The finalists for this season’s NBA awards were recently announced, and there really wasn’t a single surprise in the bunch. This is especially true regarding the candidates for MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder; and James Harden, Houston Rockets.
For much of the season, the talk has centered around Antetokounmpo and with good reason. The Greek Freak, as he is often called by his legion of fans, had an incredible season.
Along with being one of the premier scoring threats in the league 27.7 points/game; third best in the NBA), he averaged 12.9 rebounds a game (sixth best), 5.9 assists (27th), 1.28 steals (31st), and 1.53 blocks (tenth). He was seventh in the league with 54 double-doubles (in 72 regular season games) and eighth in triple-doubles with five.
Antetokounmpo was a beast on the defensive end as well, which is why he is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year along with MVP.
If you listen to all the ‘experts’ in the media and online, there is no way Antetokounmpo is going to lose the MVP vote. The odds, according to BetOnline.ag, back up that assertion:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo -1000
- Paul George +5000
- James Harden +350
That translates to a 90.91 percent chance for Antetokounmpo, a 22.22 percent chance for Harden, and a 1.96 percent chance for George.
To win any money betting on Antetokounmpo you have to bet a lot since it will take a $1000 wager to win $100. But is it such a no-brainer that he is going to win that it isn’t worth betting on either of the other two?
As good as his season was, it is easy to eliminate George from the equation, but what about Harden? He was an absolute scoring machine this season with 30+ points in 32 consecutive games and 50+ in nine straight games. He won the scoring title with 36.1 points/game and also contributed 6.6 rebounds (61st) and 7.5 assists (12th) a game.
Harden was also second in steals with 2.0 a game. He wasn’t much of a blocker (.7 a game), but that is not something he has ever been known for. However, he did have 34 double-doubles (16th) and seen triple-doubles (sixth).
But where he tends to lose support to Antetokounmpo is when team record is factored in. The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the bests teams in the Eastern Conference the entire season en route to 60 wins and the No. 1 seed in their conference.
Houston floundered at the start of the season and languished at the bottom of the standings for a while before Harden willed them back to relevancy (and 53 wins).
There is a solid case to be made for Harden. It could be argued that his play saved the season for the Rockets and impacted the final Western Conference standings more than Antetokounmpo and the Bucks affected the East.
But the Bucks were the No. 1 seed while Houston was the No. 4.
Voters like scoring, but they also like the best player on the best team. Had Houston been able to squeeze their way up to the No. 2 seed late in the season when the Denver Nuggets started to struggle, this would likely be a historically close vote.
But since he was just the best player on a really good team, he warrants consideration but not the award. Go ahead and put your money down on Antetokounmpo to win.