Giannis MVP Front-Runner over LeBron James, Luka Doncic in ESPN Media Straw Poll

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was selected as the early front-runner for the 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player Award in an ESPN media straw poll released Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo, the league's reigning MVP, received 48 of the 101 first-place votes and 803 total points in the voting. He was followed by the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (651 points), Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic (569) and Houston Rockets' James Harden (444).

No other player earned more than 52 voting points.

Antetokounmpo's continued dominance has been a bit overshadowed in the season's early weeks with James leading the Lakers' resurgence and Doncic's breakthrough as a legitimate MVP contender.

The 24-year-old Greek Freak is on pace to have a statistically superior season than he did last year with averages of 30.8 points, 13.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists while shooting 56.5 percent from the field in 21 games. The only concern is free-throw shooting, as he's dropped from 72.9 percent last season to 58.4 percent.

He's also led the Bucks to a 18-3 record, tied with the Lakers for the best mark in the NBA, on the strength of an active 12-game winning streak.

"I watch and listen to him lead his guys," New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale told reporters after Monday's loss to Milwaukee. "He's just impressive. The league is in good hands, I know that, when you've got a guy like that at the top."

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Although it's still early in the season, the ESPN straw poll suggests it's already a four-player race for the MVP barring truly spectacular play from someone else moving forward.

Doncic could emerge as the biggest threat as the unquestioned go-to player in Dallas with a league-high seven triple-doubles already under his belt. James has Anthony Davis at his side, while Harden is flanked by Russell Westbrook in Houston.

That said, Giannis is the player to beat by all accounts with about 75 percent of the season to play.

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