The NBA MVP Race
Lebron, Giannis, and more put on the most exciting race thus far before the Coronavirus shutdown
With resounding wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and the surging Los Angeles Clippers (before the Coronavirus shutdown), it would seem that Lebron James has closed the gap on Giannis Antetokounmpo for the lead in the 2019-2020 NBA MVP race. To some, he has taken the lead entirely—in what has shapen up to be one of the most competitive MVP races we have seen in recent years.
Last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the winner after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to 60 wins—best in the league, behind averages of 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He’s upped those averages to 29.6 points and 13.7 rebounds carrying the Milwaukee Bucks to the current best record in the NBA at 53-12, while remarkably only playing 30 minutes a game. He’s also boasting a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 31.6, which would place him in the top ten all-time for an individual season in the company of names like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.
Speaking of LeBron, the Los Angeles Lakers forward is having yet again another outstanding season in his 17th year. At 35 years old he’s lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the top of the Western Conference posting averages of 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 10.6 assists—that leads the NBA, which if it holds would be the first time he would ever do so in his career. Missing the playoffs in his first season in L.A. after suffering a groin injury that cost him 17 games, James has returned with a vengeance in his quest for his fourth NBA title. Partnered up with All-Star forward Anthony Davis whom the Lakers acquired over the summer from New Orleans, the duo has made the Lakers one of the toughest teams to beat in the league; stifling opposing players on defense and getting their buckets at will on offense, Los Angeles has rounded into form with the playoffs approaching soon.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden finished second in the MVP race last year after an impressive season averaging 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game; this includes a remarkable stretch of scoring 30 or more points in 32-straight games, the second longest streak in NBA history after Wilt Chamberlain. He’s nearly duplicated those averages this year, still leading the league in scoring while playing alongside former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, whom the Rockets swapped for Chris Paul in an off-season trade. Russell Westbrook himself has been playing extremely well since the new year began, helping keep the Rockets afloat in a competitive field for playoff seeding.
But two other impressive MVP cases are the aforementioned Chris Paul, who with his strong play currently has the Thunder sitting at 40-24—5th in the West and over the Houston Rockets at 6th. This is after many analysts dismissed OKC going into the season as a team that would miss the playoffs entirely. In Dallas, Luka Doncic has been putting on a show in his second year. Last seasons Rookie of the Year, has the Dallas Mavericks posting the best offensive rating in the league while averaging a near-triple double, showing everyone just why he’s a transcendent talent in this league.
But one player in the NBA MVP race who’s flown relatively under the radar is Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers. Last season’s Finals MVP has guided the Los Angeles Clippers to second in the Western Conference; Despite sitting out many games for rest and on a team with other high quality players such as 6x All-Star Paul George and reigning 6th Man of the Year Lou Williams, Leonard has made his case for best in the NBA behind his 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game numbers. With a lethal offensive game and always stellar defense, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers have been seen as heavy title favorites—drawing all eyes in matchups with the Lakers, their inter-city rivals.
With the Milwaukee Bucks holding the best record in the NBA and with Giannis Antetokounmpo having improved upon his already stellar MVP numbers from last season, in my rankings of the MVP race he still lays claim to the top rank. For their exploits in the tough Western Conference, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard follow behind at the second and third spots respectively. And although James Harden and Russell Westbrook have been playing at an incredible level all season this far, the Houston Rockets struggles with consistency keep either of them from cracking the top three in my rankings. This MVP race has been quite interesting thus far, but I believe that by the end of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo will come away with his second back-to-back MVP for the 2020 season.
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