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    HomeSportNBA award finalists revealed: Who has the edge in each race?

    NBA award finalists revealed: Who has the edge in each race?

    MIAMI — As expected, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić, and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo were named finalists for the NBA MVP. Here’s what you need to know:

    • The league announced finalists for all its regular-season awards (voted on by members of the media) Friday, ahead of the Eastern Conference Play-In finale between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. Winners will be revealed over the coming weeks.
    • Jokić has won MVP the last two years and would join Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird as the only players in league history to win the NBA’s most prestigious award in three consecutive seasons.
    • Antetokounmpo was MVP in 2018-19, and again in 2019-20. Embiid has yet to win one.

    Finalists in the rest of the award races

    Who has the edge in the MVP race?

    In reading the names off his card, TNT’s Charles Barkley said this will be “the closest vote ever.” Wonder if he realized he was a part of the actual closest – the 1990 MVP race – and lost to Magic Johnson, despite having more first-place votes than Magic.

    This one could indeed come down to which of these three superstars does well on the second ballot. Embiid led the NBA in scoring at 33.1 points per game. Jokić was an analytics model of dominance for the West’s best team (and the Nuggets were remarkably worse without him on the court). Giannis averaged 31.1 points and nearly 12 rebounds for the best overall team. — Vardon

    Who could take the top coaching honors?

    This one probably won’t be close. Brown, in his first season with the Kings, broke the franchise’s 16-season playoff drought. Sacramento went from 12th in the West last year (30-52) to third this season (48-34), besting NBA royalty like the Warriors, Lakers and even the Suns (who now have Kevin Durant).

    The Thunder under Daigneault have overachieved to be sure, but the bar was low. They are in the Play-In finals as the No. 10 seed. — Vardon

    A tight race for DPOY

    Jackson Jr. led the NBA with three blocks per game, but only appeared in 63 contests. Lopez is third in the league in blocks and is off the charts analytically (things like contesting shots), and also played in 78 games. Mobley, who is in his second pro season, was the anchor of the top-rated defense in the NBA and is the most versatile of the three finalists, switching more on the perimeter than Jackson or Lopez — which led to fewer recorded blocks.

    It’s always tough to pick the top defender, perhaps even more so in a season in which scoring was at record levels. — Vardon

    A clear choice for ROTY

    Banchero will win. The No. 1 pick from the 2022 draft averaged 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 72 games for the Magic. His game is well rounded for a 20-year-old. He averaged nearly a steal and a block per game — otherwise living up to his lofty draft status.

    Kessler and Williams both came on strong as the season progressed. For those who don’t know: the Thunder have TWO rookies named Williams with the same-sounding first name. One is Jalen (the ROTY candidate) and the other is Jaylin. — Vardon

    Frontrunners for Most Improved

    Markkanen never had anything close to the season he put up in 2022-23. His scoring jumped 11 points per game (to 25.6), his rebounds were up an average of three per game over last year (to 8.6), his assists were a career high (1.9 per) and his .499 shooting percentage was also the best of his six seasons.

    Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring average rose from 24.5 per game last season to 31.4 now — fourth-best in the NBA. He also shot 51 percent from the field during the regular season, a career best. Both players made All-Star teams for the first time, but in comparing the two, Gilgeous-Alexander had been on the verge of stardom prior to this year and Markannan had not. — Vardon

    Favorites for Clutch Player of the Year

    This is a new award and the coaches nominated the players we (the media) could vote for.

    Fox led the NBA in clutch scoring (points in the final five minutes of games in which the margin is within five points). DeRozan was second in that category, and Butler anchored the team that won 32 “clutch” games (same criteria) – the most in the NBA. — Vardon

    Required reading

    (Photo: Bill Streicher / USA Today)



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