Opening night NBA MVP Power Rankings

The NBA is back! Here's how we expect the MVP race to shake out.

Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid
Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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Forward. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis Antetokounmpo. 2. Milwaukee Bucks. 89. player. . . 2

Giannis Antetokounmpo has competition in the modern GOAT conversation with Jokic's ascent, but the Milwaukee Bucks' superstar remains a perennial threat to win this award. Milwaukee is another strong candidate to finish with the best record in basketball. The Bucks were the No. 1 seed last season and the roster didn't exactly get worse over the summer.

The biggest hurdle for Giannis, aside from the productivity of his peers, may end up being his newest teammate. The Damian Lillard trade elevates the Bucks' competitive ceiling, but it also dilutes Giannis' singular star presence on the roster. There is going to be a lot of "oh, he has so much help with Dame and Khris and Brook." Every MVP has help. James Harden averaged 21-6-11 on 60.7 TS% when Embiid won. But, there's definitely a chance Dame's presence as a legitimate superstar costs Giannis votes.

Even with Dame sharing the spotlight, however, there simply isn't a more consistent two-way force in the NBA. Giannis is on the shortlist of best defenders in the league and he gives maximum effort every night, despite his megastar status. He's a wrecking ball on offense, always attacking the rim with a head of steam. He doesn't get enough credit for his passing. Half the time he's a point guard running in transition like a 7-foot prime Russell Westbrook. The scoring is beyond compare. Nobody can punish size mismatches and muscle his way to points at the rim like Giannis. And every matchup is a size mismatch.

Last season, Antetokounmpo averaged 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on .553/.275/.645 splits. The Bucks have perfectly optimized the roster around him, with a floor-spacing and rim-protecting center in Lopez, along with two elite pull-up shooters in Lillard and Middleton to carry the perimeter burden. Depth is a concern for the Bucks, but if anything that will bolster Giannis' most valuable case. New head coach Adrian Griffin is an unknown quantity, but it's hard to mess up the offensive strategy of letting Giannis cook.

Antetokounmpo has long earned fans with his competitive fire and gregarious attitude. He's one of the more lovable superstars in the sport, on top of being a complete machine on the court. It has been three years since his last MVP award, so it's about time for voters to circle back to the Greek Freak.