PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Joel Embiid was named a finalist for the NBA's MVP award for the second year in a row, the league announced on Sunday night. The other finalists are reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo won the award in back-to-back seasons before Jokic.
All three finalists have strong cases for the award, as this is one of the tighter MVP races in quite some time.
Embiid led the league in scoring for the first time in his career this season, averaging 30.6 points per game. He became the first center in the league to win the scoring title since Shaquille O'Neal did during the 1999-2000 season.
But Embiid making history didn't stop there.
Embiid had 13 games this season where he had at least 40 points and 10 rebounds, which is the most ever since the NBA, ABA merger. He passed Moses Malone and Russell Westbrook, who were each tied for the record with 12 in one season.
Embiid also helped the Sixers navigate through a season filled with drama due to the Ben Simmons saga earlier in the year. Through all the reports, rumors, and endless headlines, Embiid went to work on the court as the Sixers secured a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs.
Time will tell if Embiid will win the award, but the most recent NBA straw poll by ESPN wasn't good news for the Sixers' big man.
In the poll, Jokic finished with 62 first place votes and a toal of 860 points, while Embiid got 29 first place votes and finished with 719 total points. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas also made Jokic the betting favorite to win the MVP award toward the end of the season, with Embiid trailing behind.
Last season, Jokic won MVP over Embiid and got 92 first place votes and had 971 total points. Embiid, who finished second, only received one first place vote and got 62 second place votes to collect 586 points.
Was Tyrese Maxey snubbed?
The NBA also announced the finalists for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award, and it did not include Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey. The three finalists were Darius Garland from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs.
All three are very talented players, including Morant who was candidate to win MVP earlier in the season. But yes, Maxey was snubbed from being a finalist.
After playing in a limited role last season and only starting eight games, Maxey was put in a tough spot this year with the Simmons saga. He was inserted into being the starting point guard -- a position that he doesn't naturally play -- on a team that was the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, and he overachieved.
Maxey, 21, started in 74 of the 75 games he played this season and his scoring average jumped nearly 10 points. He went from averaging 8 points per game last year to 17.5 points per game this season. And more importantly, he became an efficient 3-point shooter. He shot 42.7% on treys this season, which ranked third-best in the NBA.
Maxey has taken a huge leap. Most didn't really expect him to be this good in the second year of his career. His talent was on full display Saturday night in the Sixers' dominant victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1.
Maxey poured in 38 points and hit five 3-pointers as the Sixers cruised to a 131-111 win.
We'll see if Maxey still has the hot hand Monday night in Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
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