Why This Past Weekend Shouldn’t Determine The MVP Race
On March 6th 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 113–103 in a battle of the league’s two best teams. For some, the game was a changing of the guard in the MVP race. Many have thought Giannis Antetokounmpo was a lock for MVP all season, but after the loss on Friday some are questioning that sentiment. New momentum is shifting towards Lebron James winning another MVP trophy. It was a successful weekend for James. On Friday, he had 37 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds in the win against the Bucks. On Sunday, he had 28 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds in a win against the rival Clippers. In both televised games, James shined, which has led to the suggestion that he should be the MVP favorite.
I’m here to stop the recency bias.
Lebron James has had a stellar season. He is averaging 25.7 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 10.6 assists per game, while leading the Lakers to a 49–13 record. In most other seasons he would be the MVP favorite. Not this season however. To discredit what Antetokounmpo has done all season because of two games would be foolish. Antetokounmpo didn’t even play bad in the loss against the Lakers. He finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists. If anything, the rest of Antetokounmpo’s teammates let him down. Giannis was the only starter for the Bucks to score more than 13 points, as opposed to Lebron who had Anthony Davis available to score 30 which helped the Lakers secure the win. The MVP trophy is an 82 game award, not a 2 game award. If we want to truly judge who is most deserving of the trophy, we need to look at the entire season as a whole.
Giannis is averaging more points (29.6 to 25.7), more rebounds (13.7 to 7.8), and more blocks (1.0 to 0.5) than Lebron, while shooting better from the floor (54.7% to 49.7%). Antetokounmpo also has the highest player efficiency rating in the NBA at 31.73 (Lebron’s is 26.01). All of this while leading Milwaukee to the best record in the NBA at 53–12.
Unfortunately, when is comes to MVP races narratives and storylines play a big role. This opposed to actually giving the award to the best player. That is where all of this steam for Lebron being the MVP over Giannis is coming from. The narrative of one of the best players of all time having an MVP season in year 17, is more interesting than a back-to-back winner who is still young. Voters may view Giannis (age 25) as being able to win more trophies in the future, opposed to Lebron who doesn’t have as many years left. That however, should not be what the MVP trophy is about. Just like shifting the favorite after two games is not what the trophy should be about.
People forget that Giannis’ Bucks defeated the Lakers in December 111–104. People also forget that the Lakers had previously dropped two games to the Clippers, leaving the season series at 2–1 in favor of the Clippers.
Yet recency bias reigns supreme.
Thankfully however, the MVP vote isn’t today. Yes Lebron has had a fantastic season, but Giannis has had a better one. So did the gap in the MVP race get smaller this past weekend? Sure maybe a little, but to proclaim Lebron the frontrunner based off of two games is absurd.