MVP

by Alex Boeder
Bucks.com Writer

When a player comes along and scores more per minute than Kevin Durant or or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Shaquille O’Neal ever has in a season, it is tough to look in any other direction.

And when that same guy is getting those points about as efficiently as anyone in league history, it is tough to miss it.

People are though.

Giannis is averaging better than 30 points per 36 minutes this season, something neither Durant nor Kareem nor Shaq has ever done. He is one of just 12 players in league history to hit that mark. Of them, Giannis this season ranks as the second-most efficient by two metrics (eFG% and TS%), behind only Steph Curry in his supernova 73-win campaign.

There are a few reasons why his historically-elite scoring numbers are not getting a ton of attention.

For one, and this is fair, James Harden is doing the scoring thing even crazier. He is up above 36 per night, an almost unfathomable number that has only been reached by Wilt and MJ. Harden led the league in scoring last season, and he has increased his points per game by six this season. It is absurd.

And while Harden is shooting well below league average from the field (.439), all in all his scoring has been very efficient, thanks to an unprecedented combination of three-pointers (he has made more this season than Giannis has in his career) and free throws. Harden has been not only the most prolific scorer this season, he has been the most incredible scorer in decades.

Second, scoring in bulk is not really the thing that stands out about Giannis. He just scored 50+ for the first time in his career the other night, nearly 500 games into his career. Heck, that was the first time he reached 45. Meanwhile, Harden has dropped 57+ six times in the last few months.

Then again, Giannis has never attempted more than 30 shots in a game. Harden has taken 34+ twice this week.

With Giannis, the focus is often more about his athleticism, his dunking, his aggression, his leadership, his dominance on both sides of the ball, his status as (by far) the best player on the best team in the NBA.

That brings us to a third reason why the scoring of Giannis has not been a major storyline. The Bucks have been so dominant with Giannis on the court this season that they have coasted to far more wins than any other team in the league. Their 42 double-digit victories are 13 more than any other team.

In part due to all of those easy wins, Giannis is only averaging 32.9 minutes, by far his lowest number of the last four years. He ranks 46th in the league in minutes played. (Harden ranks second.) And because of that, his per game scoring numbers are very good, but not eye-popping.

Minutes should be a factor in any MVP discussion. But should Giannis be penalized for being so great in his 32.9 minutes that his team is breezing to the best record in the NBA? He is second in the league in points per minute after all.

(In case you have the wrong impression about why the Bucks are so good, they are 51–16 with Giannis and 4–3 without him this year, and that feels about right.)

Giannis might be the best offensive player in the league and the best defensive player in the league, the MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year. Harden gets the edge as a scorer, but even when it comes to scoring, Giannis is putting up one of the greatest seasons ever. As for everything else?

In early January in Houston, Harden had it going and the Bucks trailed by five at the half. In the second half, Giannis attempted no more shots than Sterling Brown or Ersan Ilyasova, but he put up 16/7/4 with zero turnovers anyway. It was a usual night, the Bucks won, it was an unusual night, Giannis had to make sure of it to almost the very end.

 

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