Based on a sample of attitudes on the subject during the All-Star weekend, there is a chance that the next most valuable player's race can turn into a war of the culture of the basketball.
Just to be clear, there is no resentment. Everyone, especially the more than twelve players polled about this, agrees that James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks have brilliant seasons – with many nods to Paul George, who has made a leap unexpected in sophomore with Oklahoma City Thunder. It's not because someone can favor each other over the other.
But there is a divisive current that seems to be centered on the nature of Harden's achievements.
The media seem fascinated by the incredible avalanche of harden scores and have covered it as such, detailing its rises in sets of 30 points and creating a continuation of what would have seemed to be an untouchable Wilt record Chamberlain a few months ago. That's why Harden is Vegas's favorite to repeat as an MVP.
Brian Windhorst and Andrew Han travel to Charlotte for an all-star action packed weekend. Listen now!
While players recognize Harden's mastery, some are shocked by the style: both the way the Rockets play and the way Harden uses his rules to the advantage. The application of the rules of freedom of movement and the easing of travel requirements make his step back – and to be clear, most of the time, he performs the devastating blow in the rules – helped to supercharge the season of Harden in a way that can irritate his opponents.
"Guys can say that he's moving away with trips on the back-to-back or that he's throwing his body into faults, but honestly, a lot of us s & # 39; Come out with stuff like this, "said a star player who wanted to remain anonymous. because he did not want to woo the controversy.
"I'm just talking to myself and I do not know what others are feeling, but what he's doing does not always lie in team basketball." If you look at how Giannis plays, it's rather the way I was raised in the game. Just my opinion, "he said.
On the basis of certainly unscientific conversations, many players agree. Earlier this season, Harden scored 304 straight points unassisted. This trend has been followed with fear by fans and the media. For some players, however, this created a reversal effect because it represented the opposite of team play.
The counterpoint Harden is simple. Harden felt that he was doing what was needed to keep the Rockets afloat in the highly competitive Western Conference.
He was reminiscent of the finals of the 2015 NBA when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were missing from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and LeBron James was forced to dominate the ball and score. James was almost the first-ever MVP in the losing team's final since Jerry West in 1969, but Andre Iguodala dismissed him in the vote.
"We played exactly the same way last year and almost reached the finals," said Harden, defending the Rockets' style this season. "I do not even care about points, I just try to win.
"We had a great first half of the season, I just did everything I could to keep my head out of the water, I had double teams and triple teams and I was doing it. what was needed. "
Harden is widely rewarded by the media, who hold the votes for the official prize. He is now in 31 consecutive games with 30 points or more, which ties Chamberlain to the second longest streak of all time. He averages 41.5 points during the race and the Rockets are 21-10.
In a win last month at Golden State, his electrifying 3 points between Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to finish a match of 44 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, was a defining moment for the most useful player. So many times the MVP winner is helped by a great story that forms during the season, and this season, Harden has it absolutely.
Maybe that's right. Two years ago, Harden had a solid case of MVP, but Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal tale: the first player to have earned an average triple-double on average since Oscar Robertson during a Kevin Durant revenge tour. Westbrook had three times more votes than Harden, who finished second.
Harden's play, Harden's story and Harden's highlights fit for him.
But as with Westbrook, who has been accused of continuing the triple doubles, Harden is fighting against the purists. These people seem to prefer Antetokounmpo, who plays a more classical, team-centered style, which highlights the brutal strength of the old school, which consists of going after the effectiveness of the new school, like the 3 points. and free throws.
Antetokounmpo is also a terror at the end of the defense. Harden is not, although he has become a defensive game maker and he is third in the league in number of robberies per game. And it's important to note that the Bucks have the best record in the league at 43-14.
"Who is the most valuable player? He sets the tone for our entire organization, our work ethic, our everyday approach," said Mike Budenholzer, Bucks coach, biased, but attentive. "You can talk about stats and Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O. Neal, but when you changed an entire organization, changed the way people show up to work every day and set the tone," he said. is a value for me.
"I think he's the most valuable player in our league, he's changed things in Milwaukee, he's improved them, we're one of the best teams thanks to Giannis."
If we are honest, if the vote was taken today, Harden wins over Antetokounmpo, and it is probably not so close. Of course, there is still about a third of the season to play. But in the coming weeks, as this topic is really warming up and influential voices are asked to comment on it, the answers could be revealing. There is no good or bad answer in itself. Fostering one is not an insult to the other, although it is a point that can often be overlooked.
In the end, it is healthy for the NBA if the MVP race is competitive. Having a variety of opinions and styles animates the conversation and makes the victory all the more honorable. If it was not questionable and people did not care, it would not be fun.
This season, the race could be a little spicier than usual.
Brian Windhorst divides what should be a very exciting thrust in the playoffs after the All-Star break.
ADAM SILVER IS A FAN international football. Over the last five years, he has applied several of the world's most popular and profitable sport concepts. Jersey's commercials, the embracing of games of chance and the idea of mid-season tournaments are all money claims that have come in some form of football.
While being pressed by the All-Star Weekend on how to handle tanking, Silver introduced another football concept: relegation.
"People who are aware of how other leagues work, you now understand why there is relegation," Silver said Saturday. "Because you pay a huge price if you are not competitive, I think that again, for the league and for our teams, the challenge is to know if we can put in place an even better system. "
Relegation is a system in which teams down at the end of the season are downgraded, mostly in the minor leagues. And every year, the best teams of the minor leagues are promoted in the best league. Clearly, it eliminates the tanks and creates a double drama at the end of the season: the race at the top and the race to get out of the bottom.
Now, let's be clear: the money is do not suggesting that billions of NBA teams could go to the G League. However, there are other ways to "relegate" the teams in addition to dropping them into a division. And that's what Silver could refer to by saying that the league must "come up with a better system."
Commissioner Adam Silver discussed falsification, trade and other demands in Charlotte. What does all this mean for the future of the league?
Who will emerge in the Eastern Conference? Will LeBron and the Lakers play in the playoffs? Is James Harden an MVP lock? These are just some of the questions that will have to be answered in the next seven weeks.
In the past, anti-tanking measures involved playing with lottery probabilities. The league has changed the odds six times, tinkering to try to do things right. This year, there is a new formula, with the lowest ratings flattened (the three worst teams in the league will each have a 14% chance at first choice) to try to deter armor. First returns do not show instant effect. Just look at the rankings.
In the future, there may be another way to discourage tanks. When you want results in the NBA, always opt for money – for example, reducing the payment teams at the bottom of the league's income pool scale, or perhaps temporarily reducing the exceptions of the league. cap on the salary or salary space of the team.
There is a precedent for that. The luxury tax teams have a different set of rules than the teams. As a result, teams must decide whether to cross the line or not. A similar dilemma could be created for tankers.
At the moment, the teams that shoot for the worst records are "rewarded" with better chances of drafting. The "penalty" is a bunch of defeats and miserable fans. This does not seem to bother some franchises.
THE BEST RIVALRY OF THE BUDDING LEAGUE could be between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. They played in a series of seven games last spring and played two games in Boston this season. In the current support configuration, it is a possible match in the second round playoffs.
They play only three times and their last game of the regular season will be Thursday in Milwaukee. The first two games showed interesting strategies.
Brad Stevens chose to play Antetokounmpo mainly directly and not to allow teammates to enjoy the benefits of double teams. He averages 32 points but only 3.5 assists against Boston this season.
Budenholzer dared the Celtics to shoot from the outside. Boston had an average of 44.5 attempts of 3 in both games, 24 of 55 versus 55 in a 1 November win and 10 of 34 in a December 21 defeat.
What philosophy wins this time?