I know that the free agency period hasn’t even ended yet, but with the general chaos of the NBA right now; I just couldn’t resist giving my MVP predictions. I usually do not enjoy predictions like these, as admittedly it is waaaay too early to get a real grasp of 2017-2018’s MVP candidates, but I guess there is a first time for everything. Below, I give explanations on my top five MVP candidates, as well as some fringe candidates that people will undoubtedly bring up when this conversation comes around to seem like NBA hipsters.
No matter how good Stephen Curry is, as a top ten point guard of all time and as an earner of two MVPs fairly recently, unless Kevin Durant gets injured for the majority of the season and the Warriors maintain a top three record (which could definitely happen), Curry will never win this award as the second option.
Although with the addition of Paul George the Oklahoma City Thunder are definitely more equipped than last year, and should therefore produce a better record (but who even knows in this extremely stacked Western Conference), the narrative that he is taking a team on his back to the playoffs is now completely destroyed, and with the addition, it is also less likely that he’ll average the same crazy per game numbers, as well. Expect him to average slightly higher points per game version of what he did in 2015-2016, not 2016-2017, but admittedly, those numbers were still pretty crazy. The Thunder probably won’t have a top three record either, and so he will not get the “best player on best team” argument either.
Jimmy Butler/Karl-Anthony Towns
The Minnesota Timberwolves look as if they will probably lose their playoff re-virginity, and will do so with a probable top five seed, it’s still very hard to gauge who will be the first option on this team though. Will it be the veteran and Thibs beloved Jimmy Butler or will it be the young, up and coming Karl-Anthony Towns? I feel like they will probably end up in a Blake Griffin/Chris Paul situation, in the sense that they will end up stealing MVP votes from each other, despite being one of the best teams in the league.
With the Rockets, Thunder and Timberwolves all on the rise, and the Spurs and Warriors still being well, the Spurs and Warriors, I can’t really see the world where the Pelicans can end up higher than the six-seed in the Western Conference. And although Russ proved that it is possible to be a six-seed and win the MVP, Davis ultimately will have more help than Westbrook did last year, with DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday, and probably won’t have the wow factor that came with Westbrook’s triple double. The fact that Davis has only played 67 games per year in his NBA career so far also plays a factor.
Even in the far inferior Eastern Conference and if the team re-signs Otto Porter or a good fit of similar or better value, which seems unlikely, as the team only has five million in cap room, and is looking to extend John Wall to a massive contract, at 49-33 last year with a 46-36 Pythagorean record, it just does not seem like the Wizards will have the win total to get John Wall too close to the conversation. Wall’s shooting deficiencies also play a big part, as despite having a career high true shooting percentage last year, that percentage was just a below average 54.1%.
To a lesser extent, I feel as if Griffin will have some parts of the narrative Westbrook had last year, as well as part of the narrative Harden had. With a big star leaving in Chris Paul, and a role change, as Griffin will probably go full point forward, much like with Davis though, injuries and team record do play big parts here, as in the current Western Conference, the Clippers should see no higher than the six-seed, and Griffin has only played 54 games per year for the last three years. He probably won’t have the per game numbers of Westbrook or even Harden or Davis either.
5. James Harden/Chris Paul
This is a big if, which is why the two are only sharing the five slot, but if the Houston Rockets are a top two seed and one of Harden and Paul are made the legitimate alpha over the other, I don’t think it’s too out of the question for one of them to take home the MVP. However, much like when Paul was with Griffin or with the Timberwolves’ current situation, Harden and Paul will likely play as the 1A and 1B of this team, which won’t necessarily be a bad thing, but will certainly decrease the chances of one of them being MVP.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
If the Bucks are able to pull a top two-seed in the East, and Antetokounmpo adds on his performance from last year, the Greek Freak could end up with this award. Of course, this is unlikely, but to make a case for the Bucks, their three best players, Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker have not played a possession together since 2015-2016 when both Antetokounmpo and Parker were very different players. And if Snell, Brogdon and Maker add to their campaigns last year, there is a chance that they can fit the qualifications.
3. Kevin Durant
Ah finally, the real candidates. This just seems right. Durant’s case is as follows:
1) Team will probably be the best in the league
2) Is probably the best player on his team
3) Is probably a top three player in the league
A case like this is obviously very strong, but Durant probably will get points away for having to carry a smaller load than the top two players on this list, which are (not-so spoilers) LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. As well as that, Durant has suffered two big injuries in the past three years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Warriors rested him periodically throughout the season more than James and Leonard.
2. Kawhi Leonard
The Spurs will probably finish with a top four seed in the Western Conference, and Kawhi is probably a top five offensive and defensive player in the league. Enough said. His numbers are a bit on the low side for an MVP though, so that’s why I’m giving the slight edge too...
1. LeBron James
I think it’s safe to put LeBron top three in these preseason MVP lists every year because he is just so damn good, and is coming off of his highest rebounding and assisting season of his career, as well as him being top three highest in all of the shooting percentage stats outside of free throw percentage this year. Even if LeBron were to decline at age 32, he should still probably be able to get the numbers that would make him worthy enough of being the MVP.
The Cavs will almost definitely end up a top two-seed in the East as well, and so right now I am giving the highest chances to the king himself, LeBron James.