as a creation hub at the elbow, locating cutters in Nick Nurse's movement-infused offense and hitting 3-point shooters off drives to the rim. He is the NBA's most consistent points machine while jockeying with Tyrese Maxey for the team's top assist number. The Philadelphia 76ers have always run the offense through Embiid, but never has that strategy been more beneficial for those situated around the 7-footer.

For the season, Embiid is averaging 33.3 points and 11.5 rebounds on .510/.322/.875 splits. His shooting percentages have dipped slightly without Harden there to serve up easy buckets, but Embiid continues to force his way to the free throw line and dominate the painted area with a variety of scoring techniques. He's also averaging 1.9 blocks, tied for the most in his career since his rookie season. Nurse challenged Embiid to take more "swings" on defense before the season and it's mostly paying dividends, a few recent team defensive hiccups aside.