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Giannis Antetokounmpo has started superbly this season
  1. NBA

NBA: Is Giannis Antetokounmpo making early MVP claim?

After a 7-0 start to the new season the unbeaten Milwaukee Bucks lead the way in the NBA and they already look like a tough team to stop.

After their impressive form, the Bucks are now +525 for the title, with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the standout performer once again.

The Greek Freak has averaged 33.6 points and 12.7 rebounds through his first seven games, while he continues to be a force on the defensive end too. Is he on course to win another MVP crown?

Who are the other contenders?

Giannis has surged out in front in MVP betting, as he’s now +275 to win the award this season, edging in front of Luka Doncic, who is having his own standout start to the campaign.

Doncic has posted 36.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 9 assists per game this term and he became the third player in league history to hit 30 points in each of his opening seven matches.

With Doncic at +300 there’s a substantial jump to third favourite Jayson Tatum at +750 and it seems like the leading pair will be battling it out over the course of the season, as Doncic looks to win the MVP for the first time following his brilliant displays in last season’s Play-offs.

What is the Bucks’ focus?

While the Bucks sit at the top of the pile early on, their focus has changed in recent years. When Giannis won MVP in 2019 and 2020 the Bucks finished the season with the best record in the league. However, that didn’t translate to Play-off success.

In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, Giannis had a better record per game across the regular season than the Play-offs. In the last two years, the Bucks have slipped back, finishing third in the East in both seasons.

However, Giannis has stepped his game up in the postseason, outperforming some still incredible regular season numbers.

If the Bucks are just out to get to the Play-offs and take it from there, that might hamper any hopes Giannis has of winning MVP.

In the last two seasons, he’s missed a combined 26 games and if he misses too many it may take him out of the running.

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The LeBron problem

The other issue for Giannis is that this incredible season he’s having is just another great year in a list of many.

The MVP award isn’t really an award for the best player anymore, it’s based on a narrative around a player’s great season.

If you look at LeBron James, he’s still excelling in his 20th season in the league. Despite that, he hasn’t won an MVP award since 2013.

King James has won two titles since then, but after a run of four wins in five years the league seemed to get bored of his success.

At a certain point, great players seem to be taken for granted. While it’s still a little early for that to happen to Giannis, he’s up against a star with a story which will appeal to voters.

Doncic isn’t just putting up monster numbers, he’s doing it off the back of a surprise Play-off run to the Western Conference finals.

The summer saw the Mavs lose their second-best player in Jalen Brunson, but Luka is making up for that on his own.

While no one can replace Giannis, the Bucks do have great depth and other elite players. The Mavs are Doncic plus four. Taken literally, he’s the most valuable player in the league because his team would be lost without him.

Is Giannis hitting his prime?

It’s scary to think that Giannis is only 27, as he could retire tomorrow as one of the greats. He’s already made the NBA’s top 75 players ever, while he’s won every individual award worth getting on top of an NBA title.

However, Giannis has basically been improving year after year in the league, as shown by the fact last season he set a personal best for both regular season and postseason points.

He was averaging 31.7 per game in last year's Play-offs, doing that without Khris Middleton on the court for most of it.

While the Greek Freak’s huge numbers this term look like a great start, he’s trending towards 30+ points per game based on his career so far.

The main thing for Giannis is that he’s put the Bucks in a great position to come out of the East.

Hopefully, that sets him up for a Finals clash with Doncic’s Mavs in a battle between two worthy MVP winners.

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