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MVP Race By The Numbers: Giannis Over Harden

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MVP Race By The Numbers: Giannis Over Harden

Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through Apr. 1:
23-24-1 ATS, 0-4 ML (minus-9.35 units), 32-18 Totals

And then there were two. The NBA Most Valuable Player race has just about wrapped up, and unlike other years, the media hasn’t already revealed the winner ahead of time – not through leakage, but through their constant debates in public. The MVP award is voted on by a panel of broadcasters and sports writers, and of course, they’ve made it part of their paying job to shout at each other over who should win.

This year, they’re still shouting about two people: Giannis Antetokounmpo, and reigning MVP James Harden. But with just a handful of games left to go in the 2018-19 regular season, it looks like Antetokounmpo has taken a firm lead. The NBA odds at BetOnline have the Milwaukee Bucks superstar-in-waiting as the –200 favorite at press time, with Harden trailing at +150. Should we jump on board while there’s still time?

A Little Help Here

Heck yes. We’d normally be a little more wary of fading Harden for our NBA picks; he’s one of the league’s most visible figures playing for the Houston Rockets, and arguably the NBA’s best offensive player. But now that Antetokounmpo has opened a significant gap on Harden, we need to get in before that gap widens even further.

That’s assuming the numbers support our cause. Let’s look at our favorite advanced stats, which will help us understand and compare the performance levels of these two gentlemen:

  • Antetokounmpo: plus-10.6 BPM (plus-5.6 OBPM, plus-5.2 DBPM), plus-7.3 VORP, 30.6 PER, 0.291 WS/48
  • Harden: plus-11.7 BPM (plus-10.6 OBPM, plus-1.1 DBPM), plus-9.3 VORP, 30.4 PER, 0.247 WS/48

Well, that’s a mixed bag. Antetokounmpo is the better two-way player by a wide margin, but Harden’s offensive impact appears to make up for it – until you get to the Win Shares per 48 minutes. The Bucks have the best record in the league, which means they have the most Win Shares to go around, and even though Antetokounmpo is surrounded by quality players, he takes a much larger slice of his team’s pie than Harden. Here are the Top 3 rotation players in WS/48 for each team:

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Antetokounmpo: 0.291
  • Malcolm Brogdon: 0.175
  • Eric Bledsoe: 0.171

Houston Rockets

  • Harden: 0.247
  • Clint Capela: 0.221
  • Kenneth Faried: 0.202

Yes, Kenneth Faried, which is a bit of a surprise – but if you don’t want to include role players, Chris Paul is next for Houston at 0.161 WS/48. Here’s the point: Harden is not the be-all and end-all of the Rockets. I doubt the voters will be swayed on the whole by advanced stats, but they’re likely to perceive Antetokounmpo as being more central to Milwaukee’s success, and that’s a big part of what being Most Valuable is all about. Winning eight more games than Houston heading into Monday’s action helps, too. Bet accordingly, and remember: You da real MVP.