Consider this scenario: the season ends today, on 12th January 2019, who would the postseason awards be distributed to in this case? For the majority of these awards there is often a clear-cut winner (we’re looking at you, Luka Doncic), but when it comes to the MVP award, two names spring to mind: James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Greek Freak has made some drastic improvements to his game in recent years, netting the Most Improved Player award in 2017 for his efforts, since then he has transformed the Milwaukee Bucks from a laughing stock to a serious playoff contender, currently they stand at first in the Eastern Conference.
Things like this don’t appear in the box score or on league-wide stat sheets and for most, this alone is a big reason why most NBA fans will say that Giannis stands in good stead to win the MVP award. He’s a true leader for his team which has shown exactly that over the years; I expect big things from Milwaukee this season and I’m kicking myself for not placing money on them reaching the finals.
As mentioned, the reigning MVP James Harden is the only player that appears to stand in the way. Harden currently averages 33.9 points per game and 8.6 assists to match, when compared to Giannis this would put Harden well ahead as The Freak averages 26.6 points with six assists, however we must keep in mind that James Harden, while being the centrepiece of the team, puts up numbers like this as his teammates find themselves in shooting slumps.
This was demonstrated perfectly in this week’s showdown between the Bucks and the Rockets where the two MVP candidates went head to head. Harden finished with 42 points as the only member of the Rockets squad to put up over 20 points that night, while the Bucks roster saw the points spread out across the lineup. Only four players didn’t put up double digit numbers. I find that to be special when demonstrating leadership in a team as Giannis is far less selfish than most of the other stars in the league and manages to share the load between his teammates.
When talking about an MVP, it mustn’t be forgotten that the award does not necessarily award the best player in the league but rather the most valuable.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most valuable player league-wide as he provides for his team more than most players do. For example, Giannis currently leads his team in points, assists and rebounds, easily the most important stats in a game, while also being a very close second in blocks and steals. Nothing screams “I’m valuable” more than literally being the most valuable asset on your team as shown. I suppose as the only All-Star calibre player on the team, Giannis would find himself in this position but it is truly phenomenal to see a player lead a team that well and still be on top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Of course, as a near 7-footer with speed, agility and strength, Giannis plays near enough every position on the court. There aren’t many players in the world that can fill in a vacant position say in the event of an injury, if James Harden could put himself in that position I may be more inclined to consider him ahead of Giannis, but while The Greek Freak has carried the team on his back in the past couple of years, I would say that makes him the most valuable player, not just for the Milwaukee Bucks, but across the whole NBA.