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If the season ended today, the most compelling argument against Giannis Antetokounmpo winning MVP would be that his team is too good.
Wait. Sorry, what? How does leading the league in wins and being on pace to set the all-time record for average margin of victory hurt Giannis’ MVP case?
Well, because the Milwaukee Bucks’ penchant for blowing opponents out is limiting Antetokounmpo’s playing time to just 30.6 minutes per game, more than two fewer than Stephen Curry averaged when he won the award in 2014-15. Curry’s 32.7 minutes per game were the lowest in history for an MVP.
But not to worry: Giannis is getting his counting stats anyway.
If he sustains his current pace, he’ll become the first player to score more than 30 points in under 31 minutes per game. Not only that, but he’ll also become the first player in more than a half-century to average at least 30 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Add a requirement for a true shooting percentage north of 60 and he’ll be the only guy ever to marry such gaudy counting stats with that level of efficiency.
The Bucks are the league’s best team, and Giannis is leading them to historic heights without a second star, producing ridiculous box-score stats while playing All-NBA-level defense. James Harden has the scoring edge, and LeBron James has the advantage in assists and attention. But neither comes close to matching Antetokounmpo’s two-way impact, and both have more star power supporting them.
Give this man the half-season MVP. There’s no realistic case for anyone else.
Grant Hughes
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass and current heading into games on Tuesday.