Honorable Mentions: LeBron James and James Harden
At this point, I believe there is a fairly conclusive order out of these top four contenders.
LeBron James currently sits third in the NBA MVP race and James Harden a clear fourth. I am not trying to discredit anything these two players are achieving this season because their individual play has been phenomenal in their own respect, I just believe there is evidence to show that these two are just a half-step behind Antetokounmpo and Doncic so far this season.
Starting with LeBron and it is hard to justify the King not being a frontrunner purely because of the numbers he is putting up at his age, a stage where typically most players begin to decline.
His 25.6 points-per-game average is very consistent with the rest of his career, always providing a magnificent scoring option on the offensive end as we all know. This average ranks ninth of all players in the NBA, hitting on a consistent and reliable 50 percent of his field-goal attempts in the process.
Not only in his individual game is LeBron exceeding but the Lakers currently have the equal-best overall record in the league with a 19-3 start to the season. They sit three games clear of their cross-court rivals, the LA Clippers, comfortably sitting on top of the Western Conference.
The reason I believe LeBron just falls short of Doncic and Antetokounmpo actually boils down to team results and the players around him.
Last season, LeBron averaged fairly similar statistics to his start this season, actually exceeding his points-per-game and rebounds averages across the 2018-19 season. His consistent results at his age are quite a remarkable feat, but the way it helped the Lakers has varied.
Across the 2018-19 season, the Lakers finished with a 37-45 record and completed the season in 10th place in the Western Conference. LeBron’s play last season was exceptional but because the Lakers did not achieve great results, LeBron’s output was not as well recognized.
Over the offseason the Lakers added Anthony Davis, arguably one of the best big men in the league and all of a sudden, LA is 19-3 sitting three games clear on top of the West.
As I said, this is not a knock on LeBron because I love what he is achieving this season I just simply believe he needed the added help of another superstar and that they are both equally important to the Lakers’ results this season. Had the Lakers not added AD to the team over the offseason, I think the Lakers would be struggling similar to last season and that LeBron would be marveled at for what he is doing, but he would not be a legitimate MVP candidate.
Therefore, my conclusion is that LeBron is an incredible player still after so many years, but has needed another superstar to accomplish what he has so far this season which is why he is not quite on the same level as Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Harden comfortably sits in fourth position in the MVP race for me so far in the 2019-20 season.
His scoring prowess is something we probably have not seen in the NBA since the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Harden continues to break records game after game.
Averaging a ridiculous 39.5 points-per-game, the Rockets star also adds over six rebounds and close to eight assists per game as he continues to try and stamp his dominance all over the Western Conference. Posting consecutive games of 60-points and 50-points is simply unbelievable, but it is always going to be that age-old question of his efficiency.
He averages the second-most minutes on the court of any player in the league, takes 24.8 field goal attempts per game which is by far the most of anyone in the league whilst shooting the most free throws per-game of anyone in the league (4 attempts per-game clear of second). He also commits the most turnovers per-game of any player in the league, averaging over five turnovers per game.
His most recent game against San-Antonio sums it up very well I believe.
Harden put up 50 points which look amazing on paper, but he took 38 shots to get there converting just 29 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range. Twenty-four of ‘The Beard’s’ 50 points came from the free-throw line, taking those out means he scored just 26 points from 38 shots and ultimately with the Rockets losing, shows how his streaky form can really hurt his team.
This efficiency woes for Harden is why I believe he is just another small step behind the likes of LeBron and why he should not be in the same MVP chatter as Luka and Giannis.