NBA MVP race: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Paul George set stage for award showdown | NBA


With lower than 20 video games to go within the 2018-19 NBA season, the MVP race is down to a few worthy candidates: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Paul George.

However how ought to we separate these three gamers throughout the MVP debate? That is what we’re right here to determine.

MORE: Patrick Beverley roasts George for blaming officiating

To followers of the Bucks, Rockets and Thunder, there are actually arguments to be made in favor of every of those gamers, so do not take this because the dreaded clump of “media” hating on Antetokounmpo, Harden or George. (To be clear, this author doesn’t maintain an precise MVP vote. You do not have to care in any respect!)

These guys all should be within the MVP dialog, and it is attainable a late cost may separate one from the pack. This is the place we stand as of March 12…

1A. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Stats: 27.0 factors, 12.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.4 blocks, 58.0 p.c capturing

Superior: 30.2 PER, 63.9 true capturing, 31.Eight utilization, 12.1 win shares, 10.Three field plus-minus, 5.83 actual plus-minus, 6.Four worth over substitute participant

The MVP argument: The Bucks personal the NBA’s prime report (50-17), prime web ranking (8.8) and prime defensive ranking (104.7), and Antetokounmpo is the driving power behind Milwaukee’s climb to the highest of the East. He’s dominating inside (league-high 17.5 factors within the paint per sport) in contrast to any participant since prime Shaquille O’Neal, and he is hit 37.2 p.c of his 3-pointers because the the start of February. His effectivity together with his utilization is unbelievable, particularly contemplating opposing defenses know what he desires to do.

He’s additionally a candidate for Defensive Participant of the 12 months. He has the steal and block numbers, and he is main the NBA in defensive win shares and defensive ranking, per Basketball Reference. He’s a succesful rim protector and switchable alongside the perimeter for the league’s greatest defensive group.

Sure, Antetokounmpo advantages from a powerful supporting forged and the teaching of Mike Budenholzer, however the group’s web ranking swings from 12.1 with him on the court docket to three.Three with him off. There’s something to be mentioned concerning the distinction between dragging a group from beneath common or common to good and from good to elite.

One other level in opposition to Antetokounmpo can be his lack of taking part in time (33.Zero minutes per sport) in comparison with Harden (37.3) and George (36.6). Nevertheless, that would assist his case as a result of, properly, is it his fault his group has crushed all challengers? Regardless of much less minutes, Antetokounmpo might be solely the second participant to common at the least 26 factors, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and one block, the opposite being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Antetokounmpo checks off nearly each field on the MVP checklist, so he will get the slightest edge over Harden — for now.

1B. James Harden, Rockets

Stats: 36.2 factors, 6.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.1 steals, 43.6 p.c capturing, 35.9 p.c 3-point capturing

Superior: 29.9 PER, 61.1 true capturing, 40.4 utilization, 11.5 win shares, 10.9 field plus-minus, 6.97 actual plus-minus, 7.7 worth over substitute participant

The MVP argument: It is not simply that Harden has been probably the most dominant offensive participant this season. He’s having one of many best offensive seasons in NBA historical past.

His 36.2 factors per sport can be the best mark for anybody not named Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. He may turn out to be the one participant to common greater than 35 factors and 7 assists over a full season, per Basketball Reference’s database. He has logged greater than 1,000 isolation possessions, but he is posted 1.10 factors per possession (91st percentile). The closest isolation participant? Russell Westbrook with 279 possessions. Lower than 13 p.c of Harden’s 676 discipline targets have been assisted. What sort of sorcery is that this?

His protection will all the time depart one thing to be desired, however give him some credit score for being second in steals per sport (2.14) behind George (2.25) and tied for first in deflections (3.8) additionally with George. He’s a sturdy submit defender and might cease isolations if he is locked in. That is an enormous if, although, and his off-ball protection and closeouts to shooters may be dangerous, terrible or nonexistent in some circumstances.

Nonetheless, Harden put the Rockets on his again after they discovered themselves with the second-worst report within the West again in December. His utilization share (40.4) is second solely to Westbrook’s 2016-17 MVP marketing campaign (41.7), however he simply retains firing these stepback jumpers and firing passes to open teammates.

Does his offensive load and effectivity outweigh Antetokounmpo’s two-way excellence? It is comprehensible to place “The Beard” above “The Greek Freak,” therefore the 1A and 1B labels. Good luck, voters.

Why Thunder’s Paul George is a tier beneath

Stats: 28.2 factors, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.Three steals, 44.Zero p.c capturing, 38.Eight p.c 3-point capturing

Superior: 23.9 PER, 58.6 true capturing, 29.6 utilization, 10.1 win shares, 5.Eight field plus-minus, 7.78 actual plus-minus, 4.5 worth over substitute participant

The MVP argument: George is having fun with his greatest NBA season with profession highs in factors, assists, rebounds and steals. He has taken on extra offensive accountability whereas sustaining All-NBA protection.

If you wish to go by on vs. off numbers, George makes the largest distinction of the highest three MVP candidates.

2018-19 Thunder  Off Score Def Score Internet Score TS %
George On 111.6 102.6 9.0 56.1
George Off 98.8 108.1 -9.3 51.3

Nevertheless, George does not fairly bend defenses because the No. 1 possibility in the identical method as Antetokounmpo and Harden. That is not a slight to George, however fairly a actuality of his group scenario and function. His superior numbers (PER, true capturing, utilization, and so on.) additionally lag barely behind the highest two. 

It is attainable George makes waves with a sudden surge, however he has missed three of Oklahoma Metropolis’s final 9 video games — he could also be coping with a shoulder harm — and when he has performed, it has been ugly. His capturing percentages in his final six begins: 28.7 p.c from the sector and 22.Four p.c from 3-point vary. 

If that development continues, Antetokounmpo and Harden may flip this right into a two-man race. If George flips again to his earlier capturing splits, he shall be a real MVP possibility.

Honorable mentions: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets; Joel Embiid, 76ers; Stephen Curry, Warriors; Kevin Durant, Warriors; Damian Lillard, Path Blazers; Kawhi Leonard, Raptors

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