We’re about 25 games into the 2018/19 NBA season, which is enough of a sample size to start taking stock of which players have been the most valuable to their teams so far.
Coming into the season, LeBron James was viewed by oddsmakers as the slight favorite to win this season’s MVP award. He has certainly built a strong case so far, leading the Lakers to a 15-9 record with averages of 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 6.6 APG, plus his usual efficient shooting rates (.525 FG%, .369 3PT%). Despite averaging a career-low 34.8 minutes per game, James’ 28.4 PPG would be his highest per-game scoring rate since 2009/10, the final year of his first stint in Cleveland.
Still, LeBron probably isn’t the frontrunner for the MVP award at this point. That honor belongs to Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose Bucks rank second in the Eastern Conference at 16-7. Antetokounmpo, who turns 24 today, has been a one-man wrecking ball in Milwaukee, establishing new career highs so far in PPG (27.0), RPG (13.0), APG (6.0), and FG% (.575), among other categories. While he’s struggling more than ever to make three-pointers (.111 3PT%), Giannis is contributing in just about every other area on either end of the court.
Among the other strong candidates for MVP consideration so far? Kawhi Leonard, who has a team-high 26.1 PPG and 8.6 RPG for the Raptors, the best club in the NBA so far; Anthony Davis, whose Pelicans have a +8.9 net rating when he plays, compared to -10.3 when he sits; and Joel Embiid, who has taken his game to another level for the Sixers.
There’s no shortage of other stars who should be in this discussion. Kevin Durant is probably a top-three player in the NBA and might be the second-best MVP candidate on his own team, given how the Warriors have played without Stephen Curry. James Harden is currently leading the league in scoring for the Rockets. Damian Lillard, Blake Griffin, and Kemba Walker are arguably playing as well as they ever have for the Trail Blazers, Pistons, and Hornets, respectively. Nikola Jokic has helped lead the Nuggets to the best record in the Western Conference so far. Russell Westbrook is once again averaging a triple-double for the Thunder, who have the second-best record in the West.
It’s way too early to make a call here, but we want your early assessment of the MVP race. Is this Giannis’ award to lose, or do you view another player as a stronger bet to become the frontrunner over the course of the season?
Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!