Victory of the Week: Giannis Antetokounmpo Wins 2019 NBA MVP over Harden, George

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo before Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Detroit Pistons Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Victory of the Week is presented by Walmart.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the NBA's MVP on Monday, edging out Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder wing Paul George in a tight race.


Giannis got emotional as he paid tribute to his family while accepting the #KiaMVP trophy. 🙏 #NBAAwards https://t.co/T8p5XH73cZ

Antetokounmpo received 78 first-place votes, while James Harden collected 23. No other player received a vote for first place.

Antetokounmpo was superb in the 2018-19 season, finishing third in the NBA in points (27.7), sixth in rebounding (12.5), 21st in assists (5.9), 10th in blocks (1.5) and first in player efficiency rating (30.95).

He was a force on both ends of the court, leading Milwaukee to an NBA-best 60-22 record this season. And the scary thing for the rest of the NBA is that the 24-year-old Antetokounmpo is only going to get better.

"He's still learning," Bucks guard George Hill said in early April, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. "He's still getting better. He's still young right now, still learning the ins-and-outs of the game and things like that. But it's fun being around him and seeing him evolve, from when he first came into the league to where he is now, the way his body has changed, the way his mentality has changed."

Veteran center Brook Lopez agreed.

"The steps he's taken already since the beginning of the season have been absolutely unreal, and otherworldly," he said. "I couldn't have a higher opinion of him. And, that being said, he can still get so much better, even so."

The 29-year-old Harden, meanwhile, is in his prime and continues to be the most devastating offensive player in the NBA.

He led the NBA by averaging 36.1 points per game, 8.1 more points than the runner-up, OKC's George. It was the most points per game in a season since Michael Jordan (37.0) in 1986-87 and the seventh-highest mark in NBA history.

He was also seventh in assists per game (7.5) and led the league with 378 made three-pointers, the second most in NBA history. His 30.62 PER was second in the NBA behind only the Greek Freak. 

And, frankly, opposing players, scouts and coaches found him essentially unguardable.

"You can't guard him. You can't," an Eastern Conference scout told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. "You just hope that he misses shots and then the other guys will not beat you. He's going to do what he's going to do. You just hope he misses shots."

"I haven't seen someone that unstoppable in a while," a Western Conference scout added. "It's the way that he navigates in the lane, the way he handles the ball, he shot the ball from almost half court sometimes. He does so many things offensively that you just cannot prepare for."

Even Dwyane Wade admired Harden's play this year.

"He's definitely one of the most unguardable players this game has ever seen," Wade said in February, per Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle.

George, 29, was excellent in the 2018-19 season, averaging 28 points (second in the NBA), 8.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He also remained one of the league's better perimeter defenders, smothering opposing wings while asserting himself as an elite two-way player.

He was also a finalist for Defensive Player of the year, though Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert won the award.

In the end, Antetokounmpo's well-rounded game—and likely Milwaukee's success in the regular season—gave him the edge over Harden and George. But in most years, Harden would have been the obvious choice.


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