The NBA MVP race is always exciting to predict entering the new season, as the best players in the world look to have their best individual and team performances. Needless to say, we are always watching closely to see who stood out from the rest. With so much movement in the NBA this past season, the 2019-2020 season is setting up to be one for the ages.
We have seen the rise of the LA Clippers, the rebuild of the OKC Thunder, and everything in between. With so many stars moving teams, this MVP race is looking as wide open as ever. Here are the top 10 favorites for the MVP award, and the player most likely to capture the valuable regular-season award.
Paul George had a fantastic season last year with the Thunder and had a very strong case for the MVP award towards the end of the season. If not for Giannis’ record and Harden’s legendary offensive season, George would be the league’s MVP. He will probably replicate his fantastic season last year with the Clippers, but reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will be the biggest factor undermining George’s MVP case. Kawhi will be the best player on his team and probably the best player in the West if he stays healthy. George might still have a crack at the MVP award if he can be the scoring leader, and if Kawhi misses significant time during the 82-game season.
Paul George is still one of the best two-way players in the league, and will probably capture recognition on some All-Defensive Teams this year.
10. Russel Westbrook
Russel Westbrook has been putting up MVP numbers each season since Kevin Durant left him to depart for greener pastures. You can even make an argument that he should have more than one MVP award he already has. Teaming up with James Harden will slightly hurt his MVP chances, but might boost them if he can be the best player on a Rockets team and lead them to a Top-2 finish in the West.
Westbrook will be absolutely deadly in Houston’s offense and will be unstoppable to deal with on the fastbreak with James Harden running next to him. Westbrook will have a field day with the array of shooters around him, something he never had in his career playing for the Thunder. Westbrook will probably capture another triple-double season if he wants to, although his team’s success will be the biggest factor in determining his MVP chances. If Russel can outplay Harden throughout the entire season and lead the Rockets to top seeding in the West, Westbrook will position himself to capture his second MVP title.
9. Damian Lillard
Lillard was the best player for a Portland team that reached the Western Conference Finals last year. He was an incredible performer, putting up nearly 26 points a game with countless clutch performances. One of the most clutch players in the league, Lillard is a threat from deep anywhere past half-court. If you fail to pick him up, he will most likely drain the shot right in your face. As the game gets tighter, Lillard becomes more deadly. He is known to hit the big shots when his team needs him most, and he will always be in the MVP discussion thanks to his dead-eye marksmanship.
The Trail Blazers are an overlooked team in the West, thanks to the rise of the LA teams and the addition of Russel Westbrook to the Rockets. If Lillard is able to will his team to a Top-3 seed in the West with a high scoring average, he might have a good chance at his first MVP award. The Trail Blazers will still be a solid team this year, thanks to the addition of Hassan Whiteside and the return of Rodney Hood.
8. Joel Embiid
Embiid is a fan-favorite, thanks to his on-court play and off-court antics including hilarious videos and tweets. Embiid is also cementing himself as the best player in the East, thanks to the departure of Kawhi Leonard, and will be looking to avenge his team’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors. While the Sixers lost Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick to Free Agency, they were able to grab Josh Richardson from Miami and Al Horford from Atlanta. With a re-tooled roster and the core of Embiid-Simmons-Harris returning, the Sixers are possibly the favorites in the East.
Even though Richardson or Horford is not as good as Butler, this might help Embiid’s case for the regular season MVP. He will have to shoulder more of the scoring load and will need to be a clutch performer if the Sixers want to grab the top seed in the East. In fact, Embiid might be the only Eastern Conference player with a chance at the MVP thanks to an incredible amount of superstars in the West. If Embiid can stay healthy and lead the Sixers to the best record in the NBA, he might just do enough to capture his MVP award.
7. Nikola Jokic
Jokic had a phenomenal season this past year, leading the Nuggets to a second-place finish in the Wild West. With averages of 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game, Jokic was the focal point of the Denver offense that surrounded him with capable shooters and slashers. Jokic, as evident by his stat-line, is an incredible passer for his position. He can find the open man with ease, especially when he is doubled on the block. He is also a capable shooter from mid-range and from three and is a triple-double threat each and every game.
With a very deep team behind him, Jokic should be considered one of the favorites for the MVP award. We have to look back to the 2006-2007 season since a big man won the award (Dirk Nowitzki), and Jokic will be looking to break this streak. Expect a similar stat line from the big man, while leading Denver to the upper part of the Western Conference seedings.
6. LeBron James
It seems strange that LeBron does not dominate the MVP discussion anymore, as we have become accustomed to him being the best player in the league for quite a while now. LeBron is getting older and is not required to play as many minutes as he used to during the regular season, and that has hurt his MVP chances in recent years.
