LBJ not likely to pass Giannis for MVP

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was a 1-20 favorite to win the NBA’s MVP per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook prior to last week. LeBron James was 10-1.

The Chosen One has definitely narrowed the gap.

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What I’m supposed to do in this column is tell you about hopping on James while the getting is still good since the Lakers are set to win the Western Conference in a manner no one expected them to.

James emerged victorious in games against the Bucks and Clippers over the weekend in contests that everyone watched. He dominated in the second half of both games and provided an MVP moment by finishing a game-clinching and-1 that you likely saw over and over again on the highlight shows.

Suddenly, his odds plummeted. James rightfully became the ‘it’ guy. The only thing to do is to throw money at him. Value beckons.

Here’s why you should be reading this. On Tuesday, James was considered a game-time decision due to his groin issue. There’s no question that’s a lingering problem. Yet it doesn’t appear to affect him that much.

Take the weekend’s results as evidence. While he said in December that he wouldn’t skip games, he also just said that he won’t play if there are no fans in the stands due to the coronavirus scare.

It’s going to be difficult to win an MVP if you don’t play. Antetokounmpo is not going to lead a team to 70 wins and is also now dealing with a knee injury that the Bucks will have to be judicious with.

There is a window opening. By no means am I telling you to lay astronomical odds on Antetokounmpo. I’m not writing for the one billionaire that might be reading this column, though that person should find a way to contact me directly.

The NBA MVP is voted on by media. I voted for Dirk Nowitzki the year he won. It’s not that complicated. You have to look at what went down during the regular season and make a decision. Antetokounmpo’s Bucks are going to finish with the league’s best record. Have you seen his numbers? Go look them up.

James has been tremendous. He has led the Lakers in a way that deserves merit given what the organization has gone through. Can you believe people wanted to make a big deal that you couldn’t see him grieve at Kobe Bryant’s memorial service?

It has been a difficult year in L.A., and the fact the Clippers and Lakers are going to likely meet in the Western Conference Finals is going to shed light on it more than ever. Neither Kawhi Leonard or Paul George has played enough basketball to capture the imaginations of people the way James has in his 17th season. That’s remarkable.

And yet, there’s still a reason Antetokounmpo has been such a heavy favorite in this MVP race over the past few months. There’s no reason to think that will evaporate over the final few weeks when James is likely to take time off and the Bucks are set to coast to the No. 1 seed in the East.

The Greek Freak’s absence led to two losses over the weekend. Do you know how many times Milwaukee has lost three consecutive games? It hadn’t happened this season. It hadn’t happened since February of 2018. The Bucks don’t lose. Giannis  is the league’s best player.

Will sentimentality play out in a position where voters are human? I believe it will. You can’t back Giannis now. There’s no value in it. If you’re already in and got in on advice you saw earlier this season, you won’t lose. If you’re thinking about backing James for value’s sake, this is me telling you not to. The gap is insurmountable.

Saturday

Grizzlies at Jazz: As far as this week’s picks go, we’ll ride underdogs in a theme you’ll see for the remainder of the regular season. We’re going to see teams that are secure with their seedings ride with load maintenance. We’re going to see teams that are done experimenting and find some positive results.

We’ll start with the Grizzlies getting points against the Jazz. Ja Morant has really turned it up after a lull and will be the Rookie of the Year. Expect a solid performance in Salt Lake City to solidify that. The Jazz have been dreadful at home since the All-Star break. GRIZZLIES

Monday

Heat at Bucks: Even with Antetokounmpo in the mix, Bam Adebayo is worth backing as a Giannis-stopper. More to come. Take the points here. HEAT

Warriors at Raptors: People don’t know how much Steph Curry loves facing Toronto. Just watch. WARRIORS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 29-24-1

About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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