With nearly a month before the All-Star break, the NBA has had an eventful first half to its season. We’ve seen underdog teams emerge their way onto the top of their conferences, a 19-year old Slovenian rookie torch the league with his nasty stepbacks, a reigning MVP making defenders look silly and crafting his resume for this year’s award, and a Greek monster dunking on teams like he’s MJ in Space Jam.
Although four months still remain before the end of the regular season, several players have balled out and emerged as early candidates in the MVP race. As we all know, in the NBA, anything is possible, and thus I’ll be updating this list monthly until the end of the season-
Without further ado, here are my top three candidates for the 2018-2019 NBA MVP:
3. SF Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Stats: 27.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 51.8% FG
At age 34, Lebron continues to amaze the world and add to his GOAT status in his 16th season. Carrying a Lakers team filled with young talent, veterans, and Lance Stephenson, James led Los Angeles to a 20-14 record and the 4th seed in the West before falling down with a groin injury on Christmas Day (talk about a present for the whole NBA).
When talking about the most valuable player in the NBA, Lebron’s going to consistently be in the discussion as the Lakers are 2-5 since he got injured and have dropped to the 8th seed in the West. His value on a NBA team is through the roof.
Joining a previously 35-47 team in the West, Lebron was predicted by many to not take the struggling Lakers anywhere and was told “he isn’t ready for the stacked Western Conference.” King James has done nothing but prove it doesn’t matter what team you put him on; he will make them a playoff contender.
How Lebron Can Secure MVP: Lebron placing the Lakers as one of the top seeds in the West come playoff time is as near MVP worthy as it’ll get. Lebron’s arguably deserved MVP the past couple of seasons but has lost to players with statistically stellar seasons. For this year, his emergence of an actually good Lakers team plus holding a ridiculous statline like one he has right now will put him on top of the MVP ladder.
2. PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Stats: 26.6 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 58.1% FG
The Greek Freak is… well, a freak. Giannis has been killing it so far not only on the stat sheet, but for the Bucks as he’s propelled them to the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and the 2nd best record in the NBA at 28-11. Antetokounmpo is a nearly unstoppable force as his 6’11, 242 lbs frame is a wrecking ball on the court. Don’t forget his 7’3 wingspan and his impressive capability to play guard with his ball-handling and passing skills.
Giannis leads all Eastern Conference players in All-Star votes and it’s very well deserved. His highlight reels, paint dominance, and ability to make his teammates better (6.0 APG as a PF) have only boosted his case for the most valuable player in the NBA.
How Giannis Can Secure MVP: If Giannis can continue to stay healthy and keep his Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference, he’s going to be a top three candidate all season. To become the front-runner, he’s going to have to score more, secure the #1 seed in the East, and hope the reigning MVP slows down.
- PG Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
- SF Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
- C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
1. G James Harden, Houston Rockets
Stats: 34.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 8.7 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 43.8% FG
The Rockets were a mess in the beginning of the season, having the 2nd worst record in the West at 11-14 and looking hopeless after a three point loss to the Mavs on Dec. 8. Despite their early woes, Houston is now the 5th seed in the West with a record of 23-16. What happened? James Harden decided to go on a tear, averaging 39.4 PPG en route to leading Houston to a 12-2 record in their last 14 games.
Carrying Houston out of the gutter and into the spotlight has rocketed Harden into the MVP race along with his historic scoring streak. The reigning MVP shows no sign of slowing down and for now, he’s the leading candidate for this year’s MVP.
How Harden Can Secure the MVP: To repeat as MVP, Harden’s got to keep up his recent hot streak. Leading Houston to a high seed in the West as well as continuing to be the top scorer in the league will make it hard for the NBA not to give him the MVP he deserves.
Mama, there goes that man.
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