Kia MVP Ladder: Antetokounmpo, Bucks ready for the next step

Kia MVP Ladder: Antetokounmpo, Bucks ready for the next step

That's the main reason why he headed to the top of the MVP Ladder at Kia Race this week. He has spent a lot of time on the list over the past two seasons, but usually outside the top 5 teams because of the team's lack of success.

With the new look of Budenholzer, the Greek Freak can now sort through the various blueprints that could lead him to the finish line in this marathon.

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The first five of the week 1 of the 2018-19 Kia Race to MVP Ladder:

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1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has done everything with a big win against the Warriors.

Last week: No. 3

Season statistics: 25.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.3 blocks

Antetokounmpo lives up to its "Greek Freak" persona at night, fills out the statistic list and gathers breathtaking highlights each round. The difference this season is that his work comes during a renaissance under the first year coach Mike Budenholzer, whose changes have worked wonders for both his best player and the entire team. Look no further than the (slightly) surprising Golden State Warriors tour on Thursday night at the Oracle Arena. Antetokounmpo progressed with 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals, as the Bucks hit the Warriors' series on a night in which Warriors star Stephen Curry left the game with an adductor injury. It was not the Bucks' only win this early season, but it was by far the biggest so far, sending a message to the rest of the league that what they've seen so far from Antetokounmpo and his crew is very important ,

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry finished with 28 points against the Timberwolves.

Last week: number 1

Season statistics: 29.5 points, 6.1 supports, 5.0 rebounds

That collective gasp that you heard late Thursday night was when Warriors Nation responded to the announcement that Curry was ready for the night after only 26 minutes of groin injury. A selection of injuries is the only thing that has slowed Curry in recent years. The warriors could do without curry in the past and will certainly be able to do so again (if necessary). However, Kia's two-time MVP had a rough start to the season and did not need anything that stood in the way of another monster MVP campaign. The warriors undoubtedly felt his absence against the Bucks, who limited Curry to just 10 points in 5: 14 shooting (10: 0 on 3-pointers) before leaving the room to leave the locker room. Meanwhile, the warriors can only wait for the situation of Curry from the doctors.

3. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard was a force against the kings earlier this week.

Last week: No. 2

Season statistics: 26.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists

If Leonard works half-pace on this NBA-best 11-1 start of the season and feels comfortable in Nick Nickeses' system – as Leonard claimed after beating the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday – it's scary to think how good the Raptors are It will be when Leonard finally finds his groove. Leonard has done a wonderful job of racing the Raptor this season, and all-star point-keeper Kyle Lowry is making an MVP case himself. The depth of the Raptors at each position allowed them to maintain a first-class level of play with or without Leonard on the ground this season. (Toronto easily coped with the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz on their recent road trip without Leonard in the mix due to a foot injury). In Sacramento he won with 25 points, eleven rebounds and two assists. The true beauty of his fit with the Raptors is that he could fit seamlessly without knowing the peculiarities of the system.

4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard showed an all-round performance and won against the Clippers.

Last week: No. 5

Season statistics: 26.6 points, 5.3 supports, 5.0 rebounds

The Trail Blazers have won three games in a row and six of their last seven on the wave that Lillard and his backcourt colleague C. J. McCollum created with their attacking style earlier this season. The blazers have done something that is often hard to do in this league: they have to improve dramatically without the talent of stars. What works for them right now is the comfort that continuity offers. Without leaders like Lillard and McCollum, a youngster like Zach Collins might not have the authority to make his contribution in his second season. But with the sound being set in the offseason, there's no confusion about the roles each blazer has. Lillard remains the real trigger, the Alpha, if you will, and the man who's done ending his games, as he did against the LA Clippers on Thursday night at the Moda Center. This bank boost will come in handy when the Boston Celtics come to town on Sunday night to win a duel between two of the game's best finalists in Lillard and Kyrie Irving.

5. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis finished with 32 points and 15 rebounds against the Bulls.

Last week: Number 4

Season statistics: 24.4 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 3.3 blocks

Davis should be the easiest player in the league to be judged game by game as the Pelicans rest on the bottom line. And it is not his performance that determines his wealth, because he is at the highest level in the regular field. Its availability is the true benchmark for the pelicans. They lost six games in a row after a 4-0 start to the season, a slide that collapsed with an elbow sprain that cost Davis three games and triggered the entire group from this early energy. Davis relegated to victory in Wednesday's win over Chicago with a 32-point, 15-rebound and 4-block masterpiece. Davis missed his first five blows against the Bulls, before he came with a crack and eight-eighths to his first 30-point game since October 23. The Pelicans had a desperate victory after an ugly 0-5 victory in their first home win. If you agree with the theory that the real measure of a player's value to his team is how he is doing without him, or if he is less strong, Davis must be on one of the league's most valuable lists of the most valued player candidates.

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The next five

6 Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

7th Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

8th Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

9 LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

10 Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

And five more: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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Sekou Smith is a seasoned NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can send it here by e-mail, you can find its archive here and Follow him on Twitter,

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