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Head to Head: Who is the 2018-2019 NBA Most Valuable Player?

Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) and James Harden (right) have both shown promise to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award this season. PHOTO/ USA Today

Where two writers produce two different opinions about one topic. Who do you think is right?

The issue: Who is the 2018-2019 NBA Most Valuable Player?

By Conrad Hoyt and Nicholas Williams

Published: April 18th, 2019

Conrad Hoyt: Giannis Antetokounmpo deserves to be the MVP of the 2018-19 NBA season. James Harden has been incredible, with records and unbelievable scoring that we have not seen in years, but the most influential and valuable player has been Antetokounmpo.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in the league this season, with an overall record of 60-22. They exceeded expectations, and are the only team in the league this year with a top-five offense and top-five defense.

This is all due to Antetokounmpo. His offensive skill set in the Bucks offense, where his coach surrounds him with four shooters so he can play bully-ball in the paint, makes the Bucks a juggernaut team. Teams have tried putting smaller players on Antetokounmpo, or bigger Defensive Player of the Year candidates on him, such as Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert. None of it has worked, and that is a big part of why the Bucks have been successful. They go as far as Antetokounmpo goes.

On defense, Brook Lopez holds down the middle, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton play suffocating defense on the perimeter, and they all are free to be aggressive and gamble for steals because of Antetokounmpo. Many times he guards the opposing team’s best player, while other times he sags off his assignment, and operates as a sort of free safety. Antetokounmpo is surely in the DPOY conversation and some would argue he is even the favorite.

Harden is not in this conversation.

Antetokounmpo has averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game this season, with 1.3 steals, 1.5 blocks and a shooting percentage of 57.8. His points, assists, rebounds, and shooting percentage are all career-highs. Antetokounmpo is the best and most important player on the best team in the league. Everything the Bucks are able to do is because of his dominance and versatility. Shaquille O’Neal gave up his title of “Superman” to Antetokounmpo as Antetokounmpo scored the most paint points in a season since O’Neal in 2005.

This has been one of the most closely-contested MVP races in recent memory. The NBA media has a tendency for voter-fatigue, in that they vote for the new candidate if one of the other candidates has won it in recent years, which would work in Antetokounmpo’s favor. Harden won the award last year, and he had a case in winning it the year before that, along with three years ago, when the players in the league voted him as MVP.

This is all to say, fans should not be up in arms if their preferred contestant does not win the MVP award. This race has been a storyline all season, and it has contributed to an overall epic journey. Though it is surely a close-race, Giannis deserves to win it. He is the best player on the best team in the league, and we surely won’t be forgetting his name anytime soon.

 

Nicholas Williams: The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo played phenomenal this season, all credit to him. Fantastic young player with a bright future. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists for the season. Impressive stats from him even though it should be expected that he puts up these stats. He is no doubt the best player in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo is not my MVP this season, the MVP of the 2018-2019 NBA season is Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

The MVP award is based on having the best storyline in the league as well as being a dominant player on your team. Harden had the best storyline and has dominated the Western Conference. He dropped 30 on them without batting an eye.

Antetokounmpo has had a cake walk to success. I’m sorry but not sorry, but when your conference has subpar competition such as the Knicks, Wizards, Cavs, Hawks, Bulls, a team like the Bucks even without Antetokounmpo should have no problem making it to the playoffs.

The narrative with the Rockets is that they started off the season poorly, they were not in sync and questions rose if they would even make the playoffs. Harden carried this team on his back and the Rockets currently have the fourth seed finishing the season 53-29. Only seven games apart from the Bucks. Think about that. This team wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs, Chris Paul and Clint Capela went down with injuries, the Rockets next best player was Eric Gordon.

Antetokounmpo has all the talent around him to succeed. He has a terrific coach in Mike Budenholzer and a way better supporting cast than the Rockets. Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, these guys can you get into the playoffs without Antetokounmpo. Yes, you read that right. The Bucks can make the playoffs as at least a fifth or sixth seed without Antetokounmpo. With a coach like Budenholzer and the talent on the team, the Bucks will remain competitive in that weak conference.

Remember, that Budenholzer was able to coach a Hawks team with no real superstar to a 60-22 record in 2015. The best player on that team was Paul Millsap, a low-tier all star level player. So is the Bucks success really about Antetokounmpo dominating or just a brilliant system designed to win?

Coaching is the reason to the Bucks success. The argument that the Bucks have a better record than last year’s team is large in part due to the great coaching this year. Coach Bud has transformed this team completely and implementing a stretch offense has really opened up a lot of doors for this team.

The Western Conference is a battlefield with a lot of competitive talent, it is such a battlefield that even arguably the greatest player of all time, LeBron James, couldn’t even make the playoffs in the West. Harden has stormed over that battlefield, dropping 30 points on every single team this season. What Harden is doing, has little to do with coaching, but more due to the fact that he is the best player and most valuable on his team.

Some will say that Harden isn’t the best defensive player and I’ll say you are right, but the name of the game is to put the ball in the basket. Harden, with his lack of defense and all, still led his team to wins and stayed competitive in the face of uncertainty. I will take great offense over great defense any day.

Take Harden off the Rockets and restart the season. The Rockets would be a lottery team. You can not convince me that a 33-year-old injury prone Paul can lead this team to the playoffs in the West. Paul is great, but father time is slowly coming for him as it does with every aging player. Capela’s defense is great, but his offense is limited. Capela’s offense would not be what it is without Harden. Harden commands so much attention on the pick and roll that it opens up wide open baskets for Capela and other guys.

Relying on an aging Paul, who statistically has had one of the worst seasons of his career, and a poor offensive player in Capela, you are going to be a lottery team. Harden lifted this team over the hump with amazing scoring performances. He turned this team around when Capela and Paul were out, he stepped up and led this team. Harden worked with less talent while Antetokounmpo has worked with better talent.

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