Despite this fact, LeBron will likely enter this season as the dark-horse for the MVP award. Plus, you can never really count LeBron out. Recent reports predict that LeBron will return with an added fire and will want to lead his team to a Top-3 finish in the West. A pairing with AD gives LeBron the best chance at doing this, without sacrificing too much of his body before the playoffs. At the same time, LeBron will probably put up his usual stat-stuffing numbers while giving NBA fans across the globe something to talk about on a daily basis.
If LeBron can lead his Lakers to a top-2 seeding in a crowded West, he might have a crack at the NBA MVP award.
5. James Harden
James Harden could have won the MVP 3 years in a row already. He was been extremely dominate in the NBA, putting up scoring feats the likes we have not seen since Kobe and MJ. This past season, he averaged a whopping 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 2.0 steals while hitting 36.8% from three. Harden was runner-up to Giannis this past season, and will probably return with a vengeance following the Rocket’s addition of Russel Westbrook.
There is no denying that Westbrook is a better player than Chris Paul at this very moment, and he will relieve some of the pressure and offensive burden off of Harden this year. While this may come at the expense of his numbers, Harden will still be the best player on his team that will probably compete for top seeding in the Western Conference.
Harden will dominate the league offensively yet again, scoring in bunches and finding open guys for corner threes. He will also flourish next to Russel Westbrook and will give opponents fits whenever he attacks the basket with spot-up shooters all around the court.
Expect the Rockets to be deadly this season, and expect Harden to make a strong case for his second MVP award.
4. Anthony Davis
After all the past season’s hoopla about Davis and his trade request from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers were finally able to pull off a blockbuster trade that brings in AD to pair with LeBron James. Despite letting young talent like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram go, the Lakers have positioned themselves for an NBA title berth with a superstar duo and budding star Kyle Kuzma at the helm.
Expect Anthony Davis to enjoy his basketball in LA, and put on dominating displays on both ends of the floor. Remember, it was not too long ago that NBA executives deemed Davis as the player they would start their franchise with. He has all the tools of a perfect modern NBA big; including shooting, rebounding, defense, and athleticism. He will also have the most team success of his career playing with LeBron James, who will make winning games much easier. As a result, AD will probably lead his team in scoring and rebounding en route to a deep run in the NBA Playoffs.
3. Kawhi Leonard
It can be safe to say that Kawhi Leonard is very likely to capture his first regular-season MVP award. After an incredible season in 2018-2019, Leonard is probably looking to raise his game once again and prove that he is the best player in the regular season. After capturing multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards (2014-2015, 2015-2016) and Finals MVP awards (2014, 2018), Leonard is certainly itching to add a regular-season MVP to his impressive resume.
The Clippers are setting themselves up to be the best team in the West, and their record will easily be among the top of the league this season. As a result, Kawhi Leonard will be rewarded for his efforts not only in his play but in successfully creating a superstar duo with Paul George this offseason. Leonard will be the leader for a successful Clippers team this season en route to his first MVP award.
2. Stephen Curry
Two-time MVP and Three-Time NBA Champion Stephen Curry is one of the greatest point guards we have ever seen. His unrivaled marksman shooting at the point guard position has made him unstoppable in today’s NBA and is a nightmare to defend once he gets going from the perimeter. We have never seen a player, other than his teammate Klay, that can single-handedly take over a game with his 3-point shooting.
Yet, many seem to have written over the Warriors following KD’s exit and Klay’s injury that will probably keep him out for the majority of the season. The Warriors did a great job re-tooling this summer by re-signing Draymond to a 4-year, $100 million contract and also bringing in Willie-Caulie Stein who still has a lot of upside at the center position. More surprisingly, they were able to negotiate a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn for D’Angelo Russel who will start next to Stephen Curry in a very high-scoring backcourt.
There isn’t a better time for Curry to perform at a high level and deliver explosive MVP-like performances throughout the season. With many looking towards LA for league domination, Curry has a chance to lead his Warriors to a top-4 finish while putting up big scoring numbers. If Curry is able to start the season with the same fire he has in the past, you can probably expect to see him at the top of the NBA MVP race for a chance at his 3rd MVP title.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis was spectacular this past season as the driving force behind the best team in the regular season that reached the Eastern Conference Finals, only to fall to the eventual champions Toronto Raptors. During the regular season, he posted averages of 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists with an incredible 58% field-goal percentage. With his monster numbers and dominating display of performances, Giannis captures the 2018-2019 MVP award by edging out James Harden.
Expect a similar stat-line by Giannis this season, as the Bucks will likely be a top 2 seed in the East and compete for the Eastern Conference crown once again. Giannis will also probably return with an improved jump shot and added motivation following his team’s ECF defeat last season. Expect the Bucks to progress deep into the playoffs, and do major damage throughout the regular season which will greatly help Giannis’ MVP case.