Harden or Giannis: Who should be the NBA's MVP?
The NBA's regular campaign is done and so, while awards season is still some way off, it is time for debate to rage once again around the MVP gong.
In one corner is last year's winner, the Houston Rockets' James Harden. In the other is Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Both men are primed to star in the playoffs, but it is their efforts up to this point that will decide the destination of the league's top individual honour come June.
Omnisport writers Tom Webber and Ben Spratt have given their take on who should collect the crown.
Harden should be MVP - Tom Webber
After pushing the Golden State Warriors to Game 7 in the 2018 Western Conference Finals, the Rockets were expected to be leading contenders this season following the addition of Carmelo Anthony.
However, the move did not pan out at all as expected and a dismal start left them languishing at second-bottom in the conference standings in late November, with Anthony cut.
But reigning MVP Harden led a sensational revival with a stunning run of 32 30-point games that started on December 14. Even though that streak ended on February 26, he has astoundingly scored 20 or more in 57 in succession.
Without that incredible level of consistent scoring, the Rockets would not have got anywhere near the playoffs, particularly with Chris Paul and Clint Capela enduring spells out injured.
Harden averaged a stunning 36.1 points in the regular season - 5.7 more than when he won the accolade last year and the most since Michael Jordan tallied 37.1 in 1986-87. That is illustrious company.
He has had nine games with 50 points or more this season and set an NBA record with his fifth career 50-point triple-double against the Sacramento Kings on March 30.
Harden has been unguardable for much of this season, his knack for drawing fouls making him the bane of defenses across the NBA, and has been integral to Houston looking like contenders once again.
Giannis should be MVP - Ben Spratt
It stands to reason that the best player on the best team in the NBA over the regular season can lay a decent claim to the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
That is what happened last year with Harden and the Rockets - and that is what should happen this year with Giannis and the Bucks.
Milwaukee improved from having the 16th-best record in the league in 2017-18 to sitting top of the pile 12 months later, a picture of consistency having boasted a winning record from day one.
They got there by placing their faith in the all-round talents of Antetokounmpo, the team's one elite star. A truly complete two-way player, the Greek averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals this season.
Not only do these numbers indicate that Giannis is a deserving MVP but he is also the obvious choice for Defensive Player of the Year.
Issa MVP. pic.twitter.com/mYr3ilQqbe— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 24, 2019
Now imagine that he had played more than 32.8 minutes per game and had not been carrying an ankle injury through the final month of the season.
As LeBron James struggles in Los Angeles, the title of the league's best player might be up for grabs and Antetokounmpo, still just 24, is as well placed as any player to seize it.
For now, he will be happy to follow Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the second Bucks star to be named MVP.