Nick Friedell: Wiggins -- on the Steph MVP conversation…

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To gauge where the race stands at this point in the season, ESPN asked 100 media members to participate in an informal poll that mimics the postseason awards voting. To make the balloting as realistic as possible, there are at least two voters from each of the league's 28 markets, as well as a cross-section of both national and international reporters. Like with the NBA's official vote at the end of season, voters were asked to submit a five-player ballot, and results were tabulated using the league's scoring system: 10 points for each first place vote, followed by seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.
While James currently has the inside track in his push for a fifth MVP trophy to go with what he hopes will be a fifth NBA championship this summer, garnering 54 of a possible 100 first-place votes, the race to this point in the season is as competitive as any in recent memory, with a pair of centers -- Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid and Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic -- right on his heels.
James was named on 99 of 100 ballots and finished with a total of 760 points, leading Embiid (23 first-place votes) by just 95 points. The last MVP race to have a final margin that small came in 2004-05 when Steve Nash edged Shaquille O'Neal by 34 points. Jokic was third, garnering 18 first-place votes and a total of 596 points.
Durant, after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles, finished fourth in the voting with 272 points, and appeared on 75 ballots, while Leonard (153 points, 64 ballots) finished fifth. Antetokounmpo, the two-time defending MVP, was a distant sixth, getting a handful of votes as he appears very unlikely to win a third straight time. Doncic, the preseason favorite, received only two third place votes, as his glossy statistical resume was easily overwhelmed by the Mavericks' underwhelming record.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is now the NBA MVP betting favorite or runner-up at most sportsbooks, thanks to an unexpected commitment to the regular season that has led the Lakers to the league's best record. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook was the first operator to make James the favorite, posting 4-1 odds Monday night after the 36-year-old rallied the Lakers to a comeback road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. James finished with 46 points on 19-for-26 shooting, including 7-for-11 from 3-point territory.
TJ McBride: PJ Dozier did not mince words when talking about how good Jokic has been. “He has MVP numbers every night.” Dozier also mentioned Nikola “Cookie Monster” Jokic’s dedication to to defense as a reason for his MVP case.
Brad Townsend: On @The Jump, @Luka Doncic was asked by Rachel Nichols if he thinks he can win MVP. "I think I can do it," but quickly adds that that isn't his first goal. "My first goal always is to win the championship."
Luka Doncic has separated himself from Giannis Antetokounmpo and emerged as the consensus favorite to win the NBA regular-season MVP at U.S. sportsbooks, and bettors are flocking to the Dallas Mavericks' young superstar. On Nov. 10, Doncic and Antetokounmpo opened as +550 co-favorites at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Since then, Doncic has attracted twice as many bets -- and twice as much money -- as any other player to become the solo favorite at +400.
Brad Townsend: Per @BetMGM, these players have received the most legal wagers for the NBA's Kia MVP award: Who is the most popular future pick to win Kia NBA MVP this season? @Luka Doncic – 14% of all bets Nikola Jokic – 9% LeBron James – 8% Kevin Durant – 7% Joel Embiid – 7%
Luka Doncic has separated himself from Giannis Antetokounmpo and emerged as the consensus favorite to win the regular-season MVP at U.S. sportsbooks, and bettors are flocking to the Dallas Mavericks' young superstar. On Nov. 10, Doncic and Antetokounmpo opened as +550 co-favorites at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Since then, Doncic has attracted twice as many bets--and twice as much money--as any other player to become the solo favorite at +450.
Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks' two-time reigning regular-season MVP, has dropped a notch back at +500, followed by Lakers stars Anthony Davis (+800) and LeBron James (+850). Doncic has attracted more bets at William Hill than Antetokounmpo, Davis and James combined. At sportsbook operator PointsBet, one out of every three bets placed has been on Doncic, who capped a breakout second NBA season with an electrifying playoff performance in the bubble in Orlando. "I thought he should have finished higher than he did last year in the [MVP] voting," said Jeff Sherman, a longtime NBA oddsmaker for the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.
Who will win MVP this season? 1. Luka Doncic: 4 2. Nikola Jokic: 2 T3. Damian Lillard: 1 T3. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1 With James already making nods toward prioritizing the pursuit of a fifth ring over chasing a fifth MVP award after a short offseason, he didn't receive a vote. Instead the leader was that guy in Dallas, Doncic. Multiple voters said that Antetokounmpo, who has won in each of the past two seasons, would suffer from voter fatigue.
