Last spring, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden turned the 2018/19 MVP race into a two-man event, with Antetokounmpo’s two-way excellence ultimately outweighing Harden’s offensive dominance in the eyes of voters.
Several months later, both Antetokounmpo and Harden have seemingly picked up right where they left off, leading their teams to 8-3 records through 11 games.
After winning the NBA’s MVP award last year, Giannis has boosted his numbers in almost every major category, including PPG (30.5), RPG (14.5), APG (6.5), SPG (1.5), and 3PT% (.295). While his three-point percentage still isn’t at the level he’d like, he has developed into more of a threat beyond the arc, slowly adding a new dimension to his game to keep opponents up at night.
Harden, meanwhile, started the season in a bit of a shooting slump, which makes it all the more remarkable that he’s currently averaging an NBA-high 38.2 points per game. His staggering 15.3 free throw attempts per game have helped buoy his scoring average, and his assist numbers haven’t taken a hit with Russell Westbrook in the picture — he’s averaging 8.2 APG.
While Antetokounmpo and Harden are doing their best to make it a two-man MVP race again, they aren’t the only players emerging as early candidates.
The 9-2 Lakers have been led by LeBron James and his league-leading 11.1 assists per game. The Mavericks are in the playoff mix in the West thanks to Luka Doncic (28.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 9.3 APG). The same goes for the Suns and Devin Booker (25.5 PPG on .537/.500/.943 shooting), and the Timberwolves and Karl-Anthony Towns (25.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 4.2 APG).
Over in the East, Kemba Walker (25.0 PPG, .444 3PT%) has led the Celtics to an NBA-best 9-1 record. Joel Embiid (23.0 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.7 BPG) has been his usual dominant self for the 7-4 Sixers. And Pascal Siakam (27.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.8 APG) has become a No. 1 option for the 8-3 Raptors.
We didn’t even mention Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis, or stars like Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, putting up huge numbers for teams off to slow starts. In other words, there are plenty of early contenders to watch in this year’s MVP race.
Still, Antetokounmpo and Harden look like the early frontrunners once again, which leads us to today’s discussion topic. Do you expect the Bucks and Rockets stars to repeat as the top two finishers in the MVP vote in 2019/20, or will another player as emerge as a top candidate, pushing Giannis or Harden out of the top two? And which player is your early pick to ultimately win the award?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your early thoughts on this season’s MVP race!