Just a short time ago, the NBA MVP race was too close to call. Between LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and even James Harden, nobody could come to a conclusive answer as to who might take home MVP honors this season.
Fast forward to today, however, and Nuggets star Nikola Jokic has emerged as the runaway favorite. In a recent poll conducted by ESPN, he received 90 first-place votes, beating out the competition by a landslide.
Jokic, who has not missed a game this season, took 90 of the 101 first-place votes cast in ESPN's latest MVP straw poll, conducted this past weekend. If that result holds when the official ballots are cast next month, Jokic would be the first center to win MVP since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.
To gauge where the race stands with a month left in the season, ESPN asked 101 media members to participate in an informal poll that mimics the postseason awards voting. To make the balloting as realistic as possible, there were at least two voters from each of the league's 28 markets, as well as a cross-section of national and international reporters.
Jokic finished with 964 points and was the only player named on all 101 ballots. Embiid (82) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (81) were the only others named on more than 70.
The Nuggets are 4th in the West this year, with a 35-20 record. But, following the injury to Jamal Murray, they are at risk to slide a few spots down the standings.
Nevertheless, Jokic has been a steady hand for the club, posting averages of 26 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game on 56.4% shooting. He has, undoubtedly, been among the NBA's top performers.
Of course, with a month still left to go, Jokic will have to keep up this pace for at least a few more weeks to secure the award. But something says he's more than capable of keeping pace...