Tonight’s slate of games features the NBA MVP front-runners squaring off. Will James Harden repeat as MVP, or will we see a new face?
For the last half of the 2018-19 NBA season, the MVP race has been James Harden’s to lose. He rebounds, he assists, and he scores… a lot. Possibly most importantly, he has lead his team to contention in the Western Conference, where they started the season as a non-factor. Chris Paul was hurt, the team was lame, and other stars were shining brighter.
Around December-January, things changed. James Harden has been on one of the most ludicrous heaters in NBA history. He is averaging 36 points per game on the season and is on pace to blow away all other players in that category. He is also finding his way to the line like no other guard has, attempting 11 free throws per contest.
Already acknowledged as one of the most dangerous iso players in history, he has also stepped up on defense, averaging a career high 2.2 steals per game so far. In the state of today’s game though, his competition is still fierce.
Rounding, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27/13/6 with 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The Greek Freak has arguably eclipsed LeBron James to become the most terrifying open-court threat in the game. Where LeBron is a freight train, Giannis is a jumbo jet, soaring over defenders with just a few giant steps. Still lacking a consistent perimeter jumper, he is still able to score at will and has become as imposing on offense as he has always been on defense.
Antetokounmpo’s numbers don’t scare James Harden’s MVP chances, but his team does. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA, clearly led by Giannis’ brilliance. His Milwaukee teammate, Kris Middleton was named an All-Star, but the massive success of one of the NBA’s recently dormant franchises is all due to the Greek Freak.
Any other contenders?
Until the last month or so of action, Paul George of the OKC Thunder had a place in this conversation. He is still having a career year, averaging multiple personal best stats with 28.2 points per game (previous best was 23.7), 6.8 boards, 4.2 assists, and 2.2 steals.
George has been a bit inconsistent of late, which has been an unfortunate pairing with an also inconsistent Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are still a playoff team, but only just barely, hurting and possibly extinguishing PG13’s MVP chances.
We may be jaded by their sustained greatness, but Kevin Durant and especially Stephen Curry have had their usual spectacular individual seasons. The Warriors have been good, but not as dominant as we have become accustomed to seeing.
A few more players worth mentioning are: Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, and Damian Lillard. There are more successful teams and spectacular players, but this late in the season, we are realistically coming down to just two men: Harden and Antetokounmpo.
Houston travels to Milwaukee tonight, so we will get a good long look at a clash between these two titans. The MVP race is a marathon, not a sprint, but games like these may still stand out to selectors of the award. The game will be on TNT at 7:00PM central time. Tune in to see two of the best in the world go toe-to-toe and weigh in on the debate over on Twitter. Follow us @Bball_Movement
All stats from Basketball Reference