After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the top seed in the NBA this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the 2018–19 NBA MVP. After winning the award, the Houston Rockets official Twitter account posted a tweet stating that James Harden should have won the MVP for a second consecutive season, calling him the “real MVP.”
Many bashed the Rockets for hating on the Bucks superstar, but we are going to dive into their claim to determine who really should have won the MVP. Take a look at the tail of the tape as we determine if the Rockets have any meat behind their claims.
James Harden’s regular season
Harden could not be stopped on the offensive side of the ball this season. He had a streak of 20 games with 40 or more points and averaged 36 points per game this season. Harden was the first player to average over 35 points since Kobe Bryant in 2004-05. His numbers were even better this season compared to last year, and for most of the season, it looked like he would run away with the award.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s regular season
The former No. 15 pick saw his game steadily improve every year he’s been in the NBA. He averaged 27 points and 12 rebounds per game this season. He posted a player efficiency rating (PER) of 30.9 which was 12th highest all time.
The Rockets failures in the postseason
We have seen this story over and over again with Houston and James Harden. They have a great regular season, they get a high seed in the playoffs, and then a flame out in the second round or the conference finals. The Rockets have had too much talent to consistently choke in big games.
Whether it’s James Harden not caring about losing a game six at home to the Spurs (and then going to the club afterwards), or the Rockets missing 27 straight three-point attempts in game seven of the Western Conference finals last year, Harden can’t shake that cloud over his head.
Did that have a factor in voting? It’s possible, but we won’t make that the main reason behind it.
Milwaukee getting the No. 1 seed
When the regular season started everyone picked the Boston Celtics to be the best team in the east. LeBron going to Los Angeles made Boston the team to beat on paper. Milwaukee started this regular season red hot and put a stranglehold on the East as they won 60 games.
They would earn the No. 1 seed and go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to the Raptors in six games. Giannis took the Celtics to school and averaged over 30 points per game in the semifinals, and that was the start of his true recognition as an MVP.
Who is the real MVP?
If the NBA awarded an Offensive Player of the Year award separate from the MVP, then we would give it to James Harden. However, you have to look at the MVP as an award for someone that can dominate on both sides of the ball and keeps their team in top contention. Harden’s season will go down as one of the best in recent memory, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was historic.