The Most Valuable Player Award. This award is quite possibly the single most coveted award for a individual player, with the next closest likely being the Finals MVP Award. The award usually goes to the player who has been the best among his competition, the best of the league. Last year’s award was, for the most part, a two-man race. Lebron James and James Harden duked it out down the stretch, but the committee ultimately decided to go with James Harden, who wowed crowds around the league with his high octane offense which helped push the Rockets to finish first in the Western Conference. This year’s award however, isn’t so cut-and-dry. Many players have made huge cases for them to be given this prestigious award heading into the All-Star break. So here at Hoops Table, we decided to compare the top-3 MVP candidates as we hit the pause button on the regular season.
1) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Season stats thus far: 27.2 ppg, 12.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.4 steals
Giannis has definitely lived up to his nickname, “The Greek Freak, this season. The 5-year NBA veteran is averaging career-highs in almost every category on the stat sheet. Night in and night out, Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks continue to find a way to scrap out games and keep themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. “The Alphabet”, as people call him, has been destroying defenders left and right this season and has definitely made a massive case for MVP this season. Without the other two players on our list, Giannis would definitely be the clear-cut choice for the MVP any other time. Not to mention the fact that Giannis is averaging career-highs in nearly every category, he also is playing nearly 34 minutes per game, a considerably large workload for the young player. When Giannis does take the floor however, he leaves his mark on the game like few other players in the league can. He possesses a ken passing ability which helps his teammates get great open looks, which leads to easy buckets. If Giannis can continue his MVP-caliber play throughout the rest of the season, he will definitely be a hard pass when it comes to deciding the winner of the prestigious award.
2) James Harden, Houston Rockets
Season stats thus far: 36.6 ppg, 6.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 2.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks
Their are only two words with which one can describe James Harden: Offensive Mastermind. “The Beard”, as people call him, has been an absolute monster this season. Averaging career-highs in points per game, steals per game, blocks per game and more has Harden looking like the clear frontrunner. While shooting 44% from the field, Harden has pulled the Rockets out of their early-season slump and into the top seeds in the West. The 7x All-Star has been lights out from the three, shooting a impressive 37% percent from behind the arc. The three-point ace has immortalized his famous step-back jump shot this year as he has destroyed defender after defender and sliced up defenses with the precision of a chef. With his ability to change directions quickly as well as his ability to take any defender one-on-one and win the matchup, Harden cuts deep into the opposing team’s defense and gets to the rim or takes a high percentage look, which has been nearly everywhere on the floor for him this season. The incredible offensive show Harden has been able to put together this year has put him in the history books for sure, but is it enough to make him repeat as the MVP. Only time will tell.
3) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats thus far: 28.7 ppg, 8.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks
When Paul George went down with his gruesome leg injury several years ago, many NBA fans and experts alike believed he would never go back to being the player he once was. Oh boy, were they wrong. “Playoff P” is having his best season ever along side superstar teammate Russell Westbrook. George is averaging career-highs in points per game, steals per game, rebounds per game, and is tied for career-highs in both blocks per game and assists per game. The 28-year-old veteran has been one of the main reasons why the Thunder have managed to stay in the top few seeds of the highly competitive Western Conference. Not only has PG-13 made a great case for MVP, but he has also made one for DPOY. Currently, the Thunder sit two seeds ahead of the Rockets in the West, despite the massive push being made by fellow MVP candidate James Harden. George has finally stepped into the role Oklahoma City was hoping he would become and more: the best player on the Thunder this season. While Westbrook has been fantastic throughout his career, there’s no question that without “Playoff P”, the Thunder wouldn’t be able to challenge the throne of the Western Conference kings: the Golden State Warriors. But with him, this dream is a very real reality for Oklahoma City. If Paul George can keep this streak alive until the end of the season, he could be looking at taking home not one, but two NBA awards in the offseason.
Notable Exceptions: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors, Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers.