Bucks Lead

MVP Prediction #1: Giannis Antetokounmpo

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The 2017-18 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player will be Giannis Antetokounmpo.  Let me tell you why…

Giannis has improved in almost every statistical category in each of his four seasons in the league.  If this trend continues, and I fully expect it to, he will be improving upon 22.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, and 5.4 apg from last season.  I think 25-26 points, along with 9-10 rebounds, and 6+ assists per game is very possible.  The Greek Freak is a strong candidate to finish second in total triple doubles, behind last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook.

In terms of value added to his team, very few players in the league will come close to Antetokounmpo’s this season.  Giannis is everything for the Bucks.  He is their leading scorer, their most versatile defender, and their primary playmaker.  His impact on the game for his team is comparable only to a guy like LeBron James.  

Not only has Giannis increased his traditional box score stats year after year, he’s also improved his advanced analytical stats. Giannis more than doubled his previous year’s Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) and Box Plus/Minus (BPM), both Defensive BPM and Offensive BPM.  As well as seeing a massive leap in Win Shares, both offensive and defensive.  All of this contributed to Antetokounmpo being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season.  

Since the NBA began awarding the Most Improved Player in 1985, no winner has ever went on to win MVP.  The closest was Tracy McGrady, who won MIP in 2000-01, and finished 4th in MVP the following season.  Giannis has a legitimate chance to finish higher than that, and I believe he will be a finalist for MVP at the NBA’s second annual Awards Show.

I think Milwaukee probably needs to win 50 games, and finish with a top 3 or 4 seed, in order for Giannis to win MVP.   The Bucks are a darkhorse to advance to the NBA Finals out of the East this year.  They haven’t been in the spotlight this offseason, but the underdog role suits this team, and this franchise. Most of the players here are used to being slept on, as are the fans.  Maybe none have a bigger chip on their shoulder than Giannis.  

Much like another prime candidate for MVP this season, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis was underrated entering the draft, and slipped to the middle of the first round.  Rarely does a once in a generation superstar fall out of the lottery – but both Leonard and Antetokounmpo did just that.  Neither were expected to be as great as they are, but hard work pays off.  And that is why I expect Antetokounmpo to be right in the middle of the MVP discussion all season.  

The day his father passed away, he hit the gym.  And this came as a surprise to nobody within the organization.  Basketball is everything to Giannis.  The gym is his sanctuary.  After a good game, he works out.  After a bad game, he works out more.  He often re-enacts plays from the game that he felt could have gone better.  He replays shots in his mind, and reps those shots to the point of exhaustion.  

Every season, Giannis has gotten bigger and stronger.  The Bucks strength and conditioning program has worked wonders with the once rail-thin teen out of Greece.  But this speaks more to Antetokounmpo’s commitment than anything else.  

I mentioned before some similarities between Giannis and Kawhi, but there’s even more than just that.  Like Leonard, Giannis is incredibly humble for an NBA superstar.

You might not expect a man with a $100 million contract to remain so grounded.  But credit Antetokounmpo’s modest upbringing and strong family bonds for his humble demeanor.  He isn’t flashy, doesn’t believe in throwing money around just because he can.  He just works.  He knows nothing is promised in this game, or in life.  

One of my favorite Giannis “Coming to America” stories is how shellshocked he was as a rookie to see teammates who would buy a new PS4 or Xbox for every road trip.  While Giannis was collecting every penny he could to save for his family, and his future.  The kid who once sold pencils on the streets of Athens doesn’t know how to live a life of excess, he just knows how to work.

Maybe I’m biased, as a lifelong Bucks fan, but I don’t think that’s what this is, not entirely anyway.  Everything about Giannis points to his consistent improvement continuing into this season, and beyond.  It’s amazing that he’s still just 22 years old.  If he doesn’t end up as a finalist for MVP this season, I’d be surprised.  But if not this year, he will be soon.  

There is no denying that the Greek Freak is a top 10 player in this league, both by skill level and impact.  He is undoubtedly the face of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise, and soon to be the face of the league.  

About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks’ supporter

I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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