The race for league MVP is the tightest it has been in recent years. Usually by this point of the season one of the MVP candidates would have separated themselves from the pack, but here we are with roughly 4 games remaining and there is no clear cut MVP. What was once a three man race with Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Paul George, quickly dwindled down to two as George’s play has leveled off in the past two months. But reigning MVP James Harden, and the Greek Freak have remained neck and neck down the stretch, with Harden publicly saying he’s going for MVP, while Giannis remains focused on the team goals. There is a great case to be made for both players. Giannis fits the mold as a fresh face, who is the best player on the best team this season, while Harden has put up historically great scoring numbers and sits in the 3rd seed in the much tougher Western Conference. Unless the voters decide to go for a Co-MVP, one of these guys will be undoubtably snubbed.
Case For Giannis Antetokounmpo
Like I mentioned earlier, Giannis fits the mold of a MVP: best player on the best team. From the first tip-off of the season until now, Giannis has been the most consistent, productive player in the league. It sounds crazy but Giannis has quietly averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. I say quietly because minus the highlight dunks and blocks, Giannis has not really had many explosive games like Harden. But his consistency throughout the either year is undeniable. If you want a comparison for how great Giannis has been this season, compare his season to Shaq’s age 24 season. The numbers are near identical.
“Yeah he’s better. Thats why I gave up my Superman title to him. And you know what? He works hard. He’s a humble kid”- Shaq on Giannis.
If you are looking for a significant moment, one that could secure the MVP for Giannis, then take a look at last nights game where Giannis led the Bucks to a 128-122 win over Joel Embiid and the 76ers. Talk about an MVP stat-line. Giannis posted 45 points, 13 boards, 6 assists and 5 blocks(4 of them came against Joel Embiid.)
This rejection from Giannis… ?#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/ALYRlHNlF9
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 5, 2019
If you want to talk about historical precedent, then Giannis checks off that box too. The Bucks clinched the best record in the NBA after last nights win in Philadelphia. That is the first time the Bucks franchise have accomplished the feat since 1973-74 season when they were led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbr. Coming into the season, the Bucks were projected to win 48 games. The Bucks currently sit at 59 wins with 3 games to go.
Case For James Harden
James Harden is the reigning MVP and would be a lock for this years MVP in just about any other season. Much like Giannis, Harden has a strong case to win league MVP as he checks off many boxes. His individual production speaks for itself as he is averaging 36.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
Harden also has the historic precedent box checked off as he went on one of the greatest scoring streaks the league has ever seen. A stretch of 32 consecutive 30 point games, which propelled the Houston Rockets out of the bottom of the Western Conference into the 3rd seed. The margin between his league leading 36.3 points per game and the second leading scorer (Paul George at 28 points per game) is impressive. Often the scoring champion race is somewhat close and a topic of conversation, but Harden ended that discussion by January.
The thing that separates Giannis from Harden is season long consistency. Giannis never let the Milwaukee Bucks season have any turmoil or adversity. Giannis set the tone for the team from day one and they never looked back as they have remained the best team in the league through the season. Harden’s biggest downfall this season was the Rockets early struggles while Giannis put the team on his back from day one. Yes it is extreme nitpicking but in a race this close, every little detail matters. Also I am a big component of defense and Giannis is not only an MVP candidate but also a DPOY candidate. So combine the season long consistency with Giannis having the more complete game, I am going with Giannis as the 2018-19 MVP.