Article by: Harrison Weaver
With less than a month left in the NBA regular season, the MVP race is essentially narrowed down to three candidates, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Paul George, who have been throwing punches back and forth, making their cases for the prestigious award. Giannis has been an absolute beast of a player all year, throwing down poster dunks, insane chase down blocks, and absolutely stuffing the stat sheet. James Harden has been a human flame-thrower, where he has been torching opposing defenses with his step-back jumper, and raining in three’s like nobody’s business, already clinching the NBA scoring title with a month left in the season. Then Paul George, PG13, the dark-horse of the group, is playing with courageous fire and intensity, leading the Thunder through the wild west by fighting to keep them at a top seed. Each person individually has a strong case as to why they should win the MVP award, and in this piece, I will dive into why each player should be here, and eventually who I would choose to come out on top.
The Greek Freak, and believe me, the name certainly says it all. There is very little that the man cannot do on a basketball court. 6’11” with a 7’3” wingspan, lightning speed combined with the ability to jump out of the gym. The guy plays like a character that can only be from a Hollywood movie. Giannis can play all five positions, he has been developing a dangerous three-point shot and can put on a dunk show in every game he starts. He has led his Milwaukee Bucks to a league best record at 55-19, 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Raptors. Team success is a major factor in the MVP race, so it will sit well with voters to see Giannis holding his team at a one-seed heading into the playoffs, but only if they can seal the deal. Now, let us get down to the numbers: 27.5 points PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 ASP, all of which leads the team, as well as an average plus/minus of +8.9 per game. People, that is astounding, especially for a player of his age. He can easily average a double-double, lead the league’s best team in points, rebounds, and assists, and gives his team a humongous advantage every time he suits up. As they say, “Ball don’t lie”, Giannis is legit when it comes to being a superstar and is very deserving of MVP honors.
The motto, “Fear the Beard”, is no joke in this day of the game. Look at the NBA leader in points per game, and you will see that it is James Harden with a hefty 36.5. Second place? Paul George, fellow MVP candidate, sitting at 28.2 PPG. That is an 8.3 PPG difference between Harden and the spot below. Think about that for a second, 8.3 PPG more than second place. The Houston Rockets are averaging 113.1 PPG, which means that James Harden is scoring roughly 32% of the points for a team that has started the season 14-14, and has since been 32-13, which is second best in the NBA in that span, only behind Giannis’ Bucks. Harden’s numbers are mind-boggling, and his team has been red hot as a result. His only knock is his effort on defense, where he ranks 152nd in defensive win shares. The difference with the Beard, is that he has the offense to make up for it. He is clutch, is arguably the best scorer in NBA history, and he is often clutch and prolific at the same time. This makes him a very dangerous player, and a well-deserving MVP candidate.
PG13, a fan favorite for a handful of reasons. For starters, this is a guy who went through a horrific leg injury in 2014 and has overcome it better than anyone could have predicted. Second, he passed up the opportunity for a large sum of money with the Lakers, to form an extension with Oklahoma City to chase a title. Like I said earlier, Paul George is the dark horse of this race, the “underdog”, despite him being a superstar and a straight up stud. Currently second place in scoring at 28.2 PPG, George has been on fire this year. After a rough offensive showing against Utah in the first round of last season’s playoffs, he has taken this season as a full opportunity to make up for it, and he has been nothing short of incredible as a result. He plays hard on defense, ranking 4th in the league in defensive win shares, showcasing his ability to change the game on either side of the ball. Despite his partner-in-crime Russell Westbrook having a shaky year offensively, PG13 has managed to keep the Thunder floating in the 3-6 seed range in a loaded Western Conference. The “MVP” chants in Oklahoma City are for real. If all these factors do not equate to a top MVP candidate, then I do not know what does.
To me, this is a race that ends up coming down to the all-around dominance of Antetokounmpo and the lights-out scoring barrage of James Harden. The Beard vs. The Greek Freak. To me, the MVP honor goes to the Freak. His ability to change a game can occur in so many ways. You need an elite offensive night from him? You got it! Need him to lock someone down on defense? No problem! Want a rim-rattling dunk to make the crowd explode? Absolutely! Giannis has led the NBA’s best Milwaukee Bucks in numerous statistical categories, and he has the superstar profile to go with it. To me, nobody has the same impact on this NBA season that Giannis has, which is why I would be giving the him the shining crown of MVP.
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