Where does Giannis Antetokounmpo rank in the chase for NBA MVP? And can the Bucks star catch Denver's Nikola Jokić, the favorite to win the award?
The MVP chase in the National Basketball Association gets a lot of discussion, even at a point in the season where roughly 40% of games still need to be played.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the MVP in 2019 and 2020, remains an ever-viable candidate for the prize, though it seems Denver's Nikola Jokić, who won the past two MVP honors, probably stands as the frontrunner for a third straight, with Philadelphia's Joel Embiid in the mix.
Here's what's being written about the competition:
NBA.com: It's still Jokić and Embiid
In the aftermath of Embiid and Jokić winning their respective conference player of the month honors in January, the "Kia Race to the MVP Ladder" still has Jokić at No. 1 and Embiid at No. 2, followed by Antetokounmpo, even after his 54-point gem vs. the Clippers.
From Michael C. Wright:
"The Bucks erased a 21-point deficit for their sixth win in a row, and Antetokounmpo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are now the only players in franchise history to produce at least three 50-point performances in one season. “Man, I never thought I was going to score 50 in the NBA when I got drafted,” said Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 42.4 ppg and 15.2 rpg over his last five games."
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Giannis did leapfrog Jayson Tatum of Boston on the ladder, flip-flopping with the Celtics star as he dropped to No. 4.
The Athletic: Are we sure Giannis is out of the race?
Sam Amick had kind things to say about Antetokounmpo, even before he rattled off 54 points in the win over the Clippers. The Athletic scribe noted that Jokić received acclaim last season for lifting Denver when the Nuggets were missing star players Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., and Antetokounmpo has done something similar with Khris Middleton out.
"As for Antetokounmpo’s individual impact, we’ve clearly grown numb to the video game numbers he puts up. That’s the only explanation for the relative apathy that has surrounded his season," Amick wrote.
Amick pointed out that Antetokounmpo was averaging 32.4 points and 12.4 rebounds, both top-three marks in the league. Coupled with 5.2 assists, he's on pace for a season stat line in those three categories that only Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor have previously reached.
NBC: Jokić's numbers are 'undeniable'
Kurt Helin points out that Jokić averages a triple-double and that stats show how well he fits the definition of MVP.
"...the Nuggets are 20.2 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court this season. They win because of him, Denver gets outscored by 8.5 points per 100 when he is off the court. And we’re not going to dive into EPM, VORP and the rest of the advanced stats, just know they love Jokić like no other, too."
The Ringer: Giannis is the league's second-best player
In a comprehensive ranking of players in the NBA (not necessarily an MVP tracker), The Ringer regarded Antetokounmpo as basketball's second-best player behind Jokić (though Giannis had previously been ranked at No. 1 before the Jan. 31 update).
Kevin O'Connor writes:
"Giannis is the engine of the Bucks. He’s the piece that makes their offense go and the anchor of their elite defense. It’s been an improbable rise to become a champion and the best player in the world, but Antetokounmpo has the throne."
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What do national writers say about Giannis, Jokic in NBA MVP race?