MVP is about narrative above all else. A player (and his team) have to catch our attention to have a chance at MVP. One player checks all the boxes to be the lead MVP candidate (sitting at +350 at Bet365). What boxes, you ask?
The first thing that needs to happen is for the player to put up serious stats. Giannis is currently at (via Basketball reference) 26.1 points per game, 13.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists; with a 54.3% effective field goal percentage. He is putting up numbers. Not only that, his game elevated from last year. With a new coach, the system is tailored for him to dominate games (hence the two triple-doubles in 8 games) and involve other players. This has been a focus for him so far (via ESPN):
“A great win for the team,” Antetokounmpo said, deflecting any sense of personal satisfaction. “When I drove the ball, they were wide open. I passed it, and they knocked down everything.”
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For a player to have realistic MVP chances, his team also has to thrive. The Bucks were a hipster pick for past few years but never really broke into Eastern champion contender status. A vast majority agreed coaching was the biggest issue in Milwaukee and that swapping Kidd/Parenti with Budenholzer would be one of the most significant acquisitions of the summer. The Bucks are currently scoring 121.9 points per game (2nd in the NBA), at 54.5 rebounds per game (1st in the NBA), allowing only 106.1 points per game (5th in the NBA) and have 26.4 assists per game (3rd in the NBA). Attacking, defending, sharing the ball and rebounding at a top 5 level (all stats via ESPN). As much as he has a superstar on his team, coach Bud is stressing the importance of team play (via ESPN):
“Hopefully, one of the keys to Giannis being great is everybody around him being great,” the Bucks first-year coach said. “We can also talk about a lot of other guys who played well, too. So, that’s a great sign for Giannis and a great sign for us.”
Go back to the Basketball reference page we linked, and you will see Giannis listed as “Power Forward and Small Forward and Point Guard and Shooting Guard”. When it comes to positions, you are what you defend, so they need to add Center to that list. The man legitimately plays all five positions, and that will be his strongest narrative. The Bucks will play better, and some may say it’s because of the coach. But watch a single game, and you will see how much he affects the game every second he is on the floor. We never had a player who can play all five positions on such a level.
November has only started and there are a lot of games to be played, but Giannis is the frontrunner for a reason. If you haven’t so far, watch a Bucks game. This is must-watch basketball.