For much of the season, the talk has been that the NBA is set for the most competitive awards races in recent memory. That still might be true for several of the major awards. However, according to ESPN’s straw poll of the MVP race, the drama for this particular trophy has disappeared.
Nikola Jokic has emerged as the runaway favorite after most of the other leading candidates suffered injuries that led to extended absences in recent weeks. Jokic earned 90 of the 101 first-place votes as he more than doubled up the second-place point total of Joel Embiid.
Kawhi Leonard came in eighth place after earning one first-place vote, but he is within spitting distance of LeBron James for second place since the bulk of the Laker’s votes were of the fifth-place variety. However, Leonard’s stock has dipped since February, though not as precipitously as his fellow Staples Center small forward’s. The other most recent NBA Finals MVP, Kevin Durant, has fallen out of the race altogether.
With less than 20 games left to play in the season, it seems unlikely that Jokic could lose his commanding lead. The only caveat is that every MVP in the modern era has finished in the top three of his conference, except for Russell Westbrook when he averaged a triple-double in the 2016-17 season. Jokic is not on pace to lead his Nuggets to a top three seed, especially not with his running mate Jamal Murray out for the remainder of the year. Would the voters break precedent for Jokic? Does that precedent even matter in a year unlike any other regular season?
Perhaps there may yet be some intrigue in this race.
More news for Friday:
- Best wishes to LaMarcus Aldridge, who retired suddenly after discovering an issue with his heart.
- From Mason Bissada, here’s a look at one of Aldridge’s best games against the Clippers.
- Darius Miles shared some great Clippers stories on The Real Ones podcast with Logan Murdock and Raja Bell.
- Staples Center’s new bag policy for fans has drawn criticisms.
- The WNBA Draft took place Thursday! Here are instant grades for every team, as well as a specific focus on the Los Angeles Sparks.