Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Doncic picked as NBA MVP finalists

Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Doncic picked as NBA MVP finalists

/ 01:17 PM April 22, 2024

Nikola Jokic Nuggets vs Warriors NBA

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Nikola Jokic is one step closer to winning a third MVP award in the last four seasons. Victor Wembanyama is surely on his way to a trophy — or maybe two. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might get a couple of his own as well.

The NBA revealed the finalists for most of the league’s postseason awards Sunday — and to no surprise, Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ star, was one of the three top vote-getters for the top individual honor, the Michael Jordan trophy that gets presented to the league’s Most Valuable Player.

The others: Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Oklahoma City’s Gilgeous-Alexander. Last season’s MVP, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, was not eligible this year because of the new league rule saying players must appear in a certain number of games for award participation.

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If he wins, Jokic would become the ninth player with three or more MVPs, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Jordan and Bill Russell (five), Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James (four), and Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (three).

READ: Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander now NBA MVP favorites with Embiid out

Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander would be first-time MVPs. Gilgeous-Alexander was a finalist for Most Improved Player last year — and this year, he’s in line for the MVP prize.

This much is already assured: It’ll be the sixth consecutive year that an international player wins MVP, extending the longest such streak in NBA history. Giannis Antetokounmpo — he of Greek and Nigerian heritage — won in 2019 and 2020, Serbia’s Jokic won in 2021 and 2022 and Embiid won last season. Embiid was born in Cameroon, though became an American citizen in 2022 and has been selected for the team that will represent USA Basketball at the Paris Olympics this summer.

The awards are voted on by a panel of reporters and broadcasters who cover the league, and are based on regular season games only. Ballots were due last week before the start of the play-in tournament, and the league is expected to begin announcing winners periodically over the coming days.

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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Chet Holmgren Victor Wembanyama NBA

Oklahoma City forward Chet Holmgren, left, dribbles as San Antonio center Victor Wembanyama (1) defends during the first half of an NBA in-season tournament basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)

Act surprised when Wembanyama wins.

The San Antonio standout from France and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft — who finished the year averaging 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and an NBA-best 3.6 blocked shots per game — is the overwhelming favorite to become the third Spurs player to win rookie of the year. The others: David Robinson in 1990 and Tim Duncan in 1998.

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The other finalists are Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren — who helped the Thunder to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference — and Charlotte’s Brandon Miller.

READ: NBA: Wembanyama put up historic numbers in rookie year

“Leading rookies in most categories and leading the league in blocks, I’m pretty proud of this,” Wembanyama said.

Wembanyama should become the first international winner of the award since Dallas’ Luka Doncic in 2019 and the fifth such winner in the last 10 seasons. Andrew Wiggins (Canada) won in 2015, Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic) won in 2016, Ben Simmons (Australia) win in 2018 and Doncic followed the next season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Bam Adebayo buzzer beater Heat beat Pistons NBA

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, center, celebrates his game winning shot with Duncan Robinson, left, and Caleb Martin, right, in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Detroit, Sunday, March 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Wembanyama were the three finalists — meaning the Spurs rookie is now assured of being top-three in two different sets of voting.

None of last season’s finalists made the top three this year. Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. won the award last season, with Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez and Cleveland’s Evan Mobley the other finalists in 2023.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey, Chicago’s Coby White and Houston’s Alperen Sengun are this year’s finalists.

Utah’s Lauri Markkanen won last year, with Gilgeous-Alexander and New York’s Jalen Brunson the other finalists.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR

Milwaukee Bucks' Bobby Portis NBA

Milwaukee Bucks’ Bobby Portis tries to get past Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis is a finalist again, along with Sacramento’s Malik Monk and Minnesota’s Naz Reid.

Malcolm Brogdon, then of Boston, won the award last year, with Portis and New York’s Immanuel Quickley the other finalists.

CLUTCH PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Chicago Bulls DeMar DeRozan Detroit Pistons NBA

Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) drives on Detroit Pistons forward Troy Brown Jr. (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Thursday, April 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Golden State’s Stephen Curry. Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan and Oklahoma City’s Gilgeous-Alexander are the finalists for the clutch player of the year.

DeRozan was a finalist last year as well, when Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox won.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Mark Daigneault OKC Thunder NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault gives instructions during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)

Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault, Minnesota’s Chris Finch and Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley were the top three vote-getters.

Daigneault already won the coach of the year award presented by the National Basketball Coaches Association — not the official NBA award, but one that since it was introduced in 2017 often mirrors the eventual results of league voting. Over its first seven seasons, one of the NBCA selections (there have been co-winners twice) wound up as the NBA winner five times.

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Sacramento’s Mike Brown was last year’s unanimous winner, with Daigneault and Boston’s Joe Mazzulla the other finalists in 2023.

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