Season-long Kia MVP chase will not be swayed by only one sport

Tonight on TNT:  Rockets vs. Bucks, Eight ET

In an ideal world — or no less than, an ideal NBA postseason-awards analysis world — Giannis Antetokounmpo and reigning Kia MVP James Harden would go head-to-head in The Finals. They and their respective groups, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets, would placed on full show their abilities, their competitiveness and their influence, not simply on random nights in random basketball video games however in snagging a championship.

They’d show, in a phrase, their worth. To their groups and to profitable, relative to all of the league’s different gamers watching from house.


James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo convey distinctive traits to the MVP dialogue.

It might occur. The Bucks and the Rockets conceivably might meet in The Finals to arrange this dream MVP showdown. An extended shot although, proper? Moreover, within the present “imperfect” system, ballots are due by the tip of the common season.

So so far as having the 2 main candidates for the NBA’s premier particular person award on the courtroom collectively, we should accept the Rockets’ sole regular-season go to to Milwaukee tonight.

And let’s be sincere, an award that exists to honor a participant’s worth over 82 video games is not going to and shouldn’t be decided by the result or stats in a single conflict. Nonetheless, voters probably can be watching in quest of subtlety, nuance and that 1.2 % sliver of extra information in attempting to make an knowledgeable choice.

When these groups final met on Jan. 9 in Houston, Antetokounmpo had 27 factors on Eight-of-16 taking pictures, 21 rebounds, 5 assists and three turnovers in a 116-109 win. Harden completed with 42 factors on 13-of-30 with 11 boards, six assists and 9 turnovers.


Two gamers have distanced themselves from the pack on this MVP chase.

At this stage of the season, what we’re realistically speaking about is the Extra Helpful Participant as a result of that is wanting like a two-man race. Others have had marvelous seasons and three of them in varied mixtures will wind up on voters’ MVP poll.

However Antetokounmpo and Harden seem to have distanced themselves from the competitors, owing to their particular person excellence, their groups’ fortunes, some uncooked statistics and a bunch of intangibles in play since October.

That may be a tough definition of “priceless,” the important thing to this award and a phrase that may be so amorphous at instances like this. In 2016-17, when attempting to decide on between Harden and Oklahoma Metropolis’s Russell Westbrook in the same dual-favorites MVP race, a panel of NBA insiders had been requested on to specify their voting standards.

The consequence? A hodge-podge of requirements and measures. All of them legit, by the way in which.

“I’ve stated all alongside that there is a difficult matrix of things that go into making this vote,” our man Sekou Smith stated. Colleague John Schuhmann put it this manner: “My vote went to the person who had the most important impact on why workforce was good.” Others cited a gut-instinct response or simply general worth.


Relive some nice performs from Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden this season.

My definition of MVP tried for example how difficult the time period might be. It’s “the perfect participant on the workforce with the perfect document,” I wrote then. “Except it’s the star who has accomplished one thing statistically and artistically masterful over the 82-game, regular-season canvas. Except it’s the man most chargeable for boosting his workforce the furthest past so-called consultants’ preseason predictions. Except it is the participant who doesn’t profit from enjoying alongside different All-Stars or award winners, and due to this fact has to hold the heaviest load for six months. Except it’s the guy who so elevates his teammates and training workers that they do get acknowledged with honors and awards of their very own. Except it’s the performer with out whom his workforce would fall essentially the most within the standings, as decided by, uh, our imaginations.”

It’s some mix, in different phrases, of analytics and eye check. And because of the eye-of-the-beholder notion of “priceless,” it’s the supply of countless debates and thus, unintended ingenuity by the NBA and different leagues.

Some sports activities go for a “Participant of the 12 months” award, which tends to focus extra on the person, stripping away among the workforce element. If that had been the case within the NBA, Harden could be the better selection. He’s on tempo to develop into the primary participant in NBA historical past to common no less than 35 factors and 7 assists in a season (Nate Archibald, in his well-known 1972-73 season, led the league in each classes with 34 ppg and 11.four apg.) He has scored 50 factors or extra eight instances, twice topping 60.


James Harden talks with NBA TV about his season, the MVP chase and extra.

His “iso” offensive fashion isn’t essentially the most aesthetically pleasing. Harden has improved in each effort and effectiveness on protection, however he set a particularly low bar at that finish for a lot of his profession. He carried Houston by a spate of accidents, notably to backcourt mate Chris Paul and large man Chris Capela, and has helped the Rockets to an NBA-best 14-Three mark because the 2019 NBA All-Star.

Antetokounmpo’s stats — 27.four ppg, 12.6 rpg and apg — bolster his case as properly, as these numbers had been beforehand matched throughout the board solely by Corridor of Famer (and Bucks legend) Oscar Robertson. He’s the league chief in unassisted dunks and sports activities a career-best subject objective share this season (58.2 %).

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