Where Jayson Tatum stands in latest ESPN poll of NBA MVP voters

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The Boston Celtics have the second-best record in the NBA at 52-24 entering Thursday night's showdown against the Milwaukee Bucks, but it doesn't look like their best player will finish top three in MVP voting.

ESPN's Tim Bontemps unveiled Thursday his third straw poll of MVP voters this year. It's a great snapshot of what MVP voters are thinking, and with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, there's not many more opportunities for the top contenders to make a final statement.

That said, we could be witnessing one of the most competitive MVP races in recent memory. 

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid received the most points in Bontemps' poll with 790, while two-time reigning MVP and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was second with 788 points. He also led all players with 42 first-place votes. Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was third with 612 points.

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum came in fourth with 292 votes. He received zero first-place votes, one second-place vote, five third-place votes, 90 fourth-place votes and five fifth-place votes. 

Tatum was No. 1 in Bontemps' first MVP straw poll conducted in December. He is averaging career highs of 30.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Tatum also is on pace to become the first Celtics player ever to score 30-plus points per game in a single season. 

If Jokic wins, he'll become the fourth player to win three consecutive MVP awards and the first since Celtics legend Larry Bird in 1984-86. Bird is also the last Celtics player to win MVP. If Tatum finishes fourth this season, it will be the highest a Celtic has placed in MVP voting since Kevin Garnett was third in 2007-08. 

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