- The NBA MVP race between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden is neck-and-neck.
- Antetokounmpo had the most well-rounded season in the league while leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record.
- Harden had one of the best scoring seasons in league history while single-handedly carrying the Houston Rockets.
- Some NBA writers who have MVP votes wrote explainers for the MVP picks, and we gathered them to get an idea of why Antetokounmpo is leading the race.
The NBA MVP race has been a two-person debate nearly all season: Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden.
Antetokounmpo is a two-way force who averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists per game while locking down opponents on one end of the floor and leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the league. His case is obvious.
Harden, however, has been the single most unstoppable player in the league. He’s having one of the best offensive seasons ever, averaging 36 points and 7.5 assists per game. He’s single-handedly carried the Rockets to 53 wins, setting them up as the team some think is in the best position to knock off the Golden State Warriors.
So, who should win the league’s most prestigious award? A handful of NBA writers with official votes wrote up their ballots, with explanations for each pick. Though this is only a small sample of the 100 or so voters, people are overwhelming leaning toward Antetokounmpo.
Here’s why people are picking the “Greek Freak” to win MVP:
Zach Lowe, ESPN: “Any difference in roster quality is not enough to win Harden MVP.”
“Any difference in roster quality is not enough to win Harden MVP…
“Milwaukee is 7.5 games ahead of Houston. Its scoring margin with Antetokounmpo on the floor is double Houston’s with Harden. If those numbers were closer, the roster-quality argument would win the day for Harden. You can’t punish Antetokounmpo for leading a healthier, more talented roster if he led it to its proper endpoint.”
Marc Stein, The New York Times: “Antetokounmpo has been the face and chief culture-setter in the Bucks’ transformation”
“Who had the better 2018-19 season? I would go (ever so narrowly) with Giannis. On top of all his individual superlatives, Antetokounmpo has been the face and chief culture-setter in the Bucks’ transformation from 44-win underachiever to the best team in the league (regular-season edition). And his candidacy gets bonus points on our scorecard because Milwaukee, for Eastern Conference supremacy, had to beat out a trio of worthy challengers who were all projected as superior before the season.”
Chris Mannix, Sports Illustrated: “Giannis is doing it at both ends.”
“The Bucks have sat atop the Eastern Conference for months, Giannis is doing it at both ends (he’s a sneaky strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year) and then there is this: The difference between Giannis and the second-best player on his team, Khris Middleton, is far greater than the difference between other MVP candidates and the second-best player on their teams.”
Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated: “What separates Giannis is that he’s exerting pressure constantly”
“Every star player exerts some kind of pressure on his opponents, but what separates Giannis is that he’s exerting pressure constantly … Antetokounmpo will fly around throughout a defensive possession, run the floor in transition, and then attack a set defence from the top of the floor once the action slows down. He is a Defensive Player of the Year who averages 27.7 points per game, a top rebounder who runs a drive-and-kick offence, and the single most imposing force in the league.”
Paul Flannery, SB Nation: “The Bucks don’t just win games. They blow teams out.”
“Because he’s a scorer, Harden’s moments feel iconic. His shots literally win games down the stretch. Antetokounmpo’s moments are more sublime. A chase-down block here or a staggering Euro-step dunk in transition over there.
“His moments are the reason his team wins games, but the Bucks don’t just win games. They blow teams out. A lot of Antetokounmpo’s best moments happen earlier in games mainly because his presence isn’t necessary down the stretch.”
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: “Giannis Antetokounmpo was the league’s most consistently brilliant performer”
“Giannis Antetokounmpo was the league’s most consistently brilliant performer from the first whistle of training camp to the final buzzer of the 2018-19 regular season.
“The product of ‘The Greek Freak’ and his brilliant consistency was a league-best 60-win season that delivered the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs to the Bucks.”