NBA MVP straw ballot – Luka? Giannis? Tatum? 100 league insiders make their picks

There’s a slender chief within the early race for the Michael Jordan Trophy.

Boston Celtics ahead Jayson Tatum, who’s averaging a career-high 30.2 factors per recreation, claimed 47 first-place votes and was on 98 of 100 ballots solid within the 2022-23 debut of ESPN’s NBA MVP straw ballot, which was performed from Sunday to Tuesday.

Tatum would turn out to be the primary Celtics participant since Larry Fowl to win the league’s highest particular person honor — now named after Jordan following the NBA’s announcement of its newly christened slate of awards earlier this week. Fowl is the latest participant to win it 3 times in a row (1984-86).

Tatum led the way in which with 759 complete factors, adopted by Milwaukee Bucks ahead Giannis Antetokounmpo (36 first-place votes, 687 complete factors) in second and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (10 first-place votes, 392 complete factors) in third.

The 82-point hole between Tatum and Antetokounmpo is the second-closest between first and second place throughout the 11 straw polls which were performed because the 2016-17 season.

New Orleans Pelicans ahead Zion Williamson, in the meantime, earned a straw ballot vote for the primary time in his profession, as did Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

To gauge the place the race stands roughly a 3rd of the way in which by means of the common season, ESPN requested 100 media members to take part in a casual ballot that mimics the NBA’s postseason award voting course of. To make the balloting as reasonable as potential, there have been at the least two voters from every of the league’s 28 markets, together with a cross part of nationwide and worldwide reporters.

As with the NBA’s official voting on the finish of season, voters had been requested to submit a five-player poll, and outcomes had been tabulated utilizing the league’s scoring system: 10 factors for every first-place vote, seven factors for second, 5 factors for third, three factors for fourth and one level for fifth.

Rounding out the highest 5 behind Tatum, Antetokounmpo and Doncic had been Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (six first-place votes, 250 complete factors) and Denver Nuggets middle (and reigning two-time NBA MVP) Nikola Jokic, who had one first-place vote and 195 complete factors.

Tatum, Antetokounmpo, Doncic, Curry and Jokic had been the one 5 gamers to obtain a primary place vote.

Others receiving votes included Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (sixth), Brooklyn Nets ahead Kevin Durant (seventh), Williamson (eighth), Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (ninth), Philadelphia 76ers middle Joel Embiid (tenth), Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (eleventh), Los Angeles Lakers ahead Anthony Davis (twelfth), and Gilgeous-Alexander, who, with a lone fifth-place vote, rounded out the ballot in thirteenth place.

Whereas Tatum, who’s coming off a sixth-place end in MVP voting final season, sits atop this primary ballot, historical past exhibits that his lead won’t be protected.

Final season, Curry racked up 94 of 100 first-place votes within the first spherical of the straw ballot — essentially the most ever given to a single participant throughout 11 variations of this ballot performed because the 2016-17 season.

In 2020-21, LeBron James’ slim early lead disappeared. He fell to fifth within the last spherical of the straw ballot and wound up tied for thirteenth within the official MVP poll.

In each seasons, it was Jokic who rallied to win the award.

This is also the primary time throughout any of the straw polls that no participant tallied 100 complete votes.

That is to not say Tatum is not in a powerful place to stay on prime. The 24-year-old is off to the perfect begin of his profession, averaging 30.2 factors, 8.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists whereas taking pictures 47% from the sector. Tatum has led the Celtics to a league-leading 22-7 document with out defensive anchor Robert Williams III, who has but to play this season on account of knee surgical procedure.

Like within the standings, the place the Bucks are 1.5 video games behind the Celtics within the East, Antetokounmpo finds himself trying up at Tatum within the straw ballot. The 2-time MVP has led the Bucks by means of a difficult opening third of the season, averaging 30.6 factors, 11.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists with co-stars Khris Middleton and Jrue Vacation lacking vital time with accidents.

Antetokounmpo is the one participant who has at the least one vote in all 11 straw polls which were performed. He has completed outdoors the highest three in voting simply as soon as in eight polls performed throughout the previous 4 seasons.

Doncic, in the meantime, has been sensible in Dallas, averaging a Western Convention-leading 33.0 factors, 8.4 rebounds and eight.7 assists for the Mavericks.

For each Doncic and Stephen Curry, the most important obstacle to their early-season candidacies is their group’s struggles on the courtroom. Whereas Boston and Milwaukee have the NBA’s two finest information, Dallas and Golden State sit ninth and tenth within the West, respectively. That could be a main cause Doncic was solely named to 80 of the 100 ballots, and why Curry landed on 58 of them — each falling in the identical vary of Jokic (73) within the first spherical of voting final yr earlier than happening to win the award.

Particularly, voters pointed to Golden State’s .500 document as a cause Curry was both decrease on their poll or left off utterly. However the famous person guard’s candidacy seemingly was dealt a deadly blow with the information Thursday, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that Curry would miss the subsequent few weeks due to a left shoulder damage suffered throughout Wednesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Since Invoice Walton received the award whereas lacking 24 video games for the 1977-78 Portland Path Blazers — a group that was 50-10 when he suffered a damaged foot that ended his common season — solely Allen Iverson has missed greater than 10 video games and received that season’s MVP. And Iverson, when he received the award in 2001 for the East-leading 76ers, missed 11. Curry is enjoying for a group that has gone 14-15 to start out the season regardless of his 30.0 factors, 6.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per recreation whereas taking pictures 43.4% from 3-point vary.

Then there’s Jokic, who’s having one other sturdy statistical season, averaging 24.6 factors, 10.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists for Denver, which sits in third place within the West standings.

However after successful the award every of the previous two seasons — the ninth time a participant received the award twice in a row since Fowl’s three in a row — it was at all times anticipated to be troublesome for Jokic to be the particular person to buck that pattern.

Within the decrease reaches of the ballot, essentially the most notable title to seem is Williamson, who has helped lead the Pelicans to the highest of the West. After lacking all of final season with a foot damage, Williamson is averaging 25.3 factors, 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the 18-10 Pelicans.

Anthony Davis noticed his current surge of sturdy play garner him 4 fifth-place votes, marking his return to the ballot for the primary time because the 2019-20 season, whereas Gilgeous-Alexander’s stellar season for the Thunder — together with spectacular performances in New York and Washington in victories — led to his straw ballot debut.