Around the NBA: Who will be named 2018-19 MVP?

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

Around the NBA: Anthony Davis, James Harden, and All-Star Weekend

Anthony Davis is the big news this week, but there is plenty going on around the National Basketball Association.

The New Orleans Pelicans star, Anthony Davis has been fined $50,000 this week by the NBA. His agent, Rich Paul let it be known that Davis wishes to be traded, which is a no-no. The agent said that Davis wishes to play for a team that allows him to “win consistently and compete for a championship.” This means that Davis does not believe he is capable of leading the Pelicans to be a team that can win consistently - a disappointing admission from the superstar power forward.

The fine is a drop in the bucket for Anthony “The Brow” Davis, who makes over $25 million per season. He and his agent likely decided being open and honest was worth the trouble. Davis must have his sights set somewhere big, as he leaves behind up-and-comers Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, and Elfrid Payton as well as All-Star-caliber talent, Jrue Holiday. The Lakers are the most buzzed about team as well as the Celtics, though Boston is incapable of making a deal this season.

You do not have to be fantasy basketball savvy to know that Davis is a machine on the basketball court. He is elite on both ends, meaning his eventual departure from NOLA will be a seismic shift in the NBA landscape. Currently injured, it seems likely The Brow has played his last game in a Pelicans uniform. The trade deadline is February 7th.

James Harden’s historic heater

Through the end of 2018, the NBA MVP race was a close one. Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard were all looking like fine choices with the Rockets off to a disappointing start. About halfway through December however, the Rockets turned it on. With Chris Paul sidelined with injury, it has been the James Harden show - and what a show it has been.

In January, Harden has averaged 43.6 points to go along with 8.7 boards, 7.6 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.2 blocks.

That scoring total is the highest single-month average since Wilt Chamberlain’s 45.8 in March of 1963 via the Elias Sports Bureau. Any time you see a modern day player’s stats compared to Wilt Chamberlain, you know they are doing something crazy.

The Rockets are currently up to third in the West and Harden would be a lock for his second MVP award if the season ended today. However, there is still a lot of basketball to be played!

2019 All-Star starters and Rising Stars announced

Fan-voting for the NBA All-Star games has concluded. Those votes are weighed in alongside player and media voting, resulting in the five starters for each conference. Below are the results:

Western conference: LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Paul George, and Kevin Durant.

Eastern Conference: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker

Once again, the conferences will be jumbled together, with a captain from each conference drafting their players. The top vote-getters, Antetokounmpo and James will be selecting the squads. The fun part is that the draft will be televised this year on Feb. 7th at 6:00pm Central on TNT.

The Rising Stars challenge will feature first and second year players and will be in Team USA vs The World format again this year. The World team has won each year since this format has started, but the rosters this year may lend confidence to team USA.

NBA All-Star weekend is February 15-17th. We will do our best to cover the festivities in addition to our coverage of The League by The Basketball Movement, which has its second installment Saturday, Feb. 16th. Keep your eye out for more NBA coverage and follow us on Twitter to stay on top of everything.