Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn't necessarily a good thing -- it simply means you're capturing the NBA world's attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed here are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season.

For anyone who bought into the conspiracy theory that Embiid was, and has long been, ducking Nikola Jokic when he sat out at Denver (again) on Saturday, was he so committed to the bit that he also sat out Monday against the Blazers? What, now he's afraid of Deandre Ayton, too?

Embiid wasn't. and never has been, ducking Jokic. That's dumb. The guy's knee is legitimately hurt, and his health situation could have gotten worse on Tuesday when Embiid went down during Philadelphia's loss to the Warriors after getting tangled up with Jonathan Kuminga, suffering another apparent injury as Kuminga fell on his leg. Embiid left the game from there and did not return. 

Embiid is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday to find out the specifics and severity of the injury, which 76ers coach Nick Nurse said after the game is unrelated to the one that kept Embiid out recently. 

Even before this new injury, Embiid didn't look like he was moving anywhere near 100% against Golden State. He only had 14 points and seven rebounds. He didn't block any shots in 30 minutes. It's possible that Embiid was coming back sooner than he should have to try to stay in the race for MVP, which now requires a minimum of 65 games played. 

Embiid has already missed 12 games, meaning he can only miss five more the rest of the season and remain eligible for postseason awards. 

Of course, this is not the primary concern of Embiid or the Sixers, who need their best player healthy when the playoffs arrive. I would argue it shouldn't be a concern at all. If Embiid tries to force himself into games and allows even a nagging injury to hang around, this season, which has been so promising for the Sixers and the best of Embiid's career, will be for naught, because the Sixers are not going anywhere that the big man doesn't take them. 

Unless you've been under a rock, you know that Doncic became the 10th player in NBA history to hit the 70-point mark, and the fourth player to go for 73, with a 73-ball against the Hawks last Friday. A few other notes on that performance:

  • Doncic is the first Mavericks player to score 70 points
  • Doncic is the first European player in NBA history to score 70 points
  • Doncic is the first player in history to score 70 points on at least 75% shooting
  • Doncic's 64.0 game score, which is a rough measure of a player's single-game productivity taking the full box score into account, is the second-highest recorded mark in the basketball-reference database, which began recording game scores in 1982. 

Following his 73, Doncic registered a 28-17-10 triple-double against Sacramento before going for 45 points and 15 assists in a win over Orlando. With one game remaining in January, he is averaging over 37 points a game for the month. 

Not only did Booker's 62-point performance get outshined by Doncic's 73 (it's just the fifth time in history that two players have scored at least 60 points on the same night), but it also came in a Phoenix loss to Indiana. 

It gets worse. Booker is now the third player in history to lose multiple 60-point games, as Phoenix also lost to Boston when Booker scored 70 in 2017. Wilt Chamberlain lost a record 11 games in which he scored at least 60, and Michael Jordan saw his 60 go for naught two times. 

Booker, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week, followed his 62 with 44 points against Orlando on Sunday, but the Suns lost again. That's tough. Phoenix finally got back on track with a win over Miami on Monday. 

As mentioned earlier in the Embiid section, this player participation policy (65 games played to be eligible for postseason awards) is also squeezing Tyrese Haliburton -- who has a lot more than an MVP trophy at stake. Like, about $40 million. 

It goes like this: The max contract extension that Haliburton signed last summer allowed him to earn up to 30% of the Pacers' salary cap starting with the 2024-25 season, but only if he made an All-NBA team during the 2023-24 season. 

He's already missed 13 full games this season, and being that he only played 13 minutes in the January game against the Celtics in which got injured (players also have to log at least 20 minutes for a game to officially count,) that game, for the purpose of postseason awards, doesn't count either. So he's actually missed 14 games. Meaning he can only miss three more before he becomes ineligible for All-NBA, which Haliburton would be a near lock to make without this new policy. 

"I think it's a stupid rule, like plenty of the guys in the league, but this is what the owners want, so as players, we gotta do our job and play in 65 games if we're able to," Haliburton said. "So, that's what I gotta do, take care of my body to be able to play in those games, and I think you're seeing other players in the league kind of face the same thing. As long as the owners are happy."

Obviously, Haliburton is taking a dig at the owners here, but in my opinion, he should be mad at the players and organizations who forced the player participation policy to be enacted in the first place because they (the "load management" crew) were sitting out games that they were plenty healthy to play in -- all while fans were basically robbed of their good money to watch them.

Those players and teams are the reason this rule exists. 

Now guys like Haliburton, who wants to play in every game possible but is actually injured, and who would be a near lock to make All-NBA without the game-played policy, are suffering the consequences. 

Brunson is a lock (at least, he better be) to be named as an All-Star reserve on Thursday. He's averaging 27 points on 42% 3-point shooting for the season. He averaged almost 29 PPG for the month of January, and that number is at 31.6 PPG over the Knicks' current eight-game win streak. 

What a season this is shaping up to be for Brunson and the Knicks, who just finished January with a 14-2 mark. That's the best record they have registered in a single month since 1994. They went to the Finals that season. Just saying.