On Thursday, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps put out the final MVP Straw Poll of the season. For those unfamiliar, ESPN polls all media voters to get a feel for how the award race will shake out a few weeks before official voting. This is a historically accurate poll, and is a good indication on what the consensus is around the league.
This year’s MVP race is shaping up the be the closest in over three decades. The last time things were this close? The 1989-90 campaign, which came down to Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Michael Jordan. Barkley actually won the first-place vote by a wide margin — nearly 11 votes. What pushed Johnson over him was the second- and third-place votes.
History might just repeat itself with this year’s MVP race. Here are the final results:
As you see, Embiid actually lost the first place vote by two. However, he won the second place vote by six points, narrowly beating out Jokic 790-788. Bontempts mentioned that this poll was conducted over a 36-hour period from Monday afternoon through Tuesday night — after Embiid missed Monday’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
Outside of Embiid and Jokic, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo picked up the remaining 18 first-place votes. Most considered this year’s MVP race a three-man race, but the straw poll suggests that it’ll come down to Jokic or Embiid — barring a huge shift.
Both Embiid and Jokic will have their respective opportunities to make some ground in the coming weeks. The Nuggets face off against the Suns, who now have Kevin Durant, twice to close the season. They also have games against the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings. On the Sixers side of things, they’ll face off against the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics before the season concludes.
Keep in mind that some of these votes are far from being locked in. Bontempts mentioned several quotes from voters, who warned that these might not be their final answers. How the Nuggets and Sixers finish the final 5-6 games very well might determine the NBA’s next MVP.