Another Joker sequel? Where NBA insiders think the MVP race is headed

Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell. This is a list.

In more than 76 years of NBA history, only three players have won three MVP awards in a row, and it’s been nearly 40 years since Bird last accomplished the feat from 1984 to 1986.

There were many chances for a three. Michael Jordan, after whom the trophy was renamed earlier this season, was unable to fulfill his bid. So are the multiple winners Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, forever associated with the NBA’s all-time leading scorers, have each lost twice.

And at the start of the 2022-2023 NBA season, Denver Nuggets superstar center Nikola Jokic was expected to take a historic effort to join this exclusive club and win a third consecutive league MVP.

Well, the Joker is coming.

Not only does Jokic average a triple-double — 24.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 10.1 assists — that only Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook have done in a full season in NBA history, but Denver also ranks first in Western Conference. with the third-best record in the NBA.

As a result, Jokic emerged as the all-time leader in the second edition of the Sportzshala Straw Poll NBA MVP of the 2022-2023 season with 77 of 100 first-place votes and 913 points, placing him in first place in history. at the end of the season.

Following Jokic in the poll were Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo (11 votes for first place, 552 points), Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (six votes for first place, 490 points), Boston Celtics forward Jason Tatum ( five votes for first place). , 410 points) and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (one vote for first place, 218 points).

Rounding out the list were Memphis Grizzlies defenseman Ja Morant (8 points), Oklahoma City Thunder defenseman Shai Gilges-Alexander (four), Cleveland Cavaliers defenseman Donovan Mitchell (three), and Golden State Warriors defenseman Stephen Curry (one). ) and forward for the Phoenix Suns. Kevin Durant (one).

The season’s first pre-poll, held in December, showed Tatum winning by 92 total points — the second-biggest margin of any 12 pre-polls conducted since the 2016–17 season — and receiving less than half. No. 1 votes despite his stellar individual season leading the Celtics to an NBA-best record.

This indicated that the race was wide open for someone to take control.

The Joker enters.

Not only did Jokic do so through a combination of incredible individual accomplishments – averaging that triple-double on shooting 63.2% overall, 39.1% from three-pointers and 82.2% from the free throw line – but the field has also been significantly weakened. . due to injuries to MVP contenders.

Four of the top nine finishers in the first straw poll in December—Curry, Durant, Suns guard Devin Booker, and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson—have missed several weeks with injuries and fell far behind in the race.

The second straw poll, meanwhile, showed more votes among the top five finalists – Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Tatum and Doncic – than in any previous poll. There are often three or four players that are close to a consensus – or, in the case of Jokic and Embiid, a unanimous choice – but there has never been a poll that included five players in as many as Doncic’s 89 ballots. (The highest previous total for a fifth-place finisher was 70.)

For the third consecutive season, Jokic rises to the top, starting the season in the middle of the list:

  • Jokic finished fourth in the December poll.

  • He finished fourth and second respectively in the first two polls last season before leading the final vote.

  • He was third in the first poll of the 2020–21 season before winning the second and final poll of that season. (Due to the compressed 2020–2021 season, there were only two MVP straw polls.)

This time around, Tatum slipped to fourth despite leading a team that goes to the All-Star Game with the best record in the NBA. Like all contenders for the award, Tatum puts up absurd statistics, averaging points (30.6), rebounds (8.6) and assists (4.5) per game.

Antetokounmpo, who finished second in the second straight poll, is averaging 32.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the Bucks.

Embiid, the runner-up in each of the last two seasons, finished in third place, with him and Jokic also being the only players included on all 100 ballots. With 33.1 points per game, Embiid is 0.2 points behind Doncic and leads the league.

Morant was back in sixth place, while Gilges-Alexander (13th) and Mitchell (11th) moved up six and three spots, respectively. This time, Williamson, Booker and Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis were eliminated from the vote.


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