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Jayson Tatum Voted NBA MVP over Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Dončić in ESPN Straw Poll

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 16, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 10: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics looks to shoot against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on December 10, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Boston Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum took the top spot in the first ESPN NBA MVP straw poll for the 2022-23 season Friday.

According to ESPN's Tim Bontemps, Tatum earned 47 of the 100 first-place votes cast by league insiders. He was also on 98 of the 100 ballots.

Tatum's 47 first-place votes and 759 total points led the way, followed by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo with 36 first-place votes and 687 total points, and then Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić with 10 first-place votes and 392 total points.

The 24-year-old Tatum is in the midst of his sixth NBA season, and the three-time All-Star has reached new heights in terms of his production.

Tatum is averaging career highs with 30.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.4 three-pointers made and 1.0 block per game, plus he is averaging 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals and shooting 47.0 percent overall and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc.

With Tatum leading the way, the Celtics are an NBA-best 22-7 and look like strong contenders to reach the NBA Finals for a second successive season.

Tatum was the driving force behind last season's playoff run for Boston, which ended with an NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors.

After previously never finishing higher than 12th in the NBA MVP voting, Tatum logged a career-best finish of sixth last season.

While Tatum is the early favorite, he has some major competition to contend with in the form of Antetokounmpo and Dončić.

Giannis is already a two-time NBA MVP, and he could be on his way to a third with averages of 30.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.0 block per game, while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor.

Dončić has yet to win an MVP, but he has been in the mix in recent years and is enjoying arguably his best season yet.

The Slovenian star is leading the NBA with a career-high 33.0 points per game, plus he is averaging 8.7 assists, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 three-pointers made and 1.7 steals as the unquestioned go-to guy for the Mavs.

As noted by Bontemps, the only other players to receive first-place votes in the straw poll were Warriors guard Stephen Curry and reigning two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets, who are fourth and fifth, respectively.

Rounding out the top 10 are Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.