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Why Giannis is the 2020 MVP

Giannis Antetokounmpo vs the Washington Wizards. Photo by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Prior to the NBA season being cut off, the debate for league MVP was at its peak with Giannis at the forefront and LeBron tightening the race after impressive wins over the Bucks and Clippers. Now with the season set to return in just over a month, I decided to pick up where those arguments left off and once again remind the public that despite LeBron’s latest heroics, Giannis was and still is the 2020 MVP. Here’s why.

The Numbers:
Last season when Giannis won his first MVP, he put up 28 points, 12.5 rebounds and six assists per game while shooting 58% from the field and 26% from deep, leading the Bucks to a league-best 60-22 record. This year, the Greek Freak averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds and six assists per game while shooting 55% from the field and making 1.5 threes per game (more than double his output from 2019) at a 31% clip. He is top-3 in the league in scoring and rebounds while playing just under 31 minutes per game, and has the highest shooting percentage among the league’s top-50 scorers.

While his defensive stats took a slight dip on paper, Giannis led qualifying players in both opponent shooting percentage as well as defensive win shares, proving his absolute dominance on both sides of the court. Putting all of his attributes together, it appears as though we are witnessing the second coming of prime-Shaq that won all three MVP awards in the 1999-2000 season. Stats alone, however, don’t make an MVP. What matters even more is how your skill translates to the success of your team, another area Giannis has flourished.

The Team:
As was the case last season, The Greek Freak led his Milwaukee Bucks to the No. 1 seed in the East, and current best overall record in the NBA at 53-12. Before the season’s collapse all signs were pointing toward the Bucks surpassing their 60-win mark of last year, but they are now unlikely to do so with only eight more games being played. Regardless, for the second year running, the Bucks will most likely head into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, in large part due to the play of Giannis.

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In the abbreviated 2019-20 season, the Bucks finished first in the NBA in points per game (118.6), rebounds (51.7) and point differential (+11.3) while finishing third in field goal percentage (47.7%) and blocks (6.0). Sure, Giannis is leading the pack in these statistics by a large margin, but the impact his success has indirectly had on that of his teammates is nearly insurmountable. The Greek Freak’s ability to control the offense and multitude of ways he can hurt you has turned the likes of Khris Middleton into a two-time All-Star and turned players like Donte DiVincenzo and even Brook Lopez into incredible shooters having some of the best seasons of their careers.
Furthermore on the defensive end, Giannis’ ability to defend all five positions effectively makes his teammates’ jobs easy, and the combined length of Giannis and Lopez have proved to be deadly around the rim, accounting for over half of the team’s six blocks per game. Giannis has proven to be a perennial All-Star that can not only perform nightly himself, but also consistently gets the best out of his teammates.
So with everything going Giannis’ way, why is the MVP even in question in the first place?

The Debate:
It took LeBron just three years to get his name on the MVP ballot, and he has not left since. For 13 consecutive seasons, LeBron found himself in the top-5 of MVP voting, coming away with the award four times and finishing as the runner-up several more, but that streak was broken last year as the King finished 12th in MVP voting after a tough year with the Los Angeles Lakers.

A year later to learn the system, build some trust and make a couple trades and LeBron is back to his old ways, leading the Lakers to the best record in the tough Western Conference while tying Magic Johnson as the tallest player in NBA history to lead the league in assists. LeBron is 35 years young and continues to play like he did when he won his first MVP at age 24, so it appears the only thing holding him back from winning his fifth MVP is simply circumstance.

Unlike Giannis, LeBron added a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate in Anthony Davis to his team this offseason along with some well-equipped veterans to help the cause, and while the Greek Freak may have a more well-rounded supporting cast, The Brow is truly the difference maker. LeBron’s numbers, as always, are solid this year, averaging 26 points, eight rebounds and nearly 11 assists per game on 50% shooting from the field, but he may not even be putting up the best stats on his own team. Davis’ season is being completely overshadowed by that of his teammate, but his 27 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four combined blocks and steals per game are absolutely nothing to scoff at. And while I am sure LeBron has enjoyed having a superstar for a teammate, it is that same teammate that has taken away from his case for MVP and instead turned it back toward the Greek Freak.

It’s the two-headed monster of Davis and LeBron that have gotten the Lakers to where they are this season, and if the MVP could be split between teammates, it would surely go to them but that is not the case. Giannis is on track to once again lead his team to the best record in the NBA while not only improving his own game immensely, but also the game of his teammates. He is a true leader, a dominating force all over the court and should be a lock for his second MVP in as many years. Chalk up another incredible season to LeBron’s tally, but it simply wasn’t enough this time around.

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