The Milwaukee Bucks sure as heck aren't hiding their confidence in their franchise player.
Following the Bucks' 116-109 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, there was no doubt it was perhaps their most impactful win of the season. While Milwaukee has defeated better teams this season, convincingly blowing out the Golden State Warriors and sweeping the season series against the West-leading Denver Nuggets, it made a statement in its win over a team led by James Harden that had won seven of their past eight games.
Perhaps most importantly, Giannis Antetokounmpo (27 points, 21 rebounds and five assists) managed to outduel Harden (42 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and nine turnovers) in a showdown between two of the top MVP candidates for this season.
While the Greek Freak has been hesitant to crown himself as the league's best player, Bucks center Brook Lopez had no problem bestowing his teammate with that honor.
Via ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
"I definitely think it's our belief inside this locker room, and a lot just around the league, that we have the best player in the league right here," Lopez said. "He does it in so many ways. He makes so many of his players better. He's all over the court constantly. It's so impressive to watch every night."
That is one bold claim right there. We all know Antetokounmpo has staked his claim as the MVP favorite in mid-January, having led the Bucks, back in action on Friday against the Wizards (7 p.m. ET -- watch on fuboTV), to the best overall winning percentage in the league (29-11, 72.5 percent) and now having outdueled his biggest rival in Harden.
However, to state that the 24-year-old is the best player in the game -- ahead of the likes of established veterans and former NBA champions such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant -- is the definition of a bold statement.
In fairness to Giannis, he was rather modest after the game, choosing to dismiss his teammate's notion that he's the best in the game right now.
"To be honest with you, all I care about right now is getting better, helping my team win," Antetokounmpo said. "And [becoming the league's best player is] going to take care of itself. I know that one day it might happen. I don't know if I'm there yet, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there, because that's what I want to be."
The sixth-year player certainly has all of the skills and statistics needed to argue the claim that he is the best in the game today. He's probably the most dominant force in the NBA right now. He possesses the ability to dominate on both offense and defense, being more than capable of playing all five positions and converting on a ridiculous 58.1 percent of his field-goal attempts -- a category that even LeBron (51.8 percent) and Durant (50.5 percent) come nowhere close to.
However, one thing is still lacking -- the lack of postseason success on Antetokounmpo's resume. He has yet to lead the Bucks past the first round in three playoff appearances.
As unfair as the standard may seem, Antetokounmpo has to lead his team to some degree of postseason success before we officially anoint him as the best in the game.
But as Lopez argues, it's getting harder and harder to ignore his teammate's impact on the game.
Now all that's left is to further establish his legacy with some hard-earned wins in April, May and perhaps even June.