Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is well on his way to a second straight NBA MVP award. Last year he won the award while averaging 27.7 points, with 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists; this season he’s averaging 29.9, 13.6 and 5.8. What’s shocking about Antetokounmpo’s numbers is that he’s doing it all in just 30.9 minutes per game. For context, that ranks 70th in the league.
When Antetokounmpo won the MVP last year, he averaged just 32.8 mpg, which was the second-lowest ever for an MVP. The only player ever to win the trophy while playing fewer minutes was Steph Curry in 2014-15, when he played 32.7 mpg. Antetokounmpo is about to break that mark by nearly two minutes.
And because Antetokounmpo does so much in so little time, he’s on track to post a player efficiency rating of 32.5, which, if he maintains it, would be the highest of all time, besting Wilt’s 31.8 in 1962-63.
In an era when a big man is expected to hoist the occassional 3-pointer, Antetokounmpo is also making 57.8% of his field goal attempts, which would be the most by an MVP since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 60.4% in the 1979-80 season.
The NBA game has obviously changed quite a bit over the decades. The pace and style of play have undergone dramatic changes, as have the conditioning and philosophy of the athletes. In 1965, when Wilt Chamberlain won his second MVP award, he would play 40 minutes even if the Sixers were on their way to a 32-point victory. Those days are over.
Nowadays, Antetokounmpo can be the runaway MVP on a team on pace to win 70 games with a point differential that would be the third-highest ever. Imagine what their differential would be if Antetokounmpo played 36 minutes per game.
As we marvel at one of the greatest seasons in league history, here’s a look ahead at the NBA’s national TV schedule on Sling this week…
Tuesday February 25
Milwaukee Bucks (49-8) vs Toronto Raptors (42-15)
7:30pm ET on TNT
The Bucks on Monday coughed up a 13-point fourth-quarter lead against the Wizards, but prevailed 137-134 in OT, with Khris Middleton scoring a game-high 40 points to go with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. The Raptors smoked the Pacers 127-81 on Sunday, with Serge Ibaka posting a 15-15 line and Pascal Siakam leading all scorers with 21 points.
New Orleans Pelicans (25-32) vs Los Angeles Lakers (43-12)
10pm ET on TNT
Zion Williamson scored a game high 28 points — his eighth straight game with 20+ points — to lead the Pelicans to a 115-101 win Sunday over the Warriors. The Lakers took a 9-point lead in the first quarter Sunday against the Celtics, but very nearly frittered it all away until LeBron dropped a 15-footer with 30 seconds to play to put them up for good in their 114-112 win.
Wednesday, February 26
Memphis Grizzlies (28-29) vs Houston Rockets (37-20)
8pm ET on ESPN
The Grizz fell into a 26-point hole in the first quarter of Monday’s game against the Clippers and couldn’t recover, falling 124-97. After attending Kobe Bryant’s memorial service on Monday, James Harden posted a 37-6-9 line to lead the Rockets to a 123-112 win over the Knicks.
Boston Celtics (39-17) vs Utah Jazz (36-21)
10:30pm ET on ESPN
Jayson Tatum scored a career-high 41 points, but it wasn’t quite enough as the Celtics fell to the Lakers, 114-112 on Sunday. Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 38 points, but it was for nought, as the Jazz lost to the Suns, 131-111, on Monday.
Thursday, February 27
Portland Trail Blazers (26-32) vs Indiana Pacers (33-24)
8pm ET on TNT
The Blazers went up 19 in the first, trailed by 10 in the third, then managed to pull out a 107-104 win over Detroit, thanks to CJ McCollum’s 41-9-12 and Carmelo Anthony scoring 32, his most points in three years. The Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis and Aaron Holiday on Sunday each scored a team-high 14 points on a combined 11-of-28 shooting as Indiana suffered their worst loss of the season, 127-81, at the hands of the Raptors.
Los Angeles Lakers (43-12) vs Golden State Warriors (12-45)
10:30pm ET on TNT
The DeMarcus Cousins Era in Los Angeles has ended before the big man could even lace up his sneakers, as the team waived him on Sunday to make room for veteran forward Markieff Morris, who signed with LA after negotiating a buyout with Detroit. The Warriors’ season of misery continued Sunday with a 115-101 loss to the Pelicans. Golden State is currently in the midst of their fifth losing streak of the season of 5+ games; their last such streak was in February 2013.
Friday, February 28
Oklahoma City Thunder (35-22) vs Milwaukee Bucks (49-8)
8pm ET on ESPN
OKC beat San Antonio 131-103 Sunday — their largest margin of victory ver over the Spurs — behind a 22-4-13 effort from sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Bucks clinched a playoff berth 55 days before the postseason is scheduled to begin, the earliest anyone has clinched in 15 years.
Denver Nuggets (39-18) vs Los Angeles Clippers (38-19)
10:30pm ET on ESPN
Nikola Jokic scored 24 points, along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the Nuggets to a 128-116 win Sunday over the Timberwolves. With the Clips jumping out to a 26-point lead over the Grizzlies in the first quarter on Monday, LA went to their bench so early that their starters scored just 57 points in the 124-97 victory.
Saturday, February 29
Houston Rockets (37-20) vs Boston Celtics (39-17)
8:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
Since joining the Rockets in 2012, James Harden has averaged a league-high 29.6 ppg, while Kevin Durant is #2 at 27.6. With 22.9 points per game, Jayson Tatum is on pace to have the highest scoring average of any 21-year-old in Celtics history — of course the mark of 22.4 was set by Antoine Walker, so maybe we shouldn’t get too jazzed.
Sunday, March 1
Philadelphia 76ers (36-22) vs Los Angeles Clippers (38-19)
3:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
Joel Embiid, the recently self-anointed “best player in the world,” scored 49 points and grabbed 14 rebounds on Monday to lead the Sixers to a 129-112 win over the Hawks. The Clips have won just 5 of their last 10 games to fall into 3rd place in the West (they now lead the Rockets by just one game).
Los Angeles Lakers (43-12) vs New Orleans Pelicans (25-32)
8pm ET on ESPN
This is most likely the game during which LeBron will move past Jordan for fourth-most field goal attempts all-time; MJ has 24,537 to LeBron’s 24,493. The Pels are 8-5 with Zion Williamson, if that pace were to continue through the remainder of the season, they’d finish with 40 wins. But all is not lost, as their remaining opponents have a cumulative winning percentage of just .458 and the Grizzlies, currently 8th in the West, just lost Jaren Jackson to a sprained knee for at least two weeks