“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
With March Madness starting up and the NBA playoffs just a month away, basketball fans are gearing up for a whole lot of great spring basketball. Personally, I love the madness in March that ensues from upsets in the NCAA tournament. However, I equally love the craziness in April of the NBA playoffs. Watching the best of the best go at it for a championship never disappoints.
As NBA teams battle it out down the stretch for seeding or a ticket in this year’s playoffs, the MVP race has only heated up. With a mere three weeks left, a three-man race has emerged for MVP, so here’s where each player stands in their quest for MVP honors.
*All statistics as current as 3/17/19
3. SF Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Stats: 28.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 44.1% FG, 23.8 PER
Paul George may be one of the most overlooked players in the league. Somehow stuck in Westbrook’s shadow, George has been doing substantial damage on both sides of the floor. In his last 15 games, George has averaged 29.7 ppg and a 16.1 PIE (player impact estimate). George has also been busy making his case for DPOY, co-leading the league in steals per game and placing at No. 5 in defensive win shares.
George’s efforts have the Thunder right in the mix at the top of the West. Although recovering from a right shoulder injury, I expect George to go off in the final frame of the season and make a strong argument for MVP. After his gruesome injury nearly five years ago, George’s recent play has made his story more than remarkable and nothing less than inspiring.
2. G James Harden, Houston Rockets
Stats: 36.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 7.6 APG, 43.8% FG, 30.5 PER
I saw a post from Bleacher Report on Instagram recently that well explains Harden’s historic season. The post said, “James Harden could go scoreless the rest of the season and still average 28.6 ppg which would lead the league.” Before your jaw drops anymore, let me remind you Harden and the Rockets still have 9 games left. 9… Wow.
Other than being a walking bucket, Harden has developed an improved defensive game as he’s tied with Paul George for No. 1 in the league in steals per game with 2.2. Harden’s most impressive feat this season, however, is no doubt his scoring rampage. With his league leading box plus/minus (11.4) and value over replacement player (8.7), Harden’s flood of scoring has not only rewritten record books, but single handedly carried the Rockets to the top of the West.
Whether he repeats as MVP or not, Harden’s 2018-2019 season will be remembered for decades.
- PG Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
- PG Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
- C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
1. PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Stats: 27.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 APG, 58.1% FG, 30.7 PER
Coming into the season, most experts had Milwaukee finishing no higher than the 5th seed in the East. With a month left until the playoffs, the Giannis-led Bucks are the first team to hit 50 wins in the season and own the best record in the NBA.
Leading the league in PIE (21.6), net rating (12.6) and win shares (13.2), Giannis has become a nightmare on the court. Against the 76ers on Sunday, Giannis tallied a career-high 52 points along with 16 rebounds and 7 assists. I mean, who else scores like a shooting guard, rebounds like a center, passes like a point guard, and all at the same time, is one of the best defenders in the league? The NBA leader in defensive win shares and defensive rating is someone you don’t want to meet at the rim.
The best defense against Giannis at the moment is to sag off and give him a space for a long jumper, but the Greek Freak’s jump shot development will soon make it impossible to guard him. Although shooting 24.9 3P% per game this season, Giannis has upped that percentage to 33.3% in the past 15 games. His jumper is coming and when it does… may god bless opposing defenses.
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