James and Antetokounmpo had established themselves as the clear-cut favorites for the league’s highest individual honor before the season was shutdown due to the coronavirus. As a result, fans around the league are left speculating which player is more deserving.
Jared Dudley is one of the few players that has had the pleasure of calling both of them teammates as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and a former member of the Milwaukee Bucks. The firsthand experience gives him some unique insight into what makes each player so valuable to their team.
According to Michael Lee of The Athletic, Dudley had to give James the edge over Antetokounmpo:
Who really deserves the MVP this season? Both deserve it. Do I think LeBron is a little bit more deserving? Yes. Do I think Giannis’ stats are better? Yes. But the MVP is not necessarily the best stats.
Dudley argued that while Antetokounmpo has posted better numbers, James’ overall impact on the game is unmatched.
That’s why I’m giving LeBron the edge. I’ll be the first one to tell everybody, I think Giannis’ stats are a little bit better, but I believe LeBron has been more valuable this year.
There is certainly plenty of truth to Dudley’s comments. The debate can often be a matter of perception and whether or not stats or overall impact should be the deciding factor.
Antetokounpo has picked up where he left off last season as the reigning Most Valuable Player by kicking things up a notch with 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. More importantly, he has managed to lead the Bucks to an NBA-best 53-12 record to sit comfortably atop the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, James continues to defy the laws of Father Time by averaging 25.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 10.6 assists per game. Not only is he leading the league in assists at 35 years old, but he has also led the Lakers to a 49-14 record to emerge as the No. 1 seed in a much more formidable Western Conference.
Dudley picking James is indicative of the kind of respect that he still garners throughout the league despite being in the latter stages of his career. Although the players may recognize this notion, it will ultimately come down to the voting criteria set by each member of the panel.