The Most Valuable Player Award is the most coveted of the regular-season individual player accolades. However, the term “most valuable” can be interpreted differently by different people. Some define “most valuable” as the most outstanding overall performer. Others describe the term as the player who’s the most integral piece to a team that, without it, would crumble.
These two definitions strain far from the same ideology, but are both taken into consideration by the 100 vote-eligible media members. In an effort to arrive at a conclusion for who is deserving of the MVP trophy, I will analyze this 2019–20 season’s two leading candidates.
LeBron James continues to hoist statistical achievements at 35-years old, in his 17th season. The four-time MVP is averaging an astonishing 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game. This type of longevity is unique and never before witnessed in the NBA. As he has aged, his style of play has transformed becoming his team’s top facilitator and the league’s assist leader.
This season “The King” has tallied 42 double-doubles in 60 games played. James even has the second most triple-doubles this year with 13. LeBron’s knack to impact the momentum of a game has been on full display also, as he ranks second in both real plus-minus and real plus-minus wins. Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard even weighed in on the topic:
Capturing the western conference number one seed is no easy task. But James has led his Los Angeles Lakers to that with a 49–14 record, 5.5 games ahead of the second-place L.A Clippers. LeBron has orchestrated the Lakers to the third-best opponents points per game average too, using his IQ to direct teammates like a true maestro. The ceiling on LeBron’s capabilities is nonexistent, and with eight games left to play in the Disney bubble, he could boost his MVP candidacy even more.
“The Greek Freak” has posted prolific performances through his first 57 games played this season. If anyone doubted the legitimacy of his MVP campaign in 2018–19, he has affirmatively doubled down on his abilities this year. Giannis constantly fills up the stat sheet averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. To speak for his rebounding numbers, he’s put up the most double-doubles with 52 in total.
He also holds a 9.79 real plus-minus, the highest of any player. His season PER (player efficiency rating) is currently top 10 in NBA history as well. As a former Most Improved Player of the Year would, he’s shown a 5% increase to his three-point shot percentage from last season. The icing on the cake reveals that Giannis is averaging an incredible 43.8 points per 100 possessions.
However, when debating the true essence of an MVP, the overall success of the team comes into question. For Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks there’s no shortage of dominance as they’ve exhibited world-class talent, seated 6.5 games above the second seed Toronto Raptors. They, also, have outperformed their opponents by +11.2 points per game; the highest in the NBA.
Additionally, the Bucks are averaging the league’s most points per game with a resounding 118.6; which would be the 10th most ever (in the three-point line era). Giannis’ efforts are not exclusively on the offensive end though, as the team has stifled opponents to 107.4 points a game (only .9 points worse than the first place Raptors).
The exhibited excellence the Bucks have played with this year is likely to carry over into the eight-remaining regular-season games. That, in conjunction with the statistical evidence pointing in Giannis’ favor, indicate that “The Greek Freak” will become a back-to-back regular season Most Valuable Player.