Giannis Antetokounmpo: Why the 2021-22 Kia MVP Award is his to lose

MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 29 (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 29 (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Prior to the 2020-21 season, Giannis Antetokounmpo had taken home the last two NBA Kia MVP Awards for his dominant efforts with the Milwaukee Bucks.

While he had a chance to notch the award for the third consecutive time, it was always viewed as an uphill battle due to the team’s postseason shortcomings. Despite having the NBA’s best regular season record in back-to-back seasons, the Bucks ultimately flamed out against lower seeds both times and got sent home far earlier than many expected. Voter fatigue set in all throughout the 2020-21 season as Antetokounmpo was hardly even mentioned in the MVP conversation, despite putting up fantastic numbers.

Ultimately, he would not receive much mention from the voters until he finally got over the hump in the postseason, and he did just that. Antetokounmpo and the Bucks finally broke through that wall and not only made it to the NBA Finals, but they also clinched Milwaukee’s first championship in 50 years after defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games. Having won the Finals MVP after his fantastic stretch of games, Antetokounmpo is atop the world right now, and he should receive more recognition from the voters for awards next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo should be favored to win the 2021-22 Kia MVP Award with the Milwaukee Bucks

First and foremost, Antetokounmpo will need to average MVP-like numbers to find himself in the conversation once again. Considering he has averaged 28.5 points, 13 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game over the past three seasons while seemingly getting better every year, that should not be a problem for the Greek Freak. His dominance will likely carry over into the new season and he will put up gaudy numbers as always.

The second factor plays into the team’s regular season record. Unlike the two seasons where he won the MVP award, the Bucks had the third-best record in the Eastern Conference last season. That was mainly because they did not focus as persistently on the regular season and shifted their focus on getting it done in the playoffs, which worked. Still, the Bucks under Mike Budenholzer will always be a fantastic regular season team, which will bode well for Antetokounmpo’s chances in the running.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, will be the supporting cast of Antetokounmpo and other MVP candidates across the league. Two of the notable favorites at the moment are LeBron James and Kevin Durant. While they have been staples in the conversation for years, the sheer amount of talent around them might hinder their chances. James has two superstar players alongside him in Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, while Durant rounds out a lethal trio with James Harden and Kyrie Irving. History says that it can be difficult to give an MVP award to a team that has that much talent, with the 2017 and 2018 Golden State Warriors being a great example.

That is certainly not a knock on Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast, as both Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were fantastic in Milwaukee’s title run. However, neither were selected to an All-Star team last season. Although their efforts could earn them some well-deserved recognition when it comes to All-Star voting next season, it still does not match the reputation of those other teams. Both James and Davis will be playing with other former league MVPs on their roster, which will not be the case for Antetkounmpo. Although the Bucks’ trio is formidable, it does not boast as much star power when it comes to accolades.

While other candidates like Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic find themselves in the same situation as Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak seems the likeliest to take home the award. As long as the Bucks manage to put together a solid record in the regular season with Antetokounmpo at the helm, he should get much more respect in the voting than he did this past season.

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Time will tell if ANtetokounmpo can notch his third MVP award in fours season in 2021-22.