We’re only one week into the 2017-2018 NBA season and it’s been thrilling so far. The Warriors have been vulnerable, the Cavaliers and Celtics have suffered injuries to key players, while the Suns have made it their personal mission to lose by as many points as possible. Although it’s really too early to tell, a hot topic is this year’s MVP race. At the moment, the two frontrunners are leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. These MVP candidates are LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Let’s dive in and discuss what each player brings to the table and what it will take for them to hoist the trophy next summer.
Let’s start with King James. First of all, LeBron James should win the MVP every single year. Regarded as “the chosen one”, James brings immeasurable value to any team he plays for. He’s the best passer that we’ve seen since Magic Johnson in the 80s. He’s the most physically dominant player we’ve seen since Shaq in the 90s and early 2000s. As perhaps the most consistent scorer of all time, he has the record for most consecutive seasons averaging 25 points per game with 13 and counting! The record was previously held by Karl Malone with 11.
LeBron’s biggest blemish on his legendary resume is his 3-5 record in the NBA Finals. This devastating flaw is actually what could fuel James to relentlessly pursue the MVP title this year. James, a 3-time NBA champion, has won the heralded MVP award 4 times (’08-’09, ’09-10, ’11-’12, ’12-13). Last year, LeBron James specifically said he has nothing else to prove. He’s won championships, the most important one being the 2016 championship he won for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. With the dominance of the Golden State Warriors over the past 3 years, it’s difficult to see anyone else winning it for at least the next 2. With this in mind, LeBron (32 years old in his 14th season) could perhaps sense futility in chasing another championship against the unbeatable Warriors and instead shift his focus to showing the world he is still the king by earning his 5th MVP.
Next, we have Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yes, I had to google his name to find the correct spelling. The “Greek Freak” is a physical monstrosity. Giannis is seven feet tall, handles the ball like a guard, scores like a forward, and protects the rim like a center. Not to mention he can get from halfcourt to the rim in just ONE dribble! We literally have never seen anything like this! Similar to LeBron, he can play and guard positions 1-5 so the value he brings to his team is undeniable. Unlike LeBron, Giannis took several years to develop his game. Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, he has improved his game exponentially year after year. The Greek Freak is currently averaging 37 points per game with 5 assists and 11 rebounds. Yes, it is still early in the year and that staggering 37 points per game will undoubtedly drop but those are crazy numbers to start a season!
What does each player have to do specifically to ensure they win MVP?
King James and his Cavaliers face the Greek Freak and his Bucks four times this year. Whoever wins the most games in this series will likely earn a step up on the other in the MVP race. Defeating the Bucks this past Friday, King James already holds the lead in that respect. Next, LeBron has to at least reach the NBA Finals. With a season ending injury to Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are unlikely to prevent the Cavaliers from doing this. Should the Cavaliers upset the Warriors in the Finals, LeBron will undoubtedly earn his 5th MVP award. Giannis and his Bucks have reached the playoffs only twice since he was drafted, both times losing in the first round. Giannis has to not only lead his team to the playoffs through the weak eastern conference, but they also have to advance into the deep rounds for him to get the nod for MVP over LeBron. If the Cavaliers and Bucks face each other in the eastern playoffs, the winner will likely determine the winner of the MVP award.
Although it’s highly likely that the Golden State Warriors will win their third championship in four years this season, it should still be a highly entertaining year! The MVP race is currently a 2-man race between the current greatest player in the world and a young phenom prepared to take his crown. Who will end up raising that MVP trophy next summer? Only time will tell.