More than any other sport today, it seems that NBA fans and analysts have been begging the question all season, who is this year’s most valuable player?
I’ve been a true fan of the NBA ever since I could understand basketball and I have to say, the standards and qualifications for the MVP have become confusing.
Each night, players are praised for putting up big scoring numbers and are seen as heroes by their teams. This might be true, as some of them pull off buzzer-beater shots to win the game, or lead sequences in bringing their teams back from deep deficits. The one thing some of these athletes lack, however, is consistent efficiency.
This is definitely a sub-tweet at players relating to James Harden and Russell Westbrook. I can fully admit I’m an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, but I can also agree that it pains me to see Westbrook take and miss so many shots that lead to a loss on certain nights.
To me, efficiency needs to be discussed a lot more in the MVP conversations each year. I get that some positions won’t have the best of shooting percentages, especially guards, since they tend to take more distant shots. Some players, however, get to shoot an excess amount of shots certain nights, and need to know when to look for other scoring options.
Efficiency doesn’t just stop at at shooting statistics, either. MVP voters have every right to look at which player is making a statistical impact, but they also need to consider which guy is consistently making his team better and leading them to victory each night, instead of selfishly padding their stats.
As of now, the three players who rank at the top as favorites to earn MVP are Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George. Two of these players go against what I think should be considered when voting for this award.
Harden is the epitome of what I’m against. There’s no question that he’s displayed a lethal scoring season, as he’s averaged 36.3 points per game to this point. That’s exactly what you’ll average when you have the opportunity to take 24.3 shots and 13.4 three-point attempts each night, though. Harden’s 24 shots per game are three more than the second most, (George, 21) and his 13.4 threes are nearly two more than Stephen Curry, who has 11.7.
The defending MVP is shooting 44 percent from the field, which isn’t bad for a shooter, but his three point percentage (37) is lacking to me. Harden finished Monday night’s game with 28 points, snapping his 32-game streak of scoring at least 30 points. The stat that stood out to me, though, was going 0-10 on threes. This is a perfect example of a player needing to find other options after finding out it’s not their night.
He tries too hard to force his stats each game and I can tell he always wants to score each possession. When he carries the ball up the court and gets to the top of the arc, Harden sometimes doesn’t think twice about passing as he bends down to dribble side-to-side and hit defenders with a step back three. If you watch him play, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
After completing a game this season, Harden was asked whether he was motivated to win MVP again to which he said, “I need it. I need it for sure and I’m going to get it.”
This shows his mindset is not on championships but rather individual awards. A true MVP is focused on leading his team to wins and making important plays game after game.
When talking about George, his case is similar to Harden’s. As I already mentioned, George averages 21 shots a night which is also a high number for anyone in the league. Percentages are a bit better as he’s shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 from behind the arc. Again, these percentages aren’t terrible, with 40 percent from three actually being decent, but they aren’t incredibly efficient.
He understands that wins are important and takes smarter shots. Many fans think he has a legitimate chance to win MVP, but Antetokounmpo is my favorite candidate for the award.
Bleacher Report posted odds to win the MVP on Twitter Monday afternoon and Antetokounmpo emerged as the favorite. To me, they got it right, and he’s my front runner for many reasons.
When you look at his performance this year, he’s averaged 27.2 points per game, good enough for seventh in the NBA and is only half a point from being fourth best in the league. He’s also averaging 12.7 rebounds per game (fifth in the league), six assists per game (18th in the league) and 1.45 blocks per game (15th in the league). His numbers are good, so that checks off the first box.
Next, is he efficient? Antetokounmpo is shooting 58 percent from the field, and ranks ninth best in the league. He shoots 24 percent from three but only takes 2.5 per game, obviously meaning he’s not attempting from beyond the arc often. In terms of field goal percentage, he’s efficient, and therefore meets another requirement.
Finally, is he winning? He’s actually doing more than winning with his team. They happen to have the best record in the NBA as of now. The last time the Bucks won a regular season conference title was the 1973-74 season and as for the entire league, 1970-71. He’s not just helping his team win, he’s leading them to one of the best seasons they’ve had in a long time. An obvious check goes on the last box.
While Antetokounmpo isn’t necessarily having a historically statistical season, his case across all requirements begs for the MVP to be put in his hands at the end of this year.
A true NBA MVP binds together impressive stats, percentage efficiency and a winning season that ranks towards the top of the conference at the conclusion of each season.