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Getty oel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers high fives teammate James Harden #1.

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.

Joel Embiid over the last 2 seasons:

— 30/11
— 51/37/83%
— 1st in PPG
— 2x All-NBA
— 2x All-Star
— All-Defense

2nd in MVP voting 2 years in a row.

— StatMuse (@statmuse) August 14, 2022

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.

James Harden's brilliant playmaking has made a huge difference to the Sixers' offense.

Some of his best assists with Philly so far:

— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) August 3, 2022

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.

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Packers LT David Bakhtiari Makes Final Call on Status Against Bucs

Getty David Bakhtiari #69 of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on August 19, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers have gotten nothing but bad injury news for weeks, a trend that may have finally begun to turn Saturday.

All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is expected to suit up for the first time this season on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It will be just the second time the offensive lineman has played in a regular season game since tearing his ACL in December of 2020, an injury that ultimately required multiple surgeries to address.

Adam Schefter of ESPN on Saturday broke the news that Bakhtiari’s would give it a go in Tampa Bay.

Packers' OT David Bakhtiari, listed as questionable for Sunday due to his lingering knee issues, is expected to make his 2022 regular-season debut vs. the Buccaneers, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 24, 2022

“Packers’ OT David Bakhtiari, listed as questionable for Sunday due to his lingering knee issues, is expected to make his 2022 regular season debut vs. the Buccaneers, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Bakhtiari played in just one game last year, taking the field for a few handfuls of snaps in a meaningless Week 18 contest against the Detroit Lions. He sat out Green Bay’s sole playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks later.

Bakhtiari’s Return Huge For Sputtering Packers Offense

GettyQB Aaron Rodgers (right) of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown run with OL David Bakhtiari during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Bakhtiari’s availability couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Packers hit the road to square off with one of the better defenses in the NFC.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers struggled mightily in his attempts to move the ball through the air against a swarming Minnesota Vikings defense in Week 1, resulting in a performance of just 195 yards and one interception. The Vikings also got to the reigning NFL MVP frequently throughout the afternoon, logging four sacks and five quarterback hits.

Right tackle Elgton Jenkins was also missing in Week 1, but returned the following Sunday to help the Packers to a victory over the Chicago Bears. The paring of both of Green Bay’s starting tackles, each of them Pro Bowlers, on the field at once should change the dynamics of the offense in a meaningful way, affording Rodgers more time to let plays develop for a group of relatively inexperienced wide receivers.

Packers Send Top WR Sammy Watkins to IR For at Least 4 Weeks

GettyWide receiver Sammy Watkins has been ruled out for the Green Bay Packers’ road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, as he heads to the injured reserve list.

While the passing game starts with protection, it ends on the finger tips of wide receivers — a department in which the Packers continue to find themselves lacking.

The situation only got worse this week when Green Bay sent Sammy Watkins to the injured reserve (IR) list with a bad hamstring. The designation means that the team’s top performer at wideout to date will miss at least the next four games.

An ankle injury forced presumed No. 1 option Allen Lazard out in Week 1, and rookie receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs have yet to find their proper NFL strides.

The Packers probably won’t make any immediate moves to add another pass catcher to the roster with less than 24 hours until their matchup with the Bucs. Though considering the general lack of production, compounded by injuries to top receivers, Green Bay may finally bite the bullet and sign a veteran wideout sometime in the next week to supplement the position group.

In the meantime, high-level play from Bakhtiari and the rest of the offensive line will be crucial to keeping the Packers afloat in a competitive NFC.

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