Ok, I am going to start by admitting something. I don’t like the title of this article. I’d like to claim it was some dumb editor who came up with it, but it was me. I’m the dumb editor. Why did I call this article, “Why Does ESPN Hate Paul George” if I don’t like the title? Well, it’s because while I don’t think ESPN hates Paul George, or really anyone since ESPN isn’t a person capable of emotion of any kind, the sentiment seems all too real. Paul George had an MVP type season in 2018 when he averaged 28 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and 4.1 assists per game. His shooting percentages that season were 43.8 FG%, 38.6 3P% and 83.9 FT%. So far this season he is averaging 24.4 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game. His shooting percentages are a ridiculous 51.4 FG%, 50.5 3P% and 91 FT%.
He’s shooting better and assisting more than the season he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. Surely, that would merit MVP consideration this season, right? I mean, he should be in the conversation, right? At least in the top 10, right? ESPN begs to differ.
In an article that is currently only available on ESPN+ the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network ranked NBA players in the current 2020-21 season by their MVP candidacy to date. They categorized the candidates into three tiers, front-runners, legitimate contenders and peripheral threats. To be fair, ESPN is just parroting the categories used by Caesars Sportsbook but because they published the article I am calling them out. Of course, it’s just as easy to call this, “Why Does Vegas Hate Paul George?”
The Front Runners
Only two players made the rank of front-runner, Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Doncic, like many NBA players this weird season, started a bit slow. He seems to have got his bearings now though. At 21 he would be the youngest player to ever win the award and if he keeps playing how he has been I doubt many would argue with the decision. Antetokounmpo is a different story. I don’t doubt his greatness, but I do question his ability to lead a team to greatness not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs. Yes, this award is limited to just the regular season, but watching Giannis wilt under the pressure of a big regular season game yesterday against the defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers tells me he has some growing to do.
Paul George likely doesn’t belong in this tier. Doncic and Antetokounmpo are off to great starts and should be front-runners. George would have to show up as a Legitimate Contender though, right?
Kevin Durant is back after an Achilles injury and playing very well for the latest super team in the Association, the Brooklyn Nets. Nikola Jokic may not look the part, but he is a very special basketball player. The problem for them is that their teams are 9-7 and 7-7 respectively. Not exactly setting the regular season on fire and again, the MVP award is a regular season award. Other “Legitimate Contenders” are LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Joel Embiid. The Warriors, like the Nets and Nuggets (shameless plug, but look for a Nuggets article about their chances moving forward coming soon on thePeachBasket!) are hovering around .500 but the Lakers and Sixers are at the top of their conferences. Embiid deserves to be in the conversation based on that alone. He is the best player on the best team (so far) in the East, James should have 10 MVP trophies, but there is apparently some unwritten rule about giving it to the same player too many times. What LBJ is doing at 36 is ridiculously impressive and warrants his place in this category.
Why does ESPN hate Paul George? George has a better PER than Curry, better FT% than Jokic, better FG% than James and better 3-% than everyone in this category. But, somehow, he was left out which is weird, but OK. He HAS to be in the Peripheral Threat list, right?
Anthony Davis has found a home in LA. He is, in many ways, the perfect compliment to LeBron James. As great a player as Davis is, I think he needs to be beta to someone’s alpha. His team is doing great and are the defending Champs, so not arguing his place in this category. Jayson Tatum has been pretty good for a very good Celtics team. Damian Lillard is, once again, doing spectacular things in Portland. So far, no problem with these guys. Let me scroll down to find out who else is in this category.
Hmmmm, so, apparently that’s it. That’s the list which leads to me to once again ask, why does ESPN hate Paul George? ESPN has somehow failed to include Paul George in this list of the top 10 NBA MVP candidates thus far into the season. I mean, it was obvious based on the title (which is growing on me) but it’s still shocking. The Los Angeles Clippers have the second best record in the Western Conference and overall. George’s relevant stats were presented earlier. I am not making the argument he will win the award, but to keep him out of the top 10 conversation is short-sighted and downright wrong.
I mean, right?