76ers’ Joel Embiid falling behind in MVP straw poll

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Every year, ESPN graces us with a mid-season snapshot of the MVP pursuit. In their most recent straw poll, it would appear the award race is once again boiling down to a familiar three-name competition: Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

There are other names on the periphery, primarily Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic, but it would take a monster final 20-odd games to knock off one of the big men triumvirate that has dominated the last three MVP races.

For Philadelphia 76ers fans, naturally the focus falls on Embiid. There’s widely held belief around the city and the fandom at large that Embiid deserves MVP. It was the same last season, but Jokic won. And it was the same the year before too.

Here’s how the ESPN straw poll looks.

  1. Nikola Jokic — 913 points
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo — 552 points
  3. Joel Embiid — 490 points
  4. Jayson Tatum — 410 points
  5. Luka Doncic — 218 points
  6. Ja Morant — 8 points
  7. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — 4 points
  8. Donovan Mitchell — 3 points
  9. Stephen Curry — 1 point
  10. Kevin Durant — 1 point

76ers’ Joel Embiid finishes third in ESPN MVP straw poll

The straw poll, which combines the anonymous opinion of 100 NBA media members, skews heavily in Jokic’s favor. The same was the case around this time last season. The “point” totals are determined by weighted consideration to the number of first, second, third, fourth, and fifth-place votes a player receives.

Jokic drew 77 of 100 available first-place votes. While Embiid (who only garnered six first-place votes) can still catch up, he’s running short on time. He absolutely blasted Jokic on the national stage a few weeks ago. If that kind of statement wasn’t enough to tilt the scales in his favor, maybe nothing will.

Embiid received 24 second-place votes and 33 third-place votes. He joined Jokic as the only players to appear on all 100 of the submitted ballots. Giannis, who received 11 first-place votes and edged out Embiid for second place in the straw poll, only appeared on 97 of 100 ballots.

It’s a tight race. There’s a lot of eye-rolling happening around the Sixers’ fanbase with Jokic frontrunning again, but here’s the thing: his case is rock-solid. He’s the most efficient volume scorer in the NBA and he’s averaging a triple-double for good measure. Denver is also the one-seed in the West, so the old “Jokic isn’t winning” argument no longer holds sway.

As for Giannis, his case is similarly strong: the Bucks have a higher win percentage than Philly (and Denver), he’s maybe the most dominant two-way star in the sport, and Milwaukee is charging toward the one-seed right now (winners of 11 straight, only 0.5 game behind Boston).

Embiid, the second-leading scorer in the NBA for the three-seed Sixers (who have been the hottest offensive team in the NBA since Harden returned), could just as easily be argued for the No. 1 spot. It’s a true three-horse race with no wrong answer, in this writer’s opinion. No matter the outcome (and we should all mentally prepare for the Jokic three-peat), we shouldn’t let it overshadow the tremendous individual production from all three players. All three should be celebrated.

If Embiid is ultimately snubbed again and he wants to make a point: well, go out and win Finals MVP. That might turn a few heads.