2019 PBT Awards: Most Valuable Player

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Kurt Helin

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Paul George, Thunder

4. Kevin Durant, Warriors

5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

It’s incredibly close between Antetokounmpo and Harden. I eventually leaned toward the Greek Freak because while Rockets’ system is built around Harden and he has to be otherworldly for them to be a contender — and he did that for much of the year — the Bucks’ system is similarly built around Antetokounmpo and his inability to be stopped one-on-one (they just surround him with shooters). Combine that with Antetokounmpo’s superior defense and he just slightly ahead in one of the hardest decisions to make.

Dan Feldman

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Paul George, Thunder

4. Stephen Curry, Warriors

5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

In some ways, MVP is a product of circumstance. I choose MVP based on which player contributes the most during the regular season. Even among the NBA’s top players, some have more opportunities to produce than others – and therefore an advantage for my MVP pick.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo both had huge opportunities to produce this season – but for very different reasons. The Bucks built their offense and defense around Antetokounmpo’s incredible talent. The Rockets, because of injuries and depth issues, needed Harden to completely carry them for a while.

Both players delivered, and I went back and forth on my pick several times. This race was even tighter than Russell Westbrook-Harden a couple years ago.

Ultimately, Antetokounmpo’s defense put him over the top. He’s close enough to Harden offensively that the massive gap on the other end made the difference. That this was so close is a tribute to Harden’s historically great offensive season.

Not much separated Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant. Nikola Jokic also drew strong consideration.

Dane Delgado

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Paul George, Thunder

4. Stephen Curry, Warriors

5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Antetokounmpo is this season’s MVP. That’s because the MVP is not an award based strictly in numbers, no matter how much the fans or front office in Houston wish it were. The MVP is about narrative, and the narrative of Antetokounmpo rising from a wiry young prospect to the league’s best two-way player is the most compelling one at hand. Harden may be having a historical offense of season, but the narrative around him is that he’s still an absolute chore to watch play basketball. If anything, George is a more complete, interesting watch and he could have taken the second spot save for Harden’s unparalleled efficiency. James Harden may be a mathematically perfect basketball player on offense, but god help you if you like watching him outside of a highlight package.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.