Connect with us


James Harden vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Worst Moments Of Season

James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rockets, Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are both deserving of the MVP.

Antetokounmpo is the best player on the league’s best team. The Milwaukee Bucks star is a game-changing bellwether on both ends of the floor for an offense and defense that each rank top three in the league.

The Greek Freak is averaging 27.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game — video-game numbers made all the more impressive by a 64.4 true shooting percentage, best among the NBA’s top scorers. Still, Antetokounmpo’s mind-bending statistical profile somehow fails to convey just how unique the attributes that have propelled him to the top of the game really are. There’s never been a player like him before, and at 23 with only the nascent beginnings of a reliable perimeter jumper, Antetokounmpo is just scratching the surface of his potential.

On the other hand, Harden’s resume is simpler. Nothing makes eyes pop more easily than historic scoring numbers, and the Houston Rockets’ icon has made his case for a second consecutive Maurice Podoloff Trophy by putting up points at rates of productivity and efficiency the league has never seen before.

Harden is averaging a staggering 36.4 points per game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 61.3. Of the nine previous seasons a player has averaged at least 35.0 points per game, the highest true shooting percentage is Michael Jordan’s 56.2 back in 1986-87.

It’s not like Harden is setting nets ablaze at the expense of team success, either: the Rockets are up to third in the Western Conference, within striking distance of first. He’s also averaging a ninth-ranked 7.5 assists per game. No player in league history has played in isolation more than Harden this season, but he has managed to overcome the pitfalls of one-on-one play with efficiency and passing numbers no one thought possible.

Basically, there is no right or wrong answer between Antetokounmpo and Harden. Both are producing at all-time levels, playing styles we’ve never seen, for teams with legitimate championship hopes.

Neither player has been infallible this season despite their status as prohibitive MVP favorites, though, a reality voters must take into account when ultimately deciding between the two of them. Antetokounmpo and Harden, as dominant as they’ve been, haven’t pulled off the impossible feat of perfection.

What are the low points of each candidate voters should consider?

Antetokounmpo’s is more difficult to single out than Harden’s, as the Bucks have avoided extended streaks of losing or struggles in 2018-19. Milwaukee, amazingly, lost consecutive games for the first and only time this season in early March.

One performance that sticks out like a sore thumb for Antetokounmpo individually? His nine-point, 13-rebound, three-assist, four-turnover effort on 3-of-12 shooting in a loss to the Miami Heat on December 22nd. He has scored in double-figures and shot better than 40 percent from the floor in every other game this season, a testament to his consistency and ability to produce high-value shots at the rim at a rate not approached since Shaquille O’Neal was in his prime.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t take cherry-picking a poor single-game effort to poke holes in Harden’s MVP case. Back in early December, the league’s most burning question was whether or not Houston, 11-14, would even make the playoffs, let alone re-emerge as the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.

Harden averaged 30.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game before December 9th, with a true shooting percentage of 61.9 — objectively stellar numbers. But he nevertheless bore some measure of blame for the Rockets’ lackadaisical approach early in the season, committing 5.8 turnovers per game — compared to 4.7 in the interim — and looming as an imminently exploitable presence on defense where they ranked near the bottom of the league.

Of course, Houston’s stunning mid-season turnaround is a compelling point in Harden’s favor, one Antetokounmpo doesn’t have. Should he and his team’s incredible game-by-game reliability since the season tipped off in October really exist as a demerit, though? On the other hand, Harden willing the Rockets to a 12-5 record without Chris Paul in December and January, when many had left them for dead, is the type of narrative twist of which MVP campaigns are made.

Who will win the award? Only time will tell. When looking for reasons why Antetokounmpo and Harden shouldn’t be MVP, however, voters will mostly find themselves left searching.

The post James Harden vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Worst Moments Of Season appeared first on ClutchPoints.

More in Rockets