* Thursday on TNT: Lakers vs. Bucks (8 ET)
Reigning Kia MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to improve during his seventh season in the league. He's averaging career highs for points (31.7) and rebounds (12.8) to go along with 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks in just 31.2 minutes per night.
For a player like Giannis at age 25, he's expected to continue to develop his game as he enters the prime of his career. But for his opponent on Thursday night, a career-best season is less than expected.
LeBron James will turn 35 on Dec. 30, but that hasn't slowed him down during his 17th season in the league. The four-time NBA MVP is averaging a career-high 10.6 assists this season as the leader of the Lakers' top-5 offense. In addition, he's shooting a career-high 6.2 3-pointers per game to go with 25.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
The evolution of LeBron's dominance is one of the most impressive feats in NBA history. And it's something Giannis hopes to emulate during his career.
"For me, that's one of my goals ... to be able to play at a high level for the next 10 years," Giannis said after shootaround on Wednesday. "But [LeBron's] about to turn 35 this month and he's moving like that, playing like that, playing smart ... it's insane what he's able to do.
"But he's LeBron James, you know. He's different, he's an alien, so ... you expect it from him."
The Lakers and Bucks are tied for the NBA's best record at 24-4. The matchup on Thursday will provide an opportunity for one of these title contenders to earn a statement victory before the new year.
"The Lakers are one of the best teams in the league," Antetokounmpo said on Wednesday. "It's going to be a test for us. [...] But as long as we have the mindset to get better, we will be fine."
The action in Milwaukee will tip off with a special hour-long pregame show on TNT at 7 ET. The game will be followed by Clippers-Rockets at 10:30 ET, which features its own set of Kia MVP candidates in James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.