The MVP race is not close

March 6, 2020

Last Sunday, March 1, the New Orleans Pelicans hosted the Los Angeles Lakers on a nationally televised ESPN matchup. There was plenty of hype leading up to the game, as the Pelicans looked to continue their playoff push against the No. 1 seed Lakers, but more notably, it was the second ever game between generational rookie prospect, Zion Williamson, and LeBron James. 

The game was billed as the meeting of different generational superstars, one towards the end of his career with another just beginning his own. The game certainly lived up to the hype. Williamson finished the game with 35 points and seven rebounds, while James finished the game with 34 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists and the victory on the road over the Pelicans.

During the game, ESPN commentator Doris Burke shared her thoughts on the NBA MVP for the season. Many have written it off as a foregone conclusion that Milwaukee Bucks Star and 2018-19 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokuonmpo will go on to repeat as MVP after the season, and that the MVP race is already over, two months before the season ends. Burke expressed her views about the race on air, stating that she did not think it was a foregone conclusion that Antetokuonmpo would win the award. 

Burke stated that she thought it should be a closer race and that James should be given more consideration for the award than he is currently receiving. While LeBron has been phenomenal at age 35 in his 17th season, the MVP race is not close, and it’s a testament to the outstanding play of Antetokounmpo.

Through 62 games this NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks sit atop the NBA mountain, with a historic 53-9 record and the highest team point differential per game in NBA history. At their current pace, they are projected to win 70 games, the third most for any team in a season in NBA history. This historically good team is thanks to the engine that is Antetokuonmpo’s play. 

After winning MVP last year by thriving in new coach Mike Budenholzer’s system, Antetokuonmpo has been even better this year. At the time of publication, Antetokuonmpo holds the highest single season PER of any player in NBA history. Giannis posts stats of 29.6 points, 13.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, while dominating on defense with a league-leading 96 defensive net rating, with one steal and one block per game. 

While these numbers are all incredibly impressive, they become more staggering when you consider his minutes. Because the Bucks have been blowing teams out, this has allowed Giannis to rest for larger portions of games. He’s only playing 30.8 minutes per game. Scaling his numbers up to per-36, an amount superstars usually play his numbers become truly ludicrous. Per-36, Giannis is averaging 34.6 points, 16.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists. These numbers have never been achieved per-36 by any player outside Antetokounmpo ever. 

Considering how dominant the Bucks have been without a stellar roster surrounding Giannis and his historic output, one thing should be clear: the MVP race is already over.

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