Giannis Antetokounmpo Should Be Among Elite Company Once NBA Awards Are Announced

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo / Pool/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, the NBA announced its finalists for all the major regular-season awards. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only name to appear among the finalists twice, coming in among the final three contenders for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. When the awards are announced, Antetokounmpo should join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only two players in NBA history to win MVP and DPOY in the same year.

LeBron James made a push before the season's postponement for MVP. But that push was cut short, and the voters are required to only take the season up until March 12 into consideration. Giannis is the obvious choice. You can make all the arguments you want about what most valuable player is supposed to mean, but the Bucks superstar checks all the boxes anyway. The offense runs through him. He's a defensive fulcrum. He averaged 29.7 points and 13.8 rebounds in only 30 minutes per game.

Milwaukee has the best record in the league and look every bit the championship contender they are. Giannis has the stats, the wins, and passes the eye test as the most dominant player on the floor. LeBron is still LeBron, and his season average of 25 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds is impressive even for him. But Giannis is the best player on the best team in basketball, even if that's not as fun of a narrative as LeBron teaming up with Anthony Davis to bring the Lakers back to relevancy.

Giannis' DPOY candidacy isn't as cut-and-dry. Rudy Gobert remains the league's premier rim protector, but voter fatigue will play a factor after two straight years of being named DPOY, and he wasn't quite as good this year as years prior. Davis is the strongest contender for the crown other than Giannis; the Lakers' big man averaged 2.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game as the center of the league's third-best defense by defensive rating. He's a terror on the inside and can lock down perimeter opponents like no other big in the NBA. It wouldn't be an upset by any means if he took home the hardware.

But Giannis happens to play a bigger role in the league's best defense by defensive rating. The one knock against him that holds any water is that Mike Budenholzer likes employing his star as an off-ball roamer who disrupts the offense at every level of the defense, rather than tossing him on the biggest offensive threat and letting him go to work. But Giannis was so effective in that role it shouldn't matter. He averaged a steal and a block per game, not particularly impressive statistics. The Bucks have a 97.2 defensive rating with Giannis on the floor, which would be the 10th-best mark of all-time by an individual player should it hold through the seeding games. He's an absolute nightmare on the ball and will come flying in to destroy whatever action the offense is running at any given moment.

Davis may be a better individual defender by a very slim margin. But Giannis is one of the best individual defenders in the whole league and the best team defender by a large margin. Nobody uses the knowledge of their system to make more plays than Giannis. He's well-deserving of this award as the best defender on one of the best defenses in recent history.

It's not a sure thing, but Giannis is deserving of the rare double MVP/DPOY honor. He was just that good. How the Bucks do in the playoffs remains to be seen, but Giannis has turned in one of the most impressive two-way performances over the course of the season in league history. He should be rewarded as such.