On Friday, the NBA named Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo as the 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player. The Greek Freak bagged his second straight Maurice Podoloff Trophy, weeks after winning Defensive Player of the Year as well. In the process, Giannis also edged out Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James for the MVP, who finished No. 2 in voting.
For majority of the season, Antetokounmpo and James have been at the forefront of the MVP race. However, seeing as how Milwaukee’s season ended in such disappointment after they lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals in five games to the Miami Heat, analysts and fans were up in arms over the result. They claimed that LeBron James, whose Lakers is still alive and looking dominant in the playoffs, should have won his fifth MVP plum.
Yes, those people backing up The King certainly have a valid argument. Even at 35 years old and in Year 17, this is still LeBron James’ league. And with the way he’s performing in the playoffs, he is still undoubtedly the best player in the world.
However, no one should dispute that Giannis Antetokounmpo deserved to win the MVP this season.
For starters, especially for those who argue that James is showing in the playoffs why he’s clearly better than Giannis, the MVP is a regular season award. So, no matter how poorly or underwhelming Antetokounmpo and the Bucks performed in the playoffs, those games did not count.
In fact, the league only accounted for the games prior to the NBA shutdown in March as the basis for this season’s awards. Thus, the bubble seeding games did not count either.
With that said, let’s take a look at what Antetokounmpo did in his dominance of the regular season.
Giannis is obviously the catalyst of everything Milwaukee accomplished in their historic 2019-20 campaign. The Bucks finished held a league-leading 53-12 mark prior to the hiatus. This is in large part to Antetokounmpo leading their brilliance on both ends of the floor.
Milwaukee also topped the league in multiple statistical categories prior to the restart. Per NBA.com, the Bucks finished first in net rating (10.7) and defensive rating (101.6), and they did so by a mile from the rest of the league. As mentioned, Milwaukee was elite on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, they led the NBA in points per game (118.6 points) and effective field goal percentage (55.3 percent). They also outscored opponents by the widest margin across the league (plus-11.3). On the other end, Milwaukee led the league in opponent’s field goal percentage (41.3 percent), defensive rebounds (42.2 rebounds), and opponent’s points in the paint (38.8 points).
Individually, Antetokounmpo had a monster statistical season. In 57 games before the hiatus, Giannis averaged 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 block, while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field. Compare them to James’ numbers of 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 10.2 assists, while shooting 49.3 percent from the field, Antetokounmpo’s certainly stand out more. The Greek stud also led the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage. Meanwhile, The King only led Los Angeles in assists.
Obviously, Antetokounmpo’s and Milwaukee’s outstanding campaign didn’t translate into the postseason, where games certainly matter most. Still, it would not be fair to take away from Giannis what he accomplished this season.
The Greek Freak may not acknowledge himself as a two-time MVP, as he said so when he received the honor on Friday. But he certainly deserves the honor and he should relish this no matter what the others may think.