The top two finishers in last season’s MVP voting appear to be the top two candidates for this year’s award too, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Bontemps recently conducted a straw poll of 100 media members and found that Sixers center Joel Embiid narrowly – and unofficially – leads Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic in the MVP race.
As Bontemps details, Embiid received 45 first-place votes from the poll respondents, while Jokic got 43. Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (nine), Suns guard Chris Paul (two), and Warriors guard Stephen Curry (one) were the other players who got first-place votes. Interestingly, Embiid was the only player to show up on all 100 five-player ballots, while Jokic was left off five.
Curry received 94 first-place votes when Bontemps conducted a similar straw poll in December, but the veteran sharpshooter has slowed down since his hot start, while players like Embiid, Jokic, and Antetokounmpo have made stronger MVP pushes.
Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- Free agent guard Isaiah Thomas is expected to rejoin the Grand Rapids Gold – the Nuggets‘ G League affiliate – after the All-Star break, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Thomas had a very brief stint in Grand Rapids in December, scoring 42 points in his only NBAGL game before getting called up to the NBA. Thomas signed 10-day contracts with the Lakers and Mavericks before returning to the open market.
- Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has published a new 2022 mock draft, while Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has updated his top-50 big board. Both draft experts currently have Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren at No. 1 and Jabari Smith of Auburn at No. 2, with Purdue’s Jaden Ivey moving up to No. 3 ahead of Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
- Veteran guard Ian Clark, who has 330 regular season appearances on his NBA résumé and won a title with Golden State in 2017, has signed with the Sydney Kings, the Australian team recently announced in a press release. Clark played in 60 games for New Orleans in 2018/19, but has been out of the NBA since then.