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February 03, 2023

Joel Embiid is Sixers' lone All-Star, James Harden left off roster

No James Harden, for now, as the Sixers continue to get snubbed.

Joel Embiid has been named to the 2023 NBA All-Star reserves, marking his sixth consecutive appearance in the midseason showcase. Here are the full All-Star Game rosters for 2023, barring injury replacements:  


Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell 

ReservesJoel Embiid, Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo, Julius Randle, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Tyrese Haliburton


Starters: LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Zion Williamson, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic 

ReservesJa Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Damian Lillard, Jaren Jackson Jr., Domantas Sabonis, Lauri Markkanen, Paul George

Fresh off of the two best seasons of his career, Embiid has taken his game to another level yet again this season, submitting both his best individual game — a 59-point, all-around masterpiece vs. Utah — and his most consistent season on record. 

At the time of his selection, Embiid is averaging a gargantuan 33.5 points per game, in a virtual dead heat with Luka Doncic for the league lead, adding on 10.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game. By any statistical measure, Embiid has been one of the best and most impactful players in the league this season, lifting Philadelphia up on both ends of the floor. 

Save for an early-season period where he struggled to find his rhythm, Embiid has dominated the competition, including in a recent showdown with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. His selection was more of a sure thing than James Harden’s candidacy, which was in doubt for only two reasons: Harden missed about a month of action with a foot injury in November, and it’s always tougher to get multiple All-Stars into the game unless you are clearly the best team in the league. But Harden has been nearly as essential to Philadelphia’s success as Embiid, creating a two-man combination the vast majority of the league envies. 

It wasn't enough for voters though, as he was left off the list of reserves Thursday.

Since Harden’s return from a foot injury on December 5th, the Sixers have flown up the standings and shown the profile of a team ready to contend for a championship — they are 21-6 over that time period, boasting the league’s third-best offense and ninth-best defense for a stretch that represents more than a quarter of Philadelphia’s season. 

Though Harden’s individual scoring is only slightly ahead of last year’s pace, his efficiency has climbed back toward career numbers, aided by tremendous outside shooting (39.4 percent on 7.4 attempts per game) and a better understanding of how to play with/off of Embiid. He is the league’s current leader in assists per game, averaging 11 helpers per game, and has done about everything the Sixers could have hoped for as a co-star to Embiid. 

Though Embiid has been Philadelphia’s driving force once again, Harden’s resurgence is a big reason why the Sixers are being taken more seriously as an Eastern Conference threat. Appearing in an All-Star Game is old news at this point — and Embiid joked that he wasn’t sure he would make the team when asked about it this week — it’s still an honor worth celebrating, and one the veteran guard says he doesn’t take for granted. 

“[It means] you’re one of the best players in the league,” Harden said Wednesday. “I’m not going to sit up here and say I should be an All Star and make a case, none of that. The numbers show it, our seed shows it. It would be, I think my 11th in a row, so obviously it’s always an honor. You never want to take that for granted, it means you’re doing something right and you’re making an impact on your team and on the game.” 

There’s a chance Harden could still make the team as an injury replacement, though ultimately it could end up being better for Philadelphia if he just sits out the game altogether. Harden’s double-digit streak of All-Star appearances going up in smoke could be a bit of extra fuel on the fire for the veteran guard, as if he needed any more reasons to dial it up down the stretch and into the playoffs. 

Even with Harden’s snub, the Sixers feel no different about their team and this season than they did prior to the announcements being made, and the Embiid/Harden combo has many dreaming of Philadelphia’s deepest playoff run since Allen Iverson’s dream run in 2001. We’ll see if these two can deliver playoff results to back up their regular-season production.

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