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Milwaukee Bucks

NBA MVP Power Rankings: Has Giannis Antetokounmpo clinched the award?

Can anybody catch Giannis Antetokounmpo?
Can anybody catch Giannis Antetokounmpo? (Getty Images)

The last time we updated the NBA MVP Power Rankings two weeks ago, we outlined the path to actually winning it for each of the top five contenders.

Some were more far-fetched than others, but with six weeks left in the season there was still time for a considerable late push both in terms of player performance and narrative.

Things are a bit more clear now and while the MVP race is certainly far from over, Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged as the consensus front runner according to our Global NBA.com staff of writers and editors who voted this week.

All five of us had Giannis Antetokounmpo taking home the hardware.

5. Stephen Curry

Key Stats: 28.3 PPG, 5.2 Made 3-pt FG PG

If the Golden State Warriors finish with the best record in the Western Conference, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which either Curry or Kevin Durant doesn't finish inside the top five in MVP voting.

Both of them received fifth-place votes from our weekly panel of voters and it's truly difficult to separae the two.

Curry's case is oddly helped by the fact that he missed 11 games during which the Warriors went just 5-6. He's averaging the most made 3s per game of his career and for a spell was flirting with another 50-40-90 season.

Durant has been Golden State's Mr. Consistent, appearing in all but one game in a season in which Curry, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins and most recently Klay Thompson have all missed time for extended stretches. One of the classic cases that Curry supporters have used when favouring him over Durant the last two seasons has actually flipped into Durant's favour in 2018-19.

The Warriors have been much better with Durant on the floor without Curry than they have been in minutes played by Curry without Durant, during which time they've actually been outscored.

Of course, with both of them on the floor, the Warriors have performed like a juggernaut and as such, remain the prohibitive favourite to win a third straight title.

4. Paul George

Key Stats: 28.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.3 Steals PG

The loss in Denver on February 27 hurt George's MVP candidacy. Not only did it drop the Thunder to four games back of the Nuggets for second in the West, it also dropped them to 0-3 in the season series.

For as much chatter as there's been about George nudging his way into the conversation with Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden - rightfully so given the season George has turned in - it's hard to picture him seriously contending when there's yet another MVP contender looking down on him in th Western Conference standings that's also dominated head-to-head.

MORE: Paul George comes up big in hotly contested overtime classic

Team success plays a large part in the MVP discussion and it's a factor dampened by Oklahoma City's brutal finish to the regular season. OKC has the fifth-hardest remaining schedule and is a reason why the Thunder have a greater chance of finishing with the 5-seed or 6-seed than they do of a top-4 seed.

George simply won't win the MVP unless the the Thunder finish in at least the top three, something they now have less than a 20 percent chance of doing.

3. Nikola Jokic

Key Stats: 20.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 7.7 APG, played in 63 of 64 games

As LeBron James's team fades further out of playoff contention, it should only make Jokic's efforts with the Denver Nuggets all the more impressive.

Like James, he's the only All-Star on the roster.

Like James, his team has been dealt with a multitude of injuries.

Unlike James, the Nuggets will be in the playoffs and are a threat to make some serious noise. Jokic doesn't look like your typical MVP nor does he score like your typical MVP. In some ways, his MVP candidacy looks similar to that of Steve Nash in 2005-06.

Nash wasn't a volume scorer, but instead the engine that made it all tick. A cerebral playmaker with defensive shortcomings, Nash led the Phoenix Suns to the second-best record in the Western Conference, finishing ahead of another playoff-bound team in the West led by a high-scoring two guard in the midst of a historic season.

Except that Nash had Shawn Marion, an All-Star in his prime (Amar'e Stoudemire only played three games that season).

Jokic has... Jamal Murray? 34-year old Paul Millsap?

If you're hung up on the question "we can't really give the MVP to the Joker, right?!?!?!" just know that this is a movie we've already seen.

2. James Harden

Key Stats: 36.7 PPG (8.1 more than 2nd-most), 37.5 Mins PG

The case for Harden is the same as it's been since lighting up the scoreboard in January.

He keeps pumping in points and the Rockets keep on winning. Since Chris Paul returned to the lineup on January 28, Harden has averaged 37.9 points per game to dispel the notion that his scoring would fall off or at least come back down into Earth's orbit with the return of his backcourt running mate.

The area where you could argue Harden's case has improved is in the one area that perhaps matters most: the wins column.

Houston is now squarely in the mix for the 3 seed with Portland and Oklahoma City and with the easiest schedule remaining, has a very good chance of finishing top-3 in the West. It's also what helps separate Harden's case from that of Russell Westbrook in 2016-17, another voluminous and prolific stat-based campaign that prevailed despite a sixth-place finish in the West.

That Harden's assault on the record books is accompanied by a run further up the ladder helps his cause. Since December 12, only the Milwaukee Bucks have a better record than Harden's Rockets.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Key Stats: 27.1 PPG, 17.6 Paint PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 APG

Friday served as a prime example of why Giannis Antetokounmpo is the front runner to win this award.

Against the pesky Indiana Pacers, the Greek Freak finished 29 points, 12 rebounds and five assists while leading the Bucks to yet another impressive win against a good team. Thanks in part to Harden, we live in a world where 29-12-5 against a playoff team can even feel at times pedestrian.

That's the thing with Antetokounmpo. He doesn't really have a list of signature games or a series of banner moments to hang his MVP hat on. The Bucks routinely take care of business and he routinely delivers in that sweet spot of 29-12-like performances he turned in against Indiana.

And for as unique as he is, Antetokounmpo's game isn't necessarily loud. He's not a nightly threat for 50 and he's not your typical "give me the ball and get ouf the way" hero ball alpha.

It's not that he's simply leading Milwaukee to the league's best record while dump trucking the league's bottom feeders. It's that he's consistently winning as the best player on the floor against legitimately good teams. Over the last 25 years, only four teams - 1995-96 Bulls, 2014-15 Warriors, 2015-16 Warriors and 2016-17 Warriors - have been better against teams that ultimately finished .500 or better. Those teams were loaded. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and eventually Kevin Durant.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez, very good players for sure, but nothing approaching the Hall of Fame level talent of those aforementioned superteams.

Three of the last four MVP winners have come from the team which finished with the NBA's best record. The exception? Russell Westbrook when he averaged a triple-double in 2016-17 while Curry and Durant split votes for a stacked Warriors team that was likely never going to be rewarded with an MVP given the circumstances.

Antetokounmpo is leading a team that certainly can't be described as stacked to the best record in the league and it's at the heart of why he's pulling away in the MVP discussion.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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