LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are still battling not just for the NBA MVP, but also for league hierarchy
We don’t know when, or if, the NBA will be back this season, but if it does return we do know it will be a sprint. Odds are the season is going to be boiled down to just a few warm-up regular-season games so they can launch into the playoffs.
Before the NBA season was put on hold, there was somewhat of a growing thought that Giannis Antetokounmpo was losing his grip on the NBA MVP trophy. With impressive wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers in the matter of one week, it seemed as if LeBron James had clawed his way back into the race.
With this abbreviated finish, there will be two juggernauts racing toward one thing the MVP trophy. Although, if Giannis comes out playing like he has all season he will win it with no problem.
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Giannis and the Bucks have been the unquestioned best team in basketball all season. Giannis continues to be a historic force around the rim while also leaping over everyone to grab close to 14 boards a game.
If the return is only 3-4 regular-season games, then Giannis will most likely earn another MVP trophy. If there is a possible 8-10 game regular season before the playoffs, then that possibly gives LeBron a chance to steal it. Many voters may just look at these few games as the whole season. Some would even rationalize it as “well this is when the NBA season mattered cause we almost lost it.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the reigning MVP, for most of the 2019-20 season, he was the overwhelming odds favorite to repeat. That was until LeBron James stopped Giannis and his Bucks dead in their tracks just before the season went on its current hiatus.
It almost feels like a lifetime ago when LeBron showed Giannis on that March 6th night why he has ruled this league for almost 17 seasons. Giannis ended the game defeated and injured but what probably stung more was waking up to see the talking heads say “LeBron has stolen the MVP back.”
Both players have impressive stats and that counts for a lot in the MVP race, but the real key is how they impact their teams. Almost by himself, Giannis has improved his already impressive team. The Bucks are currently 53-12 (.815%) and have a +11.2 point differential which would be the fifth-highest ever in league history.
While LeBron has the ability to turn it up on defense, he has decided to conserve his energy and let Anthony Davis take control of that end of the floor. Just having Anthony Davis on LeBron’s team puts him at a disadvantage as AD is, at worst, a top-six player in the league.
LeBron has reestablished the Lakers to the standard we all hold them too as a Finals-caliber team. LeBron, along with AD, has the Laker atop the Western Conference with a 49-14 record. Although dominant, the Lakers only have a +7.4 point differential and do not possess the impressive wins the Bucks have.
The top 3 teams we consider NBA Finals favorites are the Bucks, Lakers, and Clippers. The Bucks are 2-0 vs. the Clippers and 1-1 vs. the Lakers. The Lakers are 1-2 vs. the Clippers.
Now the MVP Race is not the “who can beat the Clippers award.” Lebron James beating the Bucks and Clippers in one week does not push him ahead of Giannis but it does invite him to the table. LeBron had an amazing week to go along with a good season for him. Giannis just happens to be the leader of a historic team. A team that posses one of the best point differentials of all-time while also having win streaks of nine games and 18 games.
The one key thing about this break that helped Giannis was it allowed him to heal his knee. If LeBron continued to play even just above average in the two weeks Giannis was supposed to miss, it would have boosted his chances of stealing the MVP.
LeBron may be the King but Giannis has conquered most of this season. The media may have had recency bias in the weeks before the shutdown, but the true MVP has been the Giannis. We don’t know what the NBA will look like when it returns, but we know with these two gunning for the MVP – and league hierarchy – it won’t be boring.