With the NBA restart just a few days away, League's Most Valuable Player (MVP) race is also expected to heat up again once the season resumes. Two of the top players in contention are the reigning league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee Bucks and the veteran with four league MVP Awards, LeBron James from LA Lakers.
Even though Covid-19 is still very much a rising pandemic, NBA has done everything possible to keep the 'Bubble' safe from the virus. The 22 teams which were invited to the bubble in Orlando, Florida have arrived at the majestic Walt Disney World. It is an unspoken truth that this year’s NBA Championship is going to be one of the toughest ever and the coveted crown is going to demand grit and determination in amounts incomparable to previous years.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is producing insane numbers this season, improving his own personal statistics from the previous MVP winning year while LeBron James at the age of 35 has shown the vigour and grit of a 20-year old, taking on the Greek Freak and Kawhi Leonard defensively and securing back-to-back wins back in March just before the season got suspended.
Up until the 1980-81 season, the league MVP was determined by a vote by the NBA players. However, since then, the recipient of the award has been decided upon by a select group of sportswriters and broadcasters from the United States and Canada. Thus, the relevance of statistics has proliferated exponentially in the voting process for the League's MVP Award and we shall try and break down the major statistics that impact the this Race.
Into his 17th season, LeBron James has shown little to no signs of slowing down as he still averages 25 points and 8 rebounds per game to round off with a career-high 10.6 assists per contest. His impact on the LA Lakers and his ability to raise a team to a contender status is on display yet again.
But the numbers generated by Giannis Antetokounmpo are leading to comparisons between him and Shaquille O'Neal of the 1999-2000 season. With nearly 30 points and 14 rebounds a game alongside a healthy 6 assists per game, his numbers are just tremendous and undoubtedly of MVP calibre.
The numbers favour Giannis Antetokounmpo over LeBron James while their grit goes neck and neck
Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Bucks to a higher win percentage (.815) as they sit atop the Eastern Conference Standing compared to LeBron James whose LA Lakers are first in the Western Conference Standing with a .778 win percentage. The numbers produced by Giannis Antetokounmpo are in fewer minutes per game (30.9) compared to LeBron James(34.9).
LeBron James has a slight edge over Giannis Antetokounmpo in the steals section (1.2 over 1.0), Free Throw Percentage (.697 over .633) and 3-Point Field Goal Percentage (.349 over .306).
But Giannis Antetokounmpo leads LeBron James in Field Goal Percentage (.547 over .498), 2-Point Field Goal Percentage (.622 over .570), lesser Turnovers Per Game (3.7 over 4.0) and blocks per game (1.0 over 0.5). T
o further rest the case, Giannis Antetokounmpo (34.8) has a way superior Player Efficiency Rating (PER) compared to LeBron James (26.0).
In words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over."
If the season was to end today, Giannis Antetokounmpo would clearly be the favourite to get the award over any other contender, even LeBron James. But fortunately or unfortunately, there are still 8 matches to go for each team in the regular season. Everyone knows the monster numbers that LeBron James is capable of generating at a regular basis. His playoff form and determination is perhaps the most feared entity in the current NBA environment.
This MVP race is not a close one on paper, but surely a riveting endeavour considering the impact these players have on their team's final position this season. It is an unspoken truth that for both of them, the MVP Award is only the secondary target in sight with the primary goal being the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy.