NBA MVP: Who will win between Jokic, Embiid and Giannis? ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 2, 2023

After much debate during the regular season, the 2022-23 NBA MVP will be announced Tuesday evening (7 p.m. ET, TNT). For the second-straight season, the three finalists are Denver's Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.

If Jokic wins, he would be the first player to win three consecutive MVP awards since Boston's Larry Bird (1984 to 1986).

Embiid, who led the NBA in scoring for a second-straight season, closed last month as the heavy favorite to win the award at Caesars Sportsbook at -2000. The 76ers center has finished second behind Jokic the last two seasons.

Antetokounmpo, a former two-time MVP, averaged a career-high 31.1 points in leading the Bucks to the NBA's best regular-season record.

ESPN's Zach Lowe shared his official MVP ballot last month and explains why he has Embiid as this season's MVP while NBA reporter Tim Bontemps' final MVP straw poll reveals how split voters were two weeks prior to the end of the regular season.

2023 NBA MVP Finalists

Nikola Jokic | Center | Denver Nuggets

69 games | 24.5 ppg | 11.8 rpg | 9.8 apg | 0.7 bpg

Joel Embiid | Center | Philadelphia 76ers

66 games | 33.1 ppg | 10.2 rpg | 4.3 apg | 1.7 bpg

Giannis Antetokounmpo | Power forward | Milwaukee Bucks

63 games | 31.1 ppg | 11.8 rpg | 5.7 apg | 0.8 bpg

Zach Lowe's MVP ballot

After poring over the data, watching a gazillion games and talking to coaches and executives across the league, here's where I ended up.


1. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

2. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

5. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers

What an epic race: three all-time superstars posting all-time seasons. In a way, the hardest part -- the one that felt most absurd -- was writing one of these three names into the third-place slot. Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP, the best player on the team with the best record, wrapping a 31.1-point/11.8-rebound/5.7-assist masterpiece -- and finished third? How?

In a normal year -- and even amid this convergence of three historic seasons -- Antetokounmpo has a clean case to win. He is the best defender among these three, although Embiid at full throttle gives him a run. Even one of the relative weak spots in Antetokounmpo's dossier -- finishing with almost 300 fewer minutes than both centers -- is at least partly the result of the Bucks being so good, and so deep, as to not need to push him. Should we really "punish" Antetokounmpo because of the stability of Milwaukee's roster?

Debating players at the highest level is always splitting hairs; minutes matter as a tiebreaker. Antetokounmpo also appeared in fewer games than Jokic or Embiid, and he suffered a drop-off in shooting on 2s, 3s and free throws.

In the end, it was the two centers: the two-time defending MVP and greatest passing big man of all time, and the game's most majestic giant since prime Hakeem Olajuwon.

Read more from Zach Lowe's official NBA awards picks.

NBA MVP Straw Poll 3.0

Will this NBA season feature one of the closest MVP votes in league history?

If ESPN's final MVP straw poll of 2022-23 is any indication, buckle up, as 76ers center Embiid has overtaken Nuggets center and two-time reigning MVP Jokic.

By two points.

Not only did Embiid edge Jokic in total points -- 790 to 788 -- but Jokic actually had more first-place votes (42 for Jokic, 40 for Embiid). The difference: Embiid finished in second place on 45 ballots -- six more than Jokic -- to give the Sixers big man a slight lead over his rival.

Meanwhile, Bucks forward Antetokounmpo -- a two-time MVP in his own right -- grabbed the remaining 18 first-place votes, and he lurks within striking distance as the best player on the team with the most wins (58) in the league, making a difficult choice for voters even tougher.

Read more from Tim Bontemps on the NBA MVP Straw Poll 3.0.

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