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Chris Paul, Devin Booker earn light NBA MVP buzz in ESPN straw poll

Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier, center, fouls Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) as he gets caught in a pick by Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric (20) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Chris Paul and Devin Booker garnered some respect but aren’t among the top-tier Most Valuable Player candidates even as their Phoenix Suns (40-15) sit second in the entire NBA, an ESPN straw poll conducted by Tim Bontemps found.

Paul came in seventh with two first-place votes in a poll conducted to project the end-of-season MVP winner if the season ended this past weekend.

Booker was the last of 13 candidates who received consideration. He earned three points by way of three fifth-place votes.

To conduct the poll, 101 media members were asked by Bontemps to vote on their top five NBA MVP candidates.

Individual success stood out above team winning percentage among the candidates — at least as long as each player’s team had a chance to make the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic earned 90 of the 101 first-place votes and led the poll with 969 points, well ahead of Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid’s 401 points in second place.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (375 points), Portland’s Damian Lillard (283), Brooklyn’s James Harden (231) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (105) all outgained Paul (98).

The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (80), Dallas’ Luka Doncic (28), Utah’s Rudy Gobert (26), Utah’s Donovan Mitchell (14) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (13) made up the MVP candidates between the Suns’ Paul and Booker.

Paul is averaging 15.8 points per game and is fifth in the league at 8.8 assists per outing.

Booker is the 12th-best scorer at 25.7 points per game and is also contributing 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.

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