• Cyrus Rogers

Only Harden can stop Giannis emulating Hakeem

The race for the MVP award has been hotly contested this season with reigning Most Valuable Player James Harden the frontrunner to retain his award. But there are many who feel Giannis Antetokounmpo is more deserving of the award than the bearded one. They aren’t the only two players in this three-way battle with Paul George the third horse in the race. Many observers feel that this is a shootout between Antetokounmpo and Harden with George lagging behind them.

Lets look at the front-runners first and their numbers this season in order to get a real comparison of whose claims stand out more. Giannis averaged 27.7 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game. Harden’s numbers look like this; 36.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 7.5 apg, 2.0 spg and 0.7 bpg. If we break these numbers down a little more Antetokounmpo outstrips Harden in rebounds and blocks per game, however Harden is better than the Greek Freak in steals, assists and points.

Now lets look at PG13’s numbers in order to see where he stacks up with the other two men in line for the award. This past season George averaged 28 points per contest, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks. PG averages more points per game than Giannis by 0.3 and also more steals by 0.9. However Antetokounmpo has better averages than him in rebounds, assists and blocks. In the comparison with Harden, George beats him in rebounds and steals but Harden has better numbers than him in assists, blocks and points. That leaves Giannis and Harden duking it out for the top crown.

The next question is, ‘Who is more VALUABLE to their team?’ That could be the major stumbling block for George here as he is seen as the secondary player on the Oklahoma City Thunder, though his numbers say otherwise. For Giannis and Harden they are by far the most important players on their teams. The Houston Rockets star Harden has been superb and his 36.1 points per game average is the highest since Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 in 1987. Harden has broken scoring records all season long and that might make him the favorite to win, especially at the time of voting for the award as both players were starting their runs in the playoffs.

Counting in Antetokounmpo’s favor is the fact that he too has been spectacular this term. His Milwaukee Bucks team finished atop the NBA standings as opposed to Harden’s Rockets who were the fourth seed in the West and fifth overall. Antetokounmpo’s athleticism and dominance around the basket were features that many of the voters will take into consideration. Giannis will also hope that those who’ve voted will be keen to have a new MVP rather than give it to Harden again. It seems petty but people are inclined to vote off of sentiment when it comes down to it, and that could sway things in the Greek Freaks way. He is a first time finalist and his developmental leaps have been astounding. He was the Most Improved Player of the year in 2017 and if he wins the MVP he would be the first player to win both awards. Voters love a story like that.

African NBA fans will be backing Antetokounmpo to take home the award and emulate Nigerian Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and become the next African star to get their hands on the award. It all unfolds in Los Angeles on Monday night.

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