The MVP race is over and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the heavy favorite to retain his title. His coach, Mike Budenholzer, thinks Antetokounmpo deserves it.
The NBA alerted teams Friday that for the purposes of the end-of-season awards — MVP, Rookie of the Year, All-NBA Teams, etc. — no games after the season was shut down March 11 will be considered. That’s to keep it fair for the eight teams not invited to the NBA’s restart in Orlando. Budenholzer said he was not aware of the league’s mandate but then added during his Zoom call with reporters that he believes Antetokounmpo deserves to be back-to-back MVP. Via Eric Woodyard of ESPN.
“…certainly, Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve a back-to-back MVP,” Budenholzer said. “What he does for us on both ends of the court, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culture-wise, work ethic-wise, just as a teammate. He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving, and we’ll be excited to support him.”
What else was Mike Budenholzer going to say?
That doesn’t make him wrong. Antetokounmpo averaged 29.6 points per game with a ridiculous 60.8 true shooting percentage, plus he averaged 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. However, what really separates Antetokounmpo from LeBron James, James Harden and every other elite offensive player in the league is the other end of the court — the Greek Freak has been a Defensive Player of the Year caliber player. He has lifted his team to the best record in the league with his play on both ends.
Laker fans will argue that when LeBron is on the floor the team has a +10.3 net rating but play below .500 ball when he sits (-1.4), so the Lakers are +11.7 with LeBron on the floor. That LeBron is doing that at 35 is insane. However, the Bucks are +12 when Antetokounmpo is on the court, and I’m not going to punish him because his team can play decently when he sits.
If there had been no shutdown of the season and Antetokounmpo missed a couple of weeks with a tweaked knee while LeBron tore up the league, would things have been different? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know. What we do know is based on the games up to March 11 Budenholzer is right, Giannis Antetokounmpo earned his second MVP.
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