Antetokounmpo vs Harden

Graham Dilley 4.24.2019
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks prepares for the game against the Washington Wizards on January 15, 2018 (Photo: Keith Allison).

The MVP race this year is the closest one that has been seen in a long time. There are two clear front runners who are locked in close combat for the trophy, and they could not be more different.

While James Harden is a scoring machine who can do pretty much anything offensively, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a violent rim-rocker who can guard any position defensively. What is similar about the two stars, though, is the value that they have to their teams.

The Houston Rockets have surged to the fourth seed in the Western Conference, almost exclusively due to Harden’s dominance since mid-December. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the NBA, with Antetokounmpo’s coming out as a superstar being the reason.

Harden, who won the MVP award last year, has always been great as a scorer, going on a run where he dropped 30 or more points in 32 straight games, and during that span, he scored at least 40 points a crazy 18 times and dropped 50 four times.

Harden shoots over John Wall in November 2016 while playing against the Washington Wizards (Photo: Keith Allison).

Overall this season, Harden is averaging 36.4 points, 7.5 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals over 37.2 minutes per game while shooting 43.9 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent from long distance and 87.8 percent from the free-throw line.

On the year, the 24-year-old Giannis is posting 27.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, six assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals across 32.9 minutes a night while making 58.2 percent of his field-goal attempts, 24.4 percent of his triples and 72.5 percent of his foul shots.

What makes Giannis truly so special, though, is his ability to handle the ball and create for his teammates. While he is nearly seven feet tall, he has the ball-handling skills and court vision of many point guards in the league. Antetokounmpo’s defense must also be in the conversation because he has the combination of size, length and athletic ability to guard basically any player in the league.

Yes, you can also say that the Bucks wouldn’t be going anywhere without Antetokounmpo, and that’s true, but what Harden has done is so exhausting and taxing that it would almost feel like a crime not to give him the MVP award.

The scoring binge that he has gone on since mid-December is something that has not occurred since Kobe Bryant over a decade ago, and it’s something that may not happen from any other player for a long time except for Harden.

As much as Giannis is a dominant, all around, coast to coast threat, Harden’s season has been exceptional and his defense has not been anything to scoff at, and for that reason the MVP has to go to Harden.