Damian Lillard opened up about the possibility of being in the NBA MVP conversation in the 2020/21 season. Lillard said this can happen if the Portland Trail Blazers are a ‘winning team’. “I feel like if we’re a winning team and we’re in that top two, top three — then I think it’s definitely a real possibility. Maybe because I had a good run in the bubble and I had a good run before I hurt my groin last year [right before the All-Star break]. It was pretty much the last probably 30, 35 games of the season,” Lillard said, via Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest.
He also made fun of those who think that he should be offended if LeBron gets the award: ” So I should get mad right now if LeBron wins the MVP and not me? Don’t get crazy… that would mean that I lost my head. Guys, seven years ago I was looking up to LeBron. He was like… Like Jordan for everyone else. For me, that was LeBron. And now I am on the same sentence with LeBron”.
Andre Iguodala believes Kevin Durant will be named the NBA MVP in the 2020/21 season. Iguodala picked Durant over his former teammate in the Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry. “I’m looking forward to seeing KD. My preseason MVP [pick],” Iguodala said in an appearance on “The Match: Champions for Change” broadcast, per Marcus White of NBC Sports Bay Area, via Clutchpoints.
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks took home the trophy for the second consecutive year this season. Even with the confetti likely still being cleaned off the floor days after the final buzzer in Orlando, oddsmakers are already wagering on next season’s MVP. The Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is favored to win the coveted regular season award in 2021. He is a 4-1 favorite, according to SportsBetting.com. Antetokoumpo comes in second with 9-2 odds followed by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Curry has 5-1 odds as he makes his long awaited return to the game.
Justin Kubatko: Luka Doncic is the youngest player in NBA history to finish in the top four of the MVP voting. Older man LeBron James is the second-oldest player in NBA history to finish in the top two of the MVP voting (Karl Malone, 1998-99).
Ben Golliver: Lakers’ LeBron James w/ a long riff on awards voting after finishing second for 2020 MVP: “The voting scale is a little weird to me... I don’t know how much really we’re watching the game of basketball or are we just in the narration mode, the narrative.” pic.twitter.com/xJeQ1HLoMD
Tomer Azarly: LeBron gives more examples on questionable NBA Award voting and adds he’s not sure if voting has become more narrative based - “Did you see the votes that Devonte Graham got [for Most Improved]? He averaged 4 points last year compared to 17.5. If that’s not improving, what is?”
Eric Nehm: Giannis Antetokounmpo has won the 2019-20 NBA MVP award and he is accepting the award in Athens, Greece.

https://twitter.com/MarkG_Medina/status/1307017837266063363
StatMuse: Reminder that MVP is a regular season award. And Giannis averaged these numbers this regular season: 29.5 PPG 13.6 RPG 5.6 APG 55.3 FG% +682 +/- (leads NBA) in 30.4 MPG pic.twitter.com/z0dsNqxMtf
Rob Schaefer: 11 players have won back-to-back MVPs in NBA history: Russell, Wilt, Kareem (2x), Moses, Bird, Magic, Jordan, Duncan, Nash, LeBron (2x), Curry 2 have won MVP and DPOY in the same season: Jordan ('88) and Hakeem Olajuwon ('94) Giannis poised to officially join both lists today
Because Giannis Antetokounmpo has won MVP honors in 2020, he is now super max eligible to sign a contract with Milwaukee in the 2022 offseason. If Antetokounmpo bypasses an extension this offseason and signs a 1+1 contract (for 30% of the cap in Milwaukee) in 2021 with the Bucks, he would be eligible to sign a five-year super max contract (35% of the cap) with Milwaukee in 2022.

http://twitter.com/Giannis_An34/status/1305336270722347016
On Sirius XM Radio right before the bubble games began, Justin Termine, Frank Isola and Amin Elhassan all said Paul appeared on their NBA Most Valuable Player ballot. Termine has Paul as the No. 3 player on his ballot, behind Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as MVP and Los Angeles Lakers forward/guard LeBron James at No. 2.
By the time it was over, Doncic had unleashed a couple of step-back 3s, orchestrated a beautiful two-man game with Kristaps Porzingis, and perhaps most jaw-dropping of all, dropped a between-the-legs pass to Max Kleber in traffic for an easy slam and one before polishing off the game with a contested runner in the lane. He finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds and 19 assists (a career-high), with only two turnovers. "He's one of the most talented guys I've ever played against," Antetokpounmpo said after the game. "He's making the whole team better, and he's going to keep getting better."
