There is a narrow lead in the early race for the Michael Jordan Cup.
A career-high 30.2 points per game, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum took 47 first-place votes in the 2022-23 first game of ESPN’s NBA MVP straw poll, held on Sunday, and was included in 98 of the 100 votes cast. by tuesday
Tatum would become the first Celtics player to earn the league’s highest individual honor since Larry Bird – now named after Jordan after the NBA announced its new godfather roster earlier this week. Bird is the last player to win three times in a row (1984-86).
Tatum leads with 759 total points, followed by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (36 first-place votes, 687 total points) in second and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (10 first-place votes, 392 total points) in third place.
The 82-point gap between Tatum and Antetokounmpo is the second-closest spot between first and second place in the 11 straw polls since the 2016-17 season.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, meanwhile, won a straw poll vote for the first time in his career, as did Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
To gauge where the race was positioned roughly one-third of the time during the regular season, ESPN asked 100 media members to take an unofficial poll that mimics the NBA’s postseason award voting process. To make the voting as realistic as possible, there were at least two voters from each of the league’s 28 markets, along with a cross section of national and international correspondents.
As with the NBA’s official end-of-season voting, voters were asked to submit a five-player ballot, and the results were tabulated using the league’s scoring system: 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for second place, five points for second place, three points for third, three points for fourth, and fifth for fifth place. one point for.
Rounding out the top five behind Tatum, Antetokounmpo and Doncic were Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (six first-place votes, 250 points total) and Denver Nuggets center (and two-time NBA MVP) Nikola Jokic. place voting and 195 total points.
Tatum, Antetokounmpo, Doncic, Curry and Jokic were the only five players to receive first place votes.
Other voted players include Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (sixth), Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (seventh), Williamson (eighth), Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (ninth), Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (10th), Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell is involved. (11th place), Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (12th), and Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished 13th in the poll with fifth-place votes alone.
While Tatum, who finished sixth in the MVP voting last season, tops this first poll, history shows that his leadership may not be secure.
Last season, Curry received 94 out of 100 first-place votes in the first round of the straw poll — the highest number of votes awarded to a single player in the 11 versions of this poll since the 2016-17 season.
LeBron James’ weak early lead disappeared in 2020-21. He dropped to fifth in the final round of the Hay poll and tied for 13th in the official MVP voting.
It was Jokic who teamed up to win the award in both seasons.
This is also the first time in hay polls where no player has received a total of 100 votes.
That doesn’t mean Tatum isn’t in a strong position to stay at the top. The 24-year-old had the best start of his career, averaging 30.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists on field shooting percentage. Tatum led the Celtics to a league-leading 22-7 record without Robert Williams III, who has yet to play this season due to knee surgery.
As with the Bucks standings 1.5 games behind the Celtics in the East, Antetokounmpo finds himself staring at Tatum in the straw poll. The two-time MVP led the Bucks in his third tough opening of the season, averaging 30.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists, while co-stars Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday lost significant time due to injuries.
Antetokounmpo is the only player to have at least one vote in the 11 straw polls conducted. It has finished outside the top three in just one vote in eight polls over the past four seasons.
Meanwhile, Doncic had a fantastic performance for the Mavericks in Dallas, averaging 33.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 8.7 assists, leading the Western Conference.
For both Doncic and Stephen Curry, the biggest obstacle to their nominations at the start of the season is their team’s struggles on the pitch. Boston and Milwaukee have two NBA best records, while Dallas and Golden State are ranked ninth and 10th in the West, respectively. This is a major reason why Doncic was elected on only 80 out of 100 ballots, and Curry had 58 votes – both in the same range (73) as Jokic before winning in the first round of voting last year. prize.
Voters specifically cited Golden State’s record of .500 as a reason why Curry was lower on the ballots or did not vote outright. But the superstar guard’s candidacy was likely dealt a fatal blow with news first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday that Curry will miss the next few weeks due to a left shoulder injury he sustained Wednesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Since Bill Walton won the award by missing 24 games for the 1977-78 Portland Trail Blazers – a team that was 50-10 when he broke his regular season-ending leg – only Allen Iverson missed more than 10 games and became that season’s MVP. And Iverson had missed 11 when the leader of the East won the award for the 76ers in 2001. Curry plays for a team that started the season up 14-15. on the contrary He shoots 43.4% from 3-point range with 30.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
Then there’s Jokic, who had another strong statistical season averaging 24.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists for Denver, who is third in the Western standings.
But after winning the award over the past two seasons – a player’s ninth straight win since Bird’s three in a row – it was always expected that it would be tough for Jokic to stand up to this trend. .
The most notable figure to appear in the lower ranks of the poll is Williamson, who helped propel the Pelicans to the top of the West. Missing the entire last season with a foot injury, Williamson is averaging 25.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the 18-10 Pelicans.
Anthony Davis’s recent strong play has seen him garner four fifth-place votes and is back in the poll for the first time since the 2019-20 season, Gilgeous-Alexander’s stellar season for the Thunder – including spectacular performances in New. York and Washington were victorious — leading to the start of the straw poll.