Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo MVP finalists again
Two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo were named the three finalists for the league’s MVP award for a second straight season Friday night.
The awards finalists for all seven of the league’s major individual honors, which are voted on by media members, were announced on TNT’s “Inside The NBA” ahead of the Eastern Conference play-in game Friday night in Miami between the Heat and the Chicago Bulls. Ballots are due Monday evening.
Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo finished in that order in the MVP voting last season and in three of the top four spots in the voting for the 2021 MVP award.
Jokic would become only the fourth player in NBA history to win three straight MVPs, joining Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. He is coming off a season in which he became the third player and first center to average a triple-double and led Denver to the top seed in the Western Conference.
Embiid, meanwhile, led the league in scoring for a second straight season, the first center to do that since Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo in the 1970s. He has finished second to Jokic in the past two MVP votes.
Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA’s best record as he looks to claim his third MVP award.
The league’s top defensive honor will come down to Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. — the league’s leader in blocks per game (3.0) for a second consecutive season — along with Bucks center Brook Lopez and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley. Lopez helped Milwaukee to the NBA’s best record and fourth-best defense this season, while Mobley helped anchor the league’s best defense this season.
Leading the race for Rookie of the Year was the top pick in the 2022 draft, Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero, along with two other picks who fell outside the top 10 selections: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams, the 12th overall pick in last June’s draft; and Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler, who was taken 22nd by the Minnesota Timberwolves before being included in the Rudy Gobert trade.
For Sixth Man of the Year, the two leading candidates for the award — Boston Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley — were joined by Bucks forward Bobby Portis Jr.
Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown, who already has won the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year award, was named as one of three finalists for the NBA’s top coaching honor after a banner season in his first year in Sacramento, leading the Kings back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. He was joined by Thunder coach Mark Daignault and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who is in his first year on the job after taking over just before the start of training camp for Ime Udoka.
Also for the Kings, guard De’Aaron Fox was named one of three finalists for the first Clutch Player of the Year award, after his late-game heroics helped the Kings finish third in the West. He was joined as a finalist for that award by Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan.
Finally, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen — who made his first All-Star team this season after being acquired from the Cavaliers in the Donovan Mitchell trade last summer — and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was named an All-Star for the first time and is expected to be an All-NBA selection this year as well, were two of the three finalists for the league’s Most Improved Player award. They were joined by Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who starred for New York after signing with the franchise as a free agent from the Dallas Mavericks last summer.
The NBA will announce the winners over the next few weeks as the NBA playoffs get underway beginning this weekend, and also will unveil All-NBA, All-Defense and All-Rookie team selections. All were voted on by a panel of 100 media members.