Nuggets center Nikola Jokic appears to be the favorite as the MVP race enters the home stretch, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. In its latest straw poll of 100 media members, the network found 62 first-place votes and 860 overall points for Jokic, putting him ahead of the Sixers‘ Joel Embiid, who had 29 first-place votes and 719 points, and the Bucks‘ Giannis Antetokounmpo with nine first-place votes and 593 points.
Bontemps notes that the race appears similar to last year’s when Jokic built late momentum to capture his first MVP award. ESPN’s previous poll, taken in mid-February, showed Embiid with a slight advantage.
Jokic’s statistics are nearly identical to last season as he’s averaging 26.3 points and 8.0 assists to go with a career-high 13.6 rebounds per game. He has kept Denver in the playoff race despite injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, but his candidacy could suffer if the Nuggets fall into the play-in tournament. They’re currently in sixth, two games ahead of seventh-place Minnesota.
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Thunder fans may not have wanted to win Monday’s game at Portland, but Isaiah Roby did, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. With Oklahoma City locked in a tight lottery race and having only had eight available players, all of whom started in the G League this season, Roby delivered a career-high 30 points, including a clutch shot that sent the game into overtime. “With the amount of talent that we have out, nobody’s counting on us to win any games,” Roby said. “The fact that we’re going out competing against playoff teams (Denver on Sunday) and we’re winning games like tonight, that’s very encouraging. I’m just proud of the guys. Proud of the eight guys we had out there tonight.”
- Vasilije Micić, whose rights are owned by the Thunder, is only interested in coming to the NBA if he believes he’ll get regular playing time, according to Eurohoops. The 28-year-old signed a three-year extension with Anadolu Efes last summer that contains an escape clause after each season. “Honestly, I have a desire to go to the NBA,” he said. “But in a way, and I told that to the people from Oklahoma, to actually play there. I don’t see myself going there to tell my neighborhood friends that I was in the NBA and bring them back an OKC jersey. That doesn’t inspire me. I also came to Efes when they were at the bottom, and I had offers of some, perhaps, better-standing names.”
- Patrick Beverley has completely changed the culture surrounding the Timberwolves since arriving in an offseason trade, states Cole Huff of The Athletic, who adds that the veteran guard has inspired toughness everywhere he’s been in his NBA career.