2018-19 NBA MVP Deep Dive: Giannis, Curry and Davis Lead the Way

2018-19 NBA MVP Deep Dive: Giannis, Curry and Davis Lead the Way article feature image

Photo credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • Below, I dive deep into the 2018-19 NBA MVP race, giving notable stats, analysis and film for the top candidates this season.
  • I also conducted a poll of likely MVP voters about who they would pick right now. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 10 of 13 votes.

It’s too early to talk MVP.

It’s November; we’re not even to Christmas. Teams are still figuring out who they are. LeBron doesn’t even know whatshisface’s name yet, for crying out loud. There’s just no reason to think about it with the season less than 25% complete for most teams.


Here’s why we need to go ahead and look at MVP:

  • If you want to be accurate about the season, you need to look at things throughout the year because recency bias winds up impacting things far too much. How you perform in October and November should matter almost as much as how you perform in March and April, considering how beat up teams are by then and how often teams are tanking.
  • It helps to calibrate exactly who is under the radar and who might be getting too much credit early.
  • And of course… you can still bet on it. There’s money to be made in them thar hills.

Poll of Likely MVP Voters

I conducted a straw poll of likely MVP voters, and here were the results…

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 10 votes (76.9%)

Stephen Curry:  2 votes (15.4%)

LeBron James: 1 vote (7.7%)

Alright, let’s go through the candidates (in my order).

Jump to: Giannis Antetokounmpo | Stephen Curry | Anthony Davis | Kawhi Leonard | Kyle Lowry | LeBron James | Kemba Walker | Joel Embiid | Nikola Jokic | Blake Griffin | Honorable Mentions

(All data courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball-Reference and Synergy Sports. Betting odds courtesy of Bet365.)

Giannis Antetokounmpo

MVP odds: +260

Photo credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer

Relevant stats

  • Raw: 27.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks on 58% shooting
  • Win Shares: 3.7 (4th in the  NBA)
  • VORP: 2.0 (1st)
  • PER: 29.2 (1st)
  • Net Rating: +13.2
  • Halfcourt offense: 78th percentile
  • Pick-and-rolls: 85th percentile


Antetokounmpo is the leader in the clubhouse. The common refrain I got in my straw poll was, “I want to be original, but…” and then they took Antetokounmpo. This is more important than you’d think. It means that despite interest in being original, it has to be Giannis.

That’s a key sign. The Bucks have the team success: They’re on pace for 55 wins with the best Net Rating in the league.

(Notably, the Bucks are 8-7 in their last 15, but their last four losses are by a combined 10 points.)

So the entire formula is there, and he’s still at better than 2/1 return.

The defining case for Antetokounmpo — outside of team success — is how sheerly unstoppable he is. In almost all instances, Antetokounmpo’s lack of an outside jumper would be held against him in the strictest of terms.

But because he’s on pace for a record number of makes at the rim and has been so dominant despite that limitation, it actually works in his favor. He takes an attribute which should make him remarkably easy to solve — play off him, he can’t shoot — and he renders it meaningless. That’s pretty valuable.

Eye test

Watch Giannis just absolutely rip through these guys, often big defenders, who are left helpless. You just can’t do anything with him in transition:


Stephen Curry

MVP odds: +800

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