If you thought this vote was going to be close based on LeBron James‘ run before the league’s stoppage, think twice. Per our poll, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the near-consensus MVP after improving his scoring, rebounding and three-point percentage numbers from a season ago. By securing back-to-back MVP awards, Antetokounmpo will join Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the only NBA players to do so.
Instead, basketball stopped. And with it, the momentum James had been building came to a halt. The NBA more or less made that distinction official last week when it announced postseason award voters should only base their ballots on what occurred prior to the shutdown. Just as LeBron was closing the gap. “I’m not disappointed because things happen,” James said Monday on a video conference from the league’s bubble in Orlando. “You control what you can control and I can’t control that. As far as the MVP race, I think that I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing. Not only individually but from a team’s perspective, us being No. 1 in the West.”
“There was a lot of conversation about, ‘LeBron can do those things in the East, but if he ever came to the West, what could he do?’” said James, starting to chuckle. “I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time and the way I was playing, it’s definitely a good feeling.”
"Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James. I do believe that he should be the MVP this year," Vogel said. "I believe he should be the MVP and I believe Anthony Davis should be the Defensive Player of the Year. I hope those awards go to our two players."
When the league told teams on Friday that the races for MVP and other regular-season individual awards are over -- ahead of the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida -- the decision came as news to Budenholzer. "I had no idea that that was the case, but it makes sense. I think it was 64, 65, 66 games for different teams, so that's certainly a significant body of work, and more importantly, certainly, Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve a back-to-back MVP," Budenholzer said. "What he does for us on both ends of the court, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culture-wise, work ethic-wise, just as a teammate. He's an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that's kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he's very deserving, and we'll be excited to support him."
Damian Lillard thinks so. He appeared on ESPN's Jalen and Jacoby Wednesday and cited a somewhat dubious reason for picking James. "This season I think it's LeBron," Lillard said. "They're the No. 1 team in the west, they've been consistent all year long, and for him to be at the age he's at with the amount of miles that he has on his body, how often he's talked about the pressure that they've put on him in every little thing that he does. At the level he's performing at, in my opinion, I think he's the MVP."
Damian Lillard thinks so. He appeared on ESPN's Jalen and Jacoby Wednesday and cited a somewhat dubious reason for picking James. "This season I think it's LeBron," Lillard said. "They're the No. 1 team in the west, they've been consistent all year long, and for him to be at the age he's at with the amount of miles that he has on his body, how often he's talked about the pressure that they've put on him in every little thing that he does. At the level he's performing at, in my opinion, I think he's the MVP."
“I do my homework and I do my research on things, and I just feel like I’m a guy who, in his media, I don’t ever want to mess up my credibility, so I just speak facts,” Perkins said. “I never want to be biased and I never try to sway one way or just be taking up for my homeboy.” Perkins pointed to, as an example of his avoiding bias, picking Giannis Antetokounmpo as his preseason pick for MVP, over his friend LeBron, with whom he spent a summer playing for the Oakland Soldiers, an AAU team, in high school. “I sent him a text and I said. ‘Look man, I’ve got Giannis ahead of you,’” Perkins said. “And that’s when he texted me back and said, ‘Oh don’t worry, I’m gonna reclaim my throne.’ And I was like, ‘OK, well then do it mothafucka.’ He’s like, ‘I am, mothafucka.’”
“I do my homework and I do my research on things, and I just feel like I’m a guy who, in his media, I don’t ever want to mess up my credibility, so I just speak facts,” Perkins said. “I never want to be biased and I never try to sway one way or just be taking up for my homeboy.” Perkins pointed to, as an example of his avoiding bias, picking Giannis Antetokounmpo as his preseason pick for MVP, over his friend LeBron, with whom he spent a summer playing for the Oakland Soldiers, an AAU team, in high school. “I sent him a text and I said. ‘Look man, I’ve got Giannis ahead of you,’” Perkins said. “And that’s when he texted me back and said, ‘Oh don’t worry, I’m gonna reclaim my throne.’ And I was like, ‘OK, well then do it mothafucka.’ He’s like, ‘I am, mothafucka.’”
Jayson Tatum Says LeBron is MVP 👀 The Celtics star also gives out other NBA awards and talks about the G League vs. the NCAA during an interview with @TaylorRooks

http://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1251263355186274304
Using that rubric, Antetokounmpo led the way with 670 of a possible 700 points, as he was listed in second place behind James on the 10 ballots where he wasn't listed first. James, meanwhile, was second with 514 points, and was either first or second on 68 of the 70 submitted ballots, finishing third on one and fourth on another.
