Over the course of the season the MVP race has whittled down to two players. Giannis Antetokounmpo, of the Milwaukee Bucks and James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
As the Finals get closer the debate for MVP will only heat up more. But Antetokounmpo has an incredible case for beating out Harden this year.
Simply looking at the stats shows a very small spread between the two. But what isn’t measured is the way a player closes out a game and their ability to take over a game for their team.
Antetokounmpo is averaging fewer points than Harden, at 27, but makes up for it in nearly every other category. He has a higher field goal percentage. He’s averaging 12.5 rebounds, doubling Harden who is at 6.5. He is averaging six assists a game, just under Harden’s 7.5 a game. Since Antetokounmpo is playing the forward position he should not be looked to as a pass-first player, making his assist average more surprising.
Looking through the game-high stats of this season really gives perspective to how dominant Antetokounmpo is for his team. He has lead in points in 53 games, lead in rebounds 59 times and lead in assists 38 times. All of this in 70 games played. With this in mind, it is hard to debate how valuable Antetokounmpo is to his team.
Both players are the undisputed leaders of their team but the Bucks are first in the NBA record wise. The team is built around him and he is leading the league’s best team. That fact alone should speak for itself. He is so valuable to his team because he leads with authority. They are built for him and the game the Bucks play runs through Giannis.
A criticism of Antetokounmpo is that he is unable to close out games. Except this season alone he has taken over and won games against multiple teams, including the Raptors, Thunder, Trail Blazers and the Celtics.
One of the few intangible issues with Antetokounmpo is that he is simply too humble. Several times throughout this season he has been asked about his thoughts on the MVP race. Every time he has answered in an extremely humble way; which does not help when it comes time to vote.
Antetokounmpo has also said that he should not have to promote himself. Again, that is not going to help his doubters want to vote for him. Antetokounmpo is playing in the smallest market team and is not always in the spotlight. He absolutely needs to be promoting himself and showing the NBA and fans how incredible he truly is.
Antetokounmpo has shown time and time again that he is a capable leader for the Bucks. Taking them to the best record in the NBA and helping to turn the entire team around in just a few seasons.
The playoffs are going to be an incredibly important and a time for Antetokounmpo to really show off. The Bucks should make it to at least the Eastern Conference Finals this year. If they are able to do that and extend the Finals series to six or seven games, there is no reason Antetokounmpo should not be this year’s MVP.