Giannis for the MVP is a lock at this point. Especially since the NBA excluded bubble seeding games from awards voting. Cases have been made by everyone, and The Greek Freak is about to run with his second-straight Most Valuable Player award.
Antetokounmpo also has the best case for the Defensive Player of The Year award. When the Bucks‘ superstar is on the floor, teams attempt 28.8 percent of their shots within four feet of the basket. League’s worst San Antonio Spurs only attempt 28.1 percent of shots from the same area. When they do shoot the ball within four feet, teams convert just over 50 percent of such attempts – five percent lower than the NBA average.
All this can’t be ascribed to Giannis, but the fact is he’s orchestrating league’s best defensive team while being their best individual defender. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a pretty strong case for the DPOY award. If he does win both awards, Giannis will become only the third player in NBA history to do so, with the other two being Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
MVP & DPOY
The first time the NBA has seen such a venture was in the 87-88 season. MJ was the one who had set such precedent, winning his first MVP award and his only DPOY award. Oh, and he was also the league’s leading scorer with 35 points per game. Jordan added 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting .535 from the floor. In terms of his defensive impact, Jordan led the league in steals with 3.2, while also adding 1.6 blocks per contest. He was third in Defensive Win Shares, just 0.2 points shy from Hakeem, while also leading the NBA in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. All the numbers pointed to one thing – MJ was a force on both ends of the floor, and deservingly ran away with two individual accolades.
Hakeem Olajuwon followed MJ’s footprint by winning both awards in the 93-94 season. The Dream averaged 27.3/11.9/3.6, while also contributing with 1.6 steals, and 3.7 blocks per game. Hakeem led the Rockets to a number two seed in the West and had the best two-way campaign in the entire league. Giannis is on the verge of joining the NBA’s historic duo. Such accomplishment would’ve skyrocketed his all-time ranking, as it remains a very rare occurrence in the NBA.
MVP & Scoring Title
The more frequent one is players winning MVP award while also leading the NBA in scoring. Ever since the NBA-ABA merger in ’76, something like that has been done eleven times. We’ve already mentioned MJ’s run in ’88 when he did it for the first time. Well, Jordan did it five more times. In fact, every time he was the league’s most valuable player, Jordan was also it’s scoring champ.
In ’91, MJ averaged 31.5 points per game on .539 shooting. Jordan led the league in offensive win shares, as his offense contributed to 14.9 wins of the season. He had won both awards once again the next season. Michael put up 30.1 PPG, as he led the Bulls to a 67-win regular season. It took Jordan four years to repeat such a venture, partly because of his MLB outing. Michael averaged 30.4 points in ’96, as he also became league’s MVP for the fourth time in his career. The last time Jordan had won both awards was in ’98 – now more than ever referred to as The Last Dance. His Airness once again led the NBA in scoring with 28.7 points per contest, while also winning his fifth and final regular-season MVP award.
The NBA had seen the shortage of such accomplishment until the emergence of Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq ended the drought of players winning both accolades, as he did it in the 99-00 NBA season. Diesel had a monster year, putting up a career-high in points with 29.7 on league-high field goal percentage of .574 and a second-high effective field goal percentage of .574. Shaq contributed for most points per 100 possessions and was the most impactful offensive force in the whole NBA.
It didn’t take long before we’ve seen another season of that kind. Only this time, it was done by Allen Iverson. The very next season, Iverson became the league’s MVP while also putting up most points in the association. A.I. was on fire on a nightly basis, finishing the year averaging 31.4 points per game. The Answer wasn’t nearly as efficient as Shaq but was incredibly exciting players to watch in recent NBA history. Especially during the 00-01 season.
Then came another drought, the one that would be stopped by Kevin Durant in the 13-14 regular season. It was efficient basketball at it’s finest since KD averaged 32 points and was on the verge of joining the 50/40/90 club, something he had accomplished the year before. KD led the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating with 29.8 and was by far the biggest enigma for opposing defenses. There was no way of stopping a guy. It was the ultimate cheat-code outing by Durant.
After KD had done it, winning MVP and a scoring title in the same season has become a frequent occurrence in the league. Since then, it’s been accomplished three more times. First, it was Stephen Curry with his 15-16 campaign. Steph had won the MVP for the second straight year, becoming the first unanimous Most Valuable Player in league’s history. Curry averaged 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. What was nearly done by Durant, was accomplished by Steph, as he became a member of the 50/40/90 club during his MVP campaign. Curry had a historic run, and it’s best described with the fact he finished 9th on the all-time PER list with 31.46. If that’s not elite, I don’t know what is.
Then came Russell Westbrook and had a show of his own. Other than becoming the second player ever to average a triple-double over the course of 82 games, Russ also joined the group of players who, besides winning the MVP, also put up the most points in a single year. Westbrook missed a single regular-season game while averaging 31.6/10.7/10.4. There was a lot of talk about him cheating his way towards averaging a triple-double, even that he shouldn’t have been the MVP for it. However, his 16-17 season was historic. He did something no one taught was possible, and he led the NBA in scoring while doing it. Impressive!
James Harden is the last guy to come on top in both categories. The Beard did it in ’18, drawing even more attention than Westbrook the year before, for the same reasons he’s being criticized today. Whatever the case may be, and whether you like the guy or not, his numbers deserved a huge credit. Harden 30.4 points per game, seemingly having a historic scoring display every other night. He did it the same way he’s been doing it for years – playing iso-ball, running a pick and roll and shooting bunch of free-throws. It’s not the most beautiful way of playing basketball, but it worked. And it’s still working, unfortunately for some.
Giannis won’t be the NBA’s leading scorer for the 19-20 season. But he will be association’s MVP, there’s no doubt about it. If he manages to scrape out the DPOY award, he will join MJ and Hakeem as the third player in the NBA to do so. Who knows, one day he may add a scoring title to it. It sure would look good on his resume.