The Most Valuable Player award in the NBA has turned into a ‘Player of the Year’ award. Players like James Harden or Russell Westbrook receiving the award clearly shows that individual statistics has taken over team success or the worth of a player to their team. Otherwise, LeBron James would win it every year. Recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken over.
He won his second-straight MVP award this season as he led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 56-17 record before the season was paused. Milwaukee did not look good in the restart and their season ended with a 4-1 series loss to the Miami Heat.
Antetokounmpo has improved every season since he entered the league. In his fourth season, he finished tied for seventh in MVP voting. He went up to sixth during the next season before winning his first MVP award in 2018-2019.
The Greek Freak beat Harden for his first MVP award. He averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Antetokounmpo shot 57.8% from the field and displayed his dominance in the paint every time on the floor. This is a regular season award. The Bucks finished 60-22 this season, which was three games better than the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the league.
Harden won his second scoring title this season averaging 36.1 points per game. He added 7.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds per contest. Harden shot the ball at an extremely high-rate and struggled with efficiency. He attempted 24.5 shots per game, 13.2 of them being from three-point range. Harden finished 44.2% from the floor and 36.8% from beyond the arc.
This was clearly a deserving MVP award for Giannis Antetokounmpo. He emerged as the most dominant player in the league and his numbers backed that up. This season, that is not the case.
Giannis vs. LeBron
“Pissed me off. That’s my true answer,” James said to reporters following game one of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. “It pissed me off, because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything. You know, not saying that the winner wasn’t deserving of the MVP. But that pissed me off. And I finished second a lot in my career, either from a championship, and now four times as an MVP.”
And rightfully so. Again, the MVP award is based on the regular season so let’s stick to that. James averaged 25.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. He led the league in assists with 10.2 per contest. He led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 52-19 record prior to the restart in a very difficult Western Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo also put up big numbers. He averaged 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds. He shot 55.3% from the field compared to 49.3% from James.
James received 16 first-place votes. This was not a close race but the committee got this one wrong. All you have to do is look at the current state of both teams. Anthony Davis is a Laker which could also have factored into the vote. The Lakers are a championship contender because of James. Take him off the Lakers and they are a middle of the pack team. Yes, if you take Antetokounmpo off the Bucks, they are also middle of the pack, but the Bucks can’t win with Giannis on the floor. That is not the case in Los Angeles.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the league in many analytical statistics such as player-efficiency rating. It comes down to the fact that the league needs to either rename the award or start to get it right. There is no argument against Antetokounmpo being named Player of the Year, but James was clearly the Most Valuable Player in the league.
Antetokounmpo has really only been in the MVP running for two years now, and he has won both years. If you break it down, he should only have one award.
The Freak is only 25-years old and has two MVP awards while being one of the top-five players in the NBA. He is going to get a massive payday when it is his time. Antetokounmpo is in the process of incorporating a three-point shot in to his arsenal which would take his game to the next level. This was an extremely controversial MVP vote and it should have been expected in a year like we have had in 2020.
Antetokounmpo is going to win more MVP awards throughout his career. It is unlikely that he will regress at this point in his career. This is nothing against Giannis Antetokounmpo but this MVP award should have gone to James. It will be interesting to see how both players enter next season after this whole topic of conversation.