Leonard came in fifth with 118 points, having been named on 40 ballots, with a huge gap existing between him and crosstown rival Anthony Davis (61 points, 25 ballots) in sixth. Six other players -- Chris Paul (28 points, 10 ballots), Nikola Jokic (18 points, eight ballots), Pascal Siakam (12 points, six ballots) Damian Lillard (four points, four ballots), Jayson Tatum (three points, one ballot) and Bradley Beal (one point, one ballot) -- rounded out the voting.
Using that rubric, Antetokounmpo led the way with 670 of a possible 700 points, as he was listed in second place behind James on the 10 ballots where he wasn't listed first. James, meanwhile, was second with 514 points, and was either first or second on 68 of the 70 submitted ballots, finishing third on one and fourth on another.
Leonard came in fifth with 118 points, having been named on 40 ballots, with a huge gap existing between him and crosstown rival Anthony Davis (61 points, 25 ballots) in sixth. Six other players -- Chris Paul (28 points, 10 ballots), Nikola Jokic (18 points, eight ballots), Pascal Siakam (12 points, six ballots) Damian Lillard (four points, four ballots), Jayson Tatum (three points, one ballot) and Bradley Beal (one point, one ballot) -- rounded out the voting.
Jared Dudley: Both teams at Full strength ✔️ Every game at Staples is a home game ✔️ MVP talk Weekend 👑 ✔️ AD is a different animal ✔️ I said what I said ✔️
Amid all the tumult that has defined the 2019-20 season so far, there remains at least one constant: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season's Most Valuable Player is the early favorite to win the award for a second straight year. ESPN asked 101 media members to participate in an informal straw poll of where the league's MVP race stands as the season moves into its second quarter. It was Antetokounmpo who stood above the rest. The Milwaukee Bucks forward received 48 first-place votes and was the only player to appear on all 101 ballots.
He calls the attention on his future “disrespectful.” Heck, he doesn’t even mind the immature social-media shots from the Houston Rockets and James Harden about him winning MVP last year. Harden had a banner year, a historic year offensively and again carried the Rockets into contention. “That's their opinion. They're gonna have James' back,” Antetokounmpo said. “I'm never gonna say I'm better than James.”
But it doesn’t mean he’ll relinquish the award or apologize for it. “The trophy’s in my house,” he said.
You spoke to a radio station in Houston recently about the MVP race, and how you feel like the media usually goes into the season with an MVP candidate in mind, a narrative, that helps them win that award. Do you think a narrative has already taken form for 2019-2020? James Harden: Nah, it hasn’t happened yet, it’s too early. Wait until the preseason and when the regular season starts up again. But they [the media] for sure got some teams they locked in on. We all know. That’s just what it is. You can’t tell me that a guy whose team was a 14-seed at one point last year, and ended up a four-seed with everything that was going on—so many injuries—and who went on a 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point games, two 60-point games in one season…and all the talk was about [Giannis Antetokounmpo]? There’s no way.
James Harden performed remarkably well last season after a slow start, scoring 36.1 points per game. That's the highest-scoring season in a long time, but it wasn't enough to win MVP. Instead, that title went to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had an equally monstrous season. During a recent interview on 97.9 The Box, Harden shared his thoughts on why he lost out to Giannis. When it was suggested that "politics" played a part, Harden agreed.
"I think once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and run with it the entire year," Harden explains at the six-minute mark of the interview. "I don’t want to get into details. But all I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. You know what I’m saying?"
Congrats to the new MVP, but we respectfully disagree. 📝 @JHarden13 ⤵️ ✔️ Finished Top 2 in MVP voting 4 out of the last 5 seasons ✔ 1st player in NBA history to avg at least 35.0ppg & 7.0apg in a single season ✔ Scored 40+ pts 28 times this season, 50+ 9 times & 60+ twice

http://twitter.com/HoustonRockets/status/1143358248277499905
D’Antoni is thrilled James Harden was a unanimous selection for All-NBA First Team. “He deserves it,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no one that had a better year than James, in the last three or four years. We had some serious injuries for a long time and he was able to carry the team on his back. To do more than what he’s done is impossible. Just another unbelievable MVP-type year.”
Storyline: MVP Race
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