What has long been in the tea leaves is now official: Giannis Antetokounmpo is your 2020 NBA Most Valuable Player, the NBA announced Friday.
Full results below. Antetokounmpo nabbed 85 of a possible 101 first-place votes, with LeBron James receiving the remaining 16. James Harden, Luka Dončić and Kawhi Leonard round out the top five.
At age 25, it’s Antetokounmpo’s second consecutive MVP award. He’s the 12th player in league history to achieve that feat, and the first since Hakeem Olajuwon (1994) to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. Only Giannis, Olajuwon and Michael Jordan (1988) have done the latter.
Of course, the announcement didn't come with as much fanfare as once expected. Not only was the honor presented remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic with Giannis back in Athens, Greece, but Antetokounmpo’s (regular-season) league-best Milwaukee Bucks bowed out of the playoffs in five games to the Miami Heat in the second round earlier this month. Antetokounmpo missed the last game-and-a-half of that series with an ankle injury.
Still, this season was one to remember for Milwaukee. Before the league paused play in March, the Bucks were on a near-67-win 82-game pace, and blitzing opponents by an historic 10.7 points per 100 possessions.
Antetokounmpo was at the heart of that success, averaging 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and a steal and a block per game, all while playing only 30.4 minutes per night in 2019-20 — the last point a testament to the Bucks’ ability to run teams off the floor early and often. He anchored just the fifth team in league history to finish a regular-season with a sub-103 point per 100 possessions defensive rating, according to Basketball Reference.
Before he hits his athletic prime, Antetokounmpo is already entering the highest echelon of all-time achievement. But rumor and speculation are set to define his offseason, the last before possibly hitting unrestricted free agency in 2021.
As a veteran entering his eighth year of service, and with the necessary accolades under his belt, Antetokounmpo will be eligible to receive a supermax extension (with a salary beginning at 35 percent of the salary cap, plus eight percent annual raises) from Milwaukee whenever the 2020 offseason begins. The Bucks plan to extend the offer as soon as they can, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Will Antetokounmpo accept it? Could he reverse his current, publicly-stated course and try to force a trade? Or will recent reported talks with Bucks owner Marc Lasry foretell a rapid retool for the Bucks, and a vault towards a title? He's still saying all the right things, at least.
Time will tell for the rest. For now, our best course, as media and fans alike, is to appreciate the awesomeness of Giannis’ exploits as they occur. His pantheon trajectory continues.