The NBA season reaches its quarter pole this week, and a new world order has begun to establish itself. The Golden State Warriors are no longer juggernauts. The Los Angeles Lakers might be. The Zion Williamson era … is on hold.
But amid all the tumult that has defined the 2019-20 season so far, there remains at least one constant: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season’s Most Valuable Player is the early favorite to win the award for a second straight year.
ESPN asked 101 media members to participate in an informal straw poll of where the league’s MVP race stands as the season moves into its second quarter. It was Antetokounmpo who stood above the rest. The Milwaukee Bucks forward received 48 first-place votes and was the only player to appear on all 101 ballots.
To make the balloting process as realistic as possible, ESPN sought to both balance the voting pool and have it conform to the way the league goes about it in mid-April, at the conclusion of the regular season. The pool of media members consisted of at least two people from each of the league’s 28 markets, as well as national and international reporters. In the official vote, the NBA polls 100 media members and gives another vote to fans. Each of our voters put five players on their ballot, with players receiving five points for a first-place vote and one point for a fifth-place vote, just like the NBA’s system.
Antetokounmpo is once again putting up absurd numbers. He ranks in the top five in points (30.8) and rebounds (13.4), is averaging a career-high 5.8 assists and has a player efficiency rating well north of 30. In a typical season, that kind of statistical profile would leave him with little to no competition for the award.
But this isn’t shaping up to be a typical season.
James (29 first-place votes, 651 points, named on 100 ballots), Doncic (14 first-place votes, 569 points, 99 ballots) and Harden (nine first-place votes, 444 points, 97 ballots) have produced the individual achievements and team successes that could make any of them favorites in another season. As it is, that trio, along with Antetokounmpo, has separated itself from the rest of the pack in the eyes of potential voters.