The headline today looks weird, as our NBA Tuesday series is really that close to coming to an end—the first of our throwback efforts to do so. We really haven’t missed too many Tuesdays since March 2020, and this is the result now as we are almost back to the present day with our analytical revisions of the NBA MVP Award.
This is the last of the five straight seasons the Golden State Warriors—our hometown team—reached the Finals, too, so what does that mean for the awards below? Not much …
2019 NBA MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (original), James Harden (revised)
The two best players in the league were 2018 MVP vote winner James Harden (Houston Rockets point guard) and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (who won the vote this time around). Harden finished first in Win Shares (15.19) and second in Player Efficiency Rating (30.57), while the Greek Freak finished second in WS (14.35) and first in PER (30.89). Harden seems to have a slight edge here, straight up.
The Bucks won 60 games, though, to post the best record in the NBA, with a playoff cushion of 20 games. They probably make the postseason without Antetokounmpo. The Rockets won a mere 53 games, with a playoff cushion of just 6 games. This makes Harden instantly more valuable than the Greek Freak, in addition to having the slightly better sabermetrics as well.
We are good with giving the award this time out to Harden, therefore, for the following traditionals: 36.1 ppg, 7.5 apg, 6.6 rpg, and 2.0 spg. The scoring and steals marks are the highest of his career, and the scoring title was his second of three straight. Harden shot just 44.2 percent from the floor on an astounding 24.5 attempts per game in a very Kobe-like effort, but the all-around usage (40.5 percent) mark on a weak roster means a lot for value.
2019 NBA ROTY: Luka Dončić (original, confirmed)
Eight different players notched at least 3.0 WS as NBA rookies, and Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Luka Dončić (4.9 WS) won the vote to claim the award. However, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (5.8) and New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (6.1) also deserve some consideration here. The Knicks won just 17 games, however, which explains Robinson’s high WS mark, and the team actually regressed 12 victories, so that’s that.
What about Ayton? The Suns also got “worse” by winning 2 less games than the year before, while Dallas improved 9 games overall. Dončić was a teenager from Slovenia with none of the prior “professional” experience in Europe, even if he did play there until he was eligible for the NBA. That’s the key here: eligibility.
We’re going to confirm Dončić as the ROTY for the following traditionals: 21.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 6.0 apg. That’s incredible for a 19-year old to deliver in a first season among the giants of the game in America. But it’s also a sign of the global times, where many great players come from many different countries. With two foreign players winning the major award votes in 2019, it’s clear the game of basketball had reached its maximum reach.