Houston Rockets star guard James Harden is in a tight race to win his second straight NBA MVP award with Milwaukee Bucks phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo.
James Harden’s numbers were simply ridiculous, he averaged an NBA-best 36.1 points to go along with 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds in 36.8 minutes over 78 games and no one can forget his impressive streak of 32 games scoring at least 30 points.
Harden for MVP?
To put Harden’s phenomenal season in perspective, it has been even better than last year’s MVP campaign and his skill and intelligence on the offensive side has produced impressive numbers. Harden became an unstoppable offensive force after perfecting 3-point shots off the dribble with a variety of step backs and side steps that are almost impossible to guard.
The Rockets were off to a 1-5 start this season and at some points, many wondered if they would even make the playoffs. All of Harden’s brilliant play was needed to help them overcome injuries to Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Eric Gordon and still finish in fourth place in the highly competitive Western Conference.
James Harden won’t be making any All-Defensive teams any time soon but his work on that end of the court has been better than in previous years. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni mentioned Harden’s growth on defense as one of the reasons why he deserves MVP and Most Improved Player.
“I joked with somebody, I don’t know if he’ll get MVP; he should in my opinion. Definitely should get Most Improved player because he’s improved his game.” “He added five more points this year from where he was. You add five points, add the step back, add the floater. His defense has gotten really good. To me, he should have Most Improved Player.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished the regular season averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 32.8 minutes over 72 games, becoming the only player in league history to average over 29.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per 36 minutes. Doing something that no one’s ever done should give Antetokounmpo MVP support.
Antetokounmpo’ regular season was incredible, he led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA at 60-22 and his team secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs after a hard-fought 128-122 road win against the Sixers on April 4, despite not having Malcolm Brogdon (foot), Nikola Mirotic (left thumb), Tony Snell (left ankle), Pau Gasol (ankle) and Donte DiVincenzo (heel) for over two weeks.
Antetokounmpo played like an MVP in that game, making a statement with a monster performance against Joel Embiid, who just a few days earlier said he was the most unstoppable player in the NBA.
The Greek Freak proved Embiid wrong, exploding for 45 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and five blocks (four on Embiid) in 35 minutes. Antetokounmpo also made three 3-pointers and he simply carried the Bucks on his shoulders, just like he did on many other occasions this season.
In that contest against the Sixers Antetokounmpo also became the first player in NBA history to record at least 45 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three 3-point shots made in a game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is clearly the best player on the best team, which is something that the NBA usually rewards and this MVP award still feels like it is more Antetokounmpo’s to lose than it is Harden’s to win.