In the last three years, Giannis Antetokounmpo – the Greek-Nigerian has been one of the outstanding players in the NBA except his glaring weakness – outside shooting. From the 2016-17 season to 2018-19, he shot 27.5 percent on 2.3 three-point attempts per game. If you wanted to stop him, you had to wall off the paint. It took a team effort, but it was possible to at least slow him down. Last season, Giannis was certainly the leading contender for NBA MVP, but he was not the only reasonable contender: James Harden had an excellent, strong case, and would have been worthy of the honor had he won. He did not, Antetokounmpo did, and he was also highly worthy of the honor.
We are just a third gone into the NBA season, Antetokounmpo is the excelling again as the only reasonable choice for the MVP award. There is no case to be built for anyone other than Antetokounmpo. While nothing is cast is stone and things can change but at the moment, Giannis is enjoying another powerful campaign. The Bucks could swing, Antetokounmpo could ease up, Harden or Anthony Davis or LeBron James or Luka Doncic could take it to another level, injuries can always crop up. This is not a declaration that Antetokounmpo should be given the MVP trophy right now. The season is long. We have quite a distance still to cover. But if things go the way they are going now, he should be the second unanimous MVP in NBA history.
Comparing notes between two contenders: in attack, Antetokounmpo and Harden have been the best scorers in the NBA by far this season. Harden is averaging 38.5 points and 7.5 points per game. Antetokounmpo is at 31.8 and 5.4. No one else is above 30 points per game, and the next five top scorers all have lower scoring efficiencies than Harden and Antetokounmpo. In defense, Antetokounmpo will compete for Defensive Player of the Year. He and Davis seem to be the consensus top contenders right now. Milwaukee has the best defense in the NBA, and it’s keyed around Antetokounmpo’s prodigious talents. Harden is not as bad of a defender as lowlight reels can make him out to be. Maybe he’s not good, but he’s not the worst defender in the league. But Harden is not in the same solar system as Antetokounmpo on that end. Antetokounmpo is rebounding 30 percent of defensive rebound opportunities while on the court for the second straight year. He’s at 14.7 rebounds per 36 minutes — he’s ahead of Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert in that measure, and fifth in the league.
Giannis has improved further since his 2019 MVP season, and he is even taking more shots from beyond the arc. The Bucks are considered title favorites, despite not having top talent like the Lakers and Clippers – it is all because of Giannis, who seems to be the most consistent destructive force on both ends of a basketball floor. The Freak is capable of bringing the Bucks a championship as soon as this season.
For now, it seems no one can stack up to the Greek-Nigerian basketball player right now. He’s on another level from all other players because he has the offensive firepower of Harden and some of the best defense in the league on the best team in the league.
You can catch Gianni in action on Christmas day when Milwaukee Bucks take on Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.