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NBA players have chosen.
James Harden is the MVP.
Sam Amick of The Athletic published the opinion of 122 NBA players, 44.3 percent of whom believe Harden should take home his second straight MVP:
1. James Harden (44.3 percent)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (38.9 percent)
3. Paul George (12.7 percent)
4. Joel Embiid (1.7 percent)
Of course, we will get a larger sample this summer when the NBPA hands out the Players Voice Awards. Harden won the MVP from both the media and players last year. He and Antetokounmpo are the favorites to take home the honors for 2018-19, with voting likely being drawn down ideological lines.
Antetokounmpo is deserving and perhaps the more traditional choice, given the fact that he’s led the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA’s best record while putting up historic numbers. He’s on pace to become the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to average 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists per game. Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor are the only other players to pull off the feat.
Antetokounmpo is also a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, something Harden cannot say. Basketball Reference’s MVP tracker has Giannis as the favorite to win, while all of Bleacher Report’s NBA staff selected Antetokounmpo over Harden.
Harden, however, is putting up one of the greatest scoring displays in modern history and single-handedly saved the Rockets season. His 36.09 points per game are the seventh-most in NBA history and second most by a player not named Wilt Chamberlain. Michael Jordan’s 37.09 points per game in 1986-87 are the most by a guard in NBA history.
It’s clear, based on these players’ votes, that they value Harden’s historic scoring slightly over Giannis’ more well-rounded game.