With the NBA season barely a week away from starting, it’s everyone’s favorite time of the year: prediction season! Now it’s my turn to make semi-educated guesses about the NBA before any actual action has taken place. Today I’ll look at the top five MVP candidates for the upcoming year.
“But Shad, I’ve seen you play basketball, how are you even a little bit qualified to write something like this when you still shoot with two hands?” ponders a confused reader. Well I’m finally starting to consistently make uncontested layups, so yes, I can write this column. Let’s get started, shall we?
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks
A man can dream, can’t he!? Fine moving on.
5. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City
The man that we Bucks fans hope Giannis will develop into! This might be the only time for the next few years that Durant is not a top two finisher for MVP, since he’ll miss at least the first six weeks of the season recovering from a Jones fracture in his foot.
However, as long as Durant returns without any further complications to his injured foot, he will remind us all that he is a top two player in the league when he returns in the second half.
Still, Durant cannot go any higher than five this year because he will miss a sizable chunk of the season, as “the real MVP” needs to play almost every game.
4. Blake Griffin/Chris Paul, PF/PG, respectively, LA Clippers
One of the two big dogs from the Clippers is going to garner MVP noise, but it is tough to say which one. Last season, while Paul was injured, Griffin showcased his complete offensive game and put up his best season ever, averaging 24.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, and carried the Clippers as his teammate recovered.
Paul still finished only four spots behind Griffin in MVP voting despite missing 20 games. Both players are very capable of snagging top five spots.
However, a few factors work against both of them. First of all, if both players share the floor constantly, they will take away from each other’s stats, diminishing each other’s candidacy.
Both players have also struggled with injuries in the past, with Griffin just coming off a minor back surgery, and Paul having his usual ankle and knee issues that have not allowed him to play more than 70 games since the 2010-’11 season.
If Paul can stay healthy all season, this spot becomes his as his all-around brilliance at point guard and defensive prowess will elevate him past Griffin. But if Paul misses his usual allotment of games, Griffin will pad his stats and earn this spot himself.
3. Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans
The Brow put the world on notice last March, putting up 24 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game during the month, which resulted in the Pelicans benching him for most of April as they realized playing Davis would hinder their lottery aspirations.
However, Davis put fear in the hearts of the rest of the NBA as he utilized his physical gifts in ways never seen before, climaxed by an absurd 40-point, 21-rebound, 3-block performance against the Celtics March 16.
If Davis sustains the performances he had from last March and carries the Pelicans to a playoff berth, he has this spot, and might even climb higher if New Orleans can manage a high seed.
2. Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant has said that his all-star teammate Westbrook can hoist the MVP trophy himself one day, and boy, is this an excellent opportunity for him to do so. Westbrook played at another level during the 2014 playoffs, posting a mind-boggling 27 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds per game, as well as numerous game-changing plays on defense.
That also happened while sharing the ball with Durant! With Durant sidelined for at least the first two months of the season, if Westbrook can keep OKC afloat, the Thunder might have two MVPs at the end of the season.
1. LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
The return of the King. Last year was just the second in the past six that Lebron was not crowned MVP, and after the first time voters snubbed him, he unleashed a fury of hell to reclaim his throne and remind everyone who the true king is.
I expect a similar revenge season, as well as his homecoming to Cleveland and being the leader of what should be a historically great offense to propel him back to the top spot.
Who’s your pick for NBA MVP? Share your thoughts with Rushad at email@example.com.