James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George Named 2018-19 NBA MVP Finalists

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2019

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo tries to drive past Houston Rockets' James Harden during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

The NBA announced that Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George as the finalists for the 2018-19 NBA MVP award on Friday.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the NBA's best team during the regular season, as he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game for the 60-22 Bucks.

The 24-year-old also shot a career-best 57.8 percent from the field and helped lead Milwaukee to the NBA's best defensive ranking. The Greek Freak was additionally named a finalist for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

If he wins the award, Antetokounmpo will join Dirk Nowitzki as the second player born in Europe to be named NBA MVP.

Harden, the reigning NBA MVP, led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season with 36.1 points per game while averaging 7.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals.

Despite being a high-volume shooter, Harden remained efficient by making 44.2 percent of his attempts from the field and 36.8 percent from long range. He also helped keep the Rockets afloat while Chris Paul and Clint Capela were injured.

If Harden is named MVP, he will join Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James and Stephen Curry as the only players in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards.

While the MVP race is considered a two-horse race between Giannis and Harden, there is no denying that George had a fantastic season as well.

In his second season with the Thunder, PG-13 set career highs in points (28.0), rebounds (8.2) and steals (league-best 2.2) per game and nearly set a new high in assists (4.1). He shot 43.8 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three, and his 3.8 treys per contest represented a career best as well.

Like Giannis, George was also named a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Perhaps most impressively, George managed to stand out while playing alongside a ball-dominant teammate in 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.

Although the NBA MVP award technically only takes the regular season into account, the fact that OKC was eliminated in the first round for the second consecutive year could weigh heavily on the voters.

Meanwhile, Harden and the Rockets reached the second round, while Giannis and the Bucks are in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Several other players could make a case for being included as the third finalist, such as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.

The winner of the 2018-19 MVP award will be announced at the NBA Awards show, which will air June 24 on TNT.

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