Giannis Antetokuonmpo is doing something no NBAer has ever done

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Giannis Antetokuonmpo is doing something no NBAer has ever done


There’s one unquestioned upside to the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. The endless promos and exhausting exposure to promote Adam Silver’s baby — and debate over if it’s working or if it matters — has overshadowed the usual topic de jour as we hit the quarter-season mark: The MVP race.

Much like last year, and the year before that, the usual suspects are up for the award. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokuonmpo are the front-runners, with the usual mix of challengers. Jayson Tatum will likely get a solid look because Boston projects to be at the top of the standings after the season, and NBA writers need a new storyline.

After last season’s playoffs, Jokic was declared king, and the nauseating debate about him and Embiid, or Jokic and Giannis was settled once and for all. Except . . .except . . . maybe it wasn’t?

Embiid is having even more of a career year than last season and has made significant strides as a playmaker, doubling his assists numbers (6.6) to twice his career average (3.3). Remember the season when Jokic was without running mate Jamal Murray and posted mind-numbing stats because Austin Rivers was like the third-best healthy player on the Nuggets?

This Embiid season isn’t exactly like that, but James Harden did leave and that technically qualifies as a loss of a No. 2 talent. I don’t know. My intention is to kick the hornet’s nest — without using coded racist language — so get fired up.

Once this In-Season Trash is over, be prepared for an onslaught of hot takes, and on-air meltdowns. Kendrick Perkins might take off his belt again and beat a chair.

GIANNIS! EMBIID! JOKIC! MVP! LOUD NOISES!

The Denver Nuggets’ patron saint also has upped his production to a career-high level, with 28.6 points per outing. Some of that has to do with Murray missing a month due to injury, but Joker also is leading the NBA in rebounds at 12.9 per night. His PER of 32.9 would be a career-best, too, and higher than his last MVP season.

We’ll see how many media members feel obligated to retroactively rewrite last season’s wrong, because, again, it was agreed upon after the Finals that Jokic is the NBA’s best player alive. However, is that enough? There’s a general consensus about the best player alive after every playoffs and it usually leads to about-faces, and people asking, “How was I such a moron?”

Whether it was a narrative brought on by Embiid’s tears or Daryl Morey’s incessant campaigning, it was enough to sway impressionable voters. And if you can do that in a race as close as the past few, it goes a long way — which brings me to Giannis.

The case for Antetokounmpo is simple: He’s shooting 61 percent from the floor while scoring 30-plus points per outing. We’ve seen players average 20-plus points on more than 60 percent shooting, but never in the history of the NBA has a player averaged 30 while shooting 60 percent. Wilt Chamberlain never accomplished the feat. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar almost did for Milwaukee in the ’71 and ’72 seasons at 31.7 points on 57.7 percent, and 34.8 points on 57.4 percent, respectively.

The player who’s come the closest? Adrian Dantley for the Utah Jazz at 30.1 PPG on 58 percent shooting in 1982-83. If Antetokounmpo stays the course, the argument could morph into something we saw in MLB this season with Ronald Acuña Jr. creating the 70 stolen base-40 home run club en route to the MVP award.

If you create your own club — in this case the 30 point-60 percent club — it gives writers, bored by the same old storylines, something shiny and new to cling to, as well as a tiebreaker after months of debate. While the pointless chattering won’t reach full throat for another month or two, it’s sure to start once this current distraction, er, tournament, is over.



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Sean Beckwith