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Giannis Antetokounmpo is totally going to win NBA MVP

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We have that and more in Thursday’s NBA newsletter.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA MVP race seems wide open as we near the season’s halfway mark. No one has run away with the award as we would typically understand it. The preseason field hasn’t even truly narrowed -- most of the players we were collectively mentioning back in October are still viable candidates.

But barring an injury or a massive fall-off, this award is totally going to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He has every ingredient on the MVP shopping list. Giannis is one of the purest talents in the league. He’s young and getting better. This is the best he’s ever been. He is playing on one of the league’s best teams. His team has improved massively over last season (on pace for 13 additional wins). He has showstopper highlights. He seems like a good, wholesome dude. The numbers are incredible. He hasn’t already been feted at this level.

Giannis is totally winning the MVP unless he gets hurt or something dramatic happens to the Bucks. LeBron James is the only real challenger at this point (again, assuming no huge events). But the Lakers aren’t as good as the Bucks and some media voters still harbor some resentment for LeBron. He’s also not as his absolute peak any more -- there’s a little magic lost when you know you’ve seen a player be better in the past.

James Harden has the numbers but there’s no way the media will give him a second MVP. Kawhi Leonard is resting too much. Kevin Durant nor Stephen Curry will win an MVP while teamed up with the other. Joel Embiid suffers from Jimmy Butler Credit Theft Syndrome. Anthony Davis’s team is falling apart. Nikola Jokic isn’t at this level.

It may seem like the MVP race is wide open, but Giannis is going to win this. Watch.

Scores

Wizards 95, Pistons 106
Suns 122, Magic 120 (OT)
Pacers 129, Hawks 121
Hornets 132, Nets 134 (2OT)
Raptors 106, Heat 104
Timberwolves 119, Bulls 94
Cavaliers 87, Grizzlies 95
Pelicans 119, Mavericks 122
Nuggets 103, Spurs 111
Kings 118, Clippers 127

Schedule

All times Eastern. On League Pass unless otherwise noted.

Celtics at Rockets, 8, TNT
Knicks at Bucks, 8
Lakers at Kings, 10
Sixers at Jazz, 10:30, TNT
Blazers at Warriors, 10:30

Links

Matt Ellentuck argues that Ben Simmons’ refusal and/or inability to shoot jumpers is what is holding the Sixers back. Seerat Sohi argues that perhaps the three Philly stars just don’t complement each other.

I picked the 10 All-Star starters now that the ballot is out. There’s one really hard spot and one pretty hard spot.

LeBron James is day-to-day after that Christmas Day groin injury. It seems like the Lakers expect him to miss a few games, though.

Rob Mahoney on the long runway that led to Anthony Davis trade rumors.

I think the Nets might be good.

Be excellent to each other.