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SPORTS

Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic Picked as the NBA’s MVP Finalists. Wemby Up for 2 Trophies, Too

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.

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).

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.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) grabs a rebound next to Milwaukee Bucks forward Chris Livingston (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 12, 2024, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)

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.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
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.

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.

“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
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’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
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
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.

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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By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer

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