(ESPN) – The NBA season reaches its quarter pole this week, and a new world order has begun to establish itself. The Golden State Warriors are no longer juggernauts. The Los Angeles Lakers might be. The Zion Williamson era … is on hold.
But amid all the tumult that has defined the 2019-20 season so far, there remains at least one constant: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season’s Most Valuable Player is the early favorite to win the award for a second straight year.
ESPN asked 101 media members to participate in an informal straw poll of where the league’s MVP race stands as the season moves into its second quarter. It was Antetokounmpo who stood above the rest. The Milwaukee Bucks forward received 48 first-place votes and was the only player to appear on all 101 ballots.
To make the balloting process as realistic as possible, ESPN sought to both balance the voting pool and have it conform to the way the league goes about it in mid-April, at the conclusion of the regular season. The pool of media members consisted of at least two people from each of the league’s 28 markets, as well as national and international reporters. In the official vote, the NBA polls 100 media members and gives another vote to fans. Each of our voters put five players on their ballot, with players receiving five points for a first-place vote and one point for a fifth-place vote, just like the NBA’s system.
Giannis 1, LeBron 2, Luka 3, Harden 4.
Do I agree at this point in the season? No. That doesn’t mean I’m right. This year we have 4 legitimate MVP candidates and as the season unravels I think more guys are going to make a case for themselves, not less. As a fan, I want to put Luka at 1 because of the way he’s set the league on fire and his undeniable ascension from his rookie season, but in reality, he’s not number 1. LeBron could be 1, he could be 1 every year, and it’s unfair to punish him for acquiring Anthony Davis’ services for this years campaign, however, LeBron is playing alongside 2 all star caliber talents and a slew of other veterans who are making his life somewhat easier right now. Harden could be number 1, his true shooting % is through the roof and his nightly totals are something you’d expect Michael Jordan to do in the 60’s, but I don’t see the Rockets losing much on a nightly basis if he sits and the offense runs through Russell Westbrook. I’m not saying Russ is better, but the Rockets aren’t in no man’s land if Harden rests or has a short injury stint.
All of that brings me to why Giannis is number 1. Giannis is performing at a level that the other 3 are as well, and if you take Giannis off Milwaukee, like Luka, the team with perish. Unlike Luka, Giannis doesn’t have a real #2. I know Middleton is technically an All Star and has a ridiculously high contract, but the reality is he shows up for one team consistently and thats the Celtics. Luka has Porzingis, and while Kristaps hasn’t returned to his Knicks form yet, I believe he will.
And while none of these teams can really afford to lose any of these players, the team that has the absolute most to lose if they lose their top guy is Milwaukee so if the season ended today and if I had a vote, my vote would be for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is giving Milwaukee a reason night in and night out to live up to their name as Cream City.
Other guys to look out for to join this conversation as the season progresses: Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and dare I say…Jayson Tatum?!