NBA Notebook: Embiid leads latest MVP straw poll

Profile Picture: Rory Breasail

Rory Breasail

February 18th, 2022

The NBA All-Star Game is this weekend, but before the break in the action, there has been a lot of news, with both unfortunate injuries to some of the game's biggest stars, as well as continued fallout from one of the most dramatic trade deadlines of all time.

We get you all caught up in this week's edition of NBA Notebook.

The Lakers deadline deal that wasn't

Speaking on Brian Windhorst’s podcast The Hoop Collective, Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin broke some interesting news regarding the Los Angeles Lakers' lack of trade deadline deals.

Apparently, the Lakers had a deal on the table to trade Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, and their 2027 first-round pick for John Wall and Christian Wood. Getting Wood for the price of a single first-round pick seems on paper like the kind of upgrade a team in a win-now mode like the Lakers would find very appealing. But the Lakers front office balked.

At least in part, the reason the Lakers’ front office cited for not making the trade was their unwillingness to add to their luxury tax bill. The report revived criticism from the offseason when fan-favorite Alex Caruso, a player whose talents they desperately miss, was let go purely for financial reasons.  

That the NBA’s premier franchise is so averse to paying the luxury tax is bad for the NBA and is a disservice to LeBron James and the Lakers fanbase.

Jarrett Allen named All-Star replacement

With the announcement that James Harden would be sidelined through the All-Star Game with his hamstring injury, Adam Silver named Jarrett Allen as the latest injury replacement. Allen has had an outstanding year, both quarterbacking the Cleveland Cavaliers' defense and putting up incredibly efficient play on the other end.

But if the All-Stars were named again today, it would seem egregious that Pascal Siakam is not on the team.

Siakam has at times become the Toronto Raptors' floor general and has put up better numbers than a fair number of those selected to the team. If there is reason for one last replacement, the spot has to be his.

Chris Paul thumb injury requires MRI

The Phoenix Suns have been the NBA’s best team this season, in part because their core trio of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Chris Paul have been remarkably healthy.

Unfortunately, Paul injured his thumb in the game against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and it may keep him out for some time.

There’s no update on Paul just yet, but he’s flown to Los Angeles to undergo an MRI. Luckily for the Suns, they’ve built themselves a tidy little cushion in the standings with their dominant play, so even if Paul misses time, they should hang on to the No. 1 seed.

Anthony Davis suffers nasty foot injury

As if things couldn’t get worse for the Lakers, during a game against the Utah Jazz this week, Anthony Davis appeared to suffer a nasty-looking ankle sprain and had to be helped off the court. He was unable to put any weight on it at all.

The Lakers later announced that he will be re-evaluated in four weeks after suffering what they called a "mid-foot sprain." Given how bad it looked in real time, a sprain feels like a relief. But it might mean that the Lakers slip even further in the standings, and if LeBron misses any more time, they could very well miss the Play-In Tournament entirely.

ESPN MVP straw poll has Embiid in lead

It’s MVP déjà vu, as the latest round of the ESPN MVP straw poll has a virtual dead heat between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, who finished top two in the race last season.

Embiid holds a narrow 35-point lead over the reigning MVP, which is the closest in any such poll since they began doing it over the last six seasons.

Embiid captured 45 first-place votes, while Jokic received 43. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished a distant third, while Steph Curry, the one-time favorite, trailed in fourth.

The race between the top bigs in the game will take on even greater momentum, as both the Sixers and Nuggets expect to make major additions to their respective backcourts down the stretch, with James Harden soon to suit up beside Embiid and Jamal Murray ramping up to rejoin Jokic.