Milwaukee Bucks: Is Giannis Antetokounmpo the MVP So Far?

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 22: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 22: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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MILWAUKEE, WI – JANUARY 7: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).
MILWAUKEE, WI – JANUARY 7: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images). /

Have a career-best season

The first and, perhaps, most important thing Giannis has to do to secure his first MVP award is to have the best season of his career.

Voters want to reward players who are at the apex of their talents, not ones who have plateaued or regressed in recent years. It’s why LeBron James and Kevin Durant don’t have more MVP awards because their primes have been so good for so long that voters grow tired of voting for them.

40 games in, Giannis is having by far the best season of his still young career. Averaging 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, Giannis is setting career-highs in rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage.

He’s just 0.3 points per game below his career-high, which he set last season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he tops that over the course of the second half of the season. Importantly, he’s scoring similarly in over three minutes less per game.

The raw numbers show Giannis is having a really good season for himself, but by digging into the advanced statistics, you can see that Giannis is clearly having the best season he’s ever had so far on both sides on the ball.

On offense, Giannis is tracking for career-highs in true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, free throw rate, total rebounding percentage, assist percentage, usage percentage and offensive box plus-minus.

Giannis is on pace to smash his career-high in total dunks (his career-best is 194, he has 152 through 40 games) and dunk percentage. Despite his poor outside shooting, Giannis is dominating the paint like never before, making him one of the most efficient offensive players in the NBA today.

But it’s not just on the offensive end that Giannis has dominated. Perhaps the biggest turnaround for this Bucks team is the defense going from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.

Giannis is a major reason for the turnaround. His steals and blocks are down, but he’s found ways to impact on the defensive end without getting thefts or swats. Giannis is having his best season defensively according to defensive win shares and defensive box plus-minus.

Put these all together and you get the picture of a two-way weapon that has never been sharper in his career than Giannis has been this season. He’s on pace to smash his career-best in win shares by almost a full two wins, and his PER of 29.0 has never higher.

When Giannis is on the court, the Bucks are a full 11 points per 100 possessions better with the Greek Freak.

Now, that’s a lot of stats and we all know that stats don’t tell the whole story.

But take all the stats away and just watch Giannis and the Bucks play and it’s clear that Giannis has never been better.

After taking a little time to adjust to Budenholzer’s offense, Giannis has settled in beautifully on both ends, picking his moments when to strike on offense and when to defer to teammates.

Watching Giannis play, it’s obvious that his basketball IQ has grown by leaps and bounds. His ability to be the focal point of the offense without becoming selfish or ball-dominant is terrific.

It makes you think that Giannis was always this good of a facilitator, he just needed an actual basketball system around him to show it.

Plus, he just looks like he’s having fun. Giannis has always been one of the most joyful players in the NBA to watch, but in previous seasons you could sense his frustration as the team routinely underperformed.

Now, with the Bucks winning and Giannis leading the charge, he’s never looked happier to be playing basketball. It’s infectious for the entire team as any viewer can see the team is just having fun with one another.

All that is to say that there’s no question that Giannis is having a career-best season. First box, check.