The outside bets!
DISCLAIMER: This list is just my opinion, and even I don't feel great about a lot of these picks. There are plenty of guys who deserve to be on the list. If your favorite guy is not here or too far down, then say why you think they are higher. On top of that, the MVP race could be wide open this season, since 2 guys who would figure to get votes will likely get far less in Durant and Curry.
10 - Kahwi Leonard
This is the one I feel the worst about, in fact, my gut feeling on the Spurs is what I feel the worst about of anything. HOWEVA, it is my gut feeling, so at the risk of looking very stupid, I'm going with it. I think the Spurs are going to fall off quite a bit this season, likely still win 50 games (because of course they will) but I truthfully do not think Pau Gasol makes you much better as a team, and they sacrificed some depth to get him. Leonard is still one of the top players in the NBA (better than several of the guys in front of him on this list) but his argument for MVP last year was rooted directly with the Spurs being so good as a team, and I think that if the Spurs fall off a bit as a team, people will look away a bit from Leonard, even if it isn't deserved. I almost left him off the list, but decided to not disrespect the Spurs like that because the Spurs never die.
9 - Paul George
The Pacers have put together a solid team this season, and Paul George is already perceived by the public (rightly or wrongly) as being the second best player in the western conference. The Pacers hope to be playing at a faster pace this season with a more dynamic offense which should really play to George's ability in transition and as a shooter. If George can avoid some of the slumps that have plagued him, he will gain some MVP traction.
8 - Kyle Lowry
If this were just my thoughts, he would be higher on this list. Lowry is criminally underrated, and the Raptors will have a good chance to be the best challengers to LeBron in the East. He would have to put together (for like the 3rd year in a row) a career year, which is unlikely, but I just really want to believe that the general public will finally give Lowry his due. Probably the best Point Guard in the Eastern Conference, and a healthy Demarre Carroll combined with JV getting a year better and the Raptors could be going toe to toe with LeBron.
7 - Andre Drummond
The Pistons figure to be improved in a major way this season, since they no longer feature the NBA's most depressing bench mob. More wins combined with Drummond taking more steps as a player could make for him really getting onto the radar for the general populace. His free throws still stand as a huge worry, but even with them he is a monster who could well average 20/15 this season. Like the Bucks, the Pistons would have to take big steps as a team this season which even for a homer like me, is not terribly likely. But Drummond comes in a bit higher because he is already a really popular player who was an all-star last year.
6 - James Harden
Harden is one of the top players in the NBA, and figures to put up some insane numbers playing alongside some new and improved offensive talent. We may well see Wilts 100 point game record broken this season, the worry, however, is that it may be broken by a team facing the Rockets, because there are some serious defensive issues on the team. The big question around Harden's MVP hopes is whether the Rockets can win enough games to keep him in the conversation. And I know, I put Kawhi back because the Spurs might not win enough. The thing about Harden (like one of the players who will be in part 2) is that he figures to put up such absolutely mind boggling stats this season that people may look past his team's lack of wins, not to mention Harden's own defensive issues. Because unfortunately, even with the progress made, the general populace doesn't put a ton of stock into defense (especially when it isn't a big). Which is why Harden is here, and Kawhi is #10.
5 - Kevin Durant/Steph Curry
I am kind of cheating by combining these two, but I think only one of them will be able to get much traction and it would be largely at the expense of the other. If they both just play well then they will be taking a lot of numbers from each other, which combined with the fact that the Warriors are going to essentially be villains this year and It would take one of them really standing out over the other. As in, it becomes very clear very quickly that Durant is actually a lot better than Curry or the other way around. Both players deserve to be higher, but playing together and dislike is going to probably hurt their cases, and they are mostly here out of respect for the players individually.
4 - Carmelo Anthony
This is mostly a gut feeling just like Kawhi being at #10, as in I don't feel good about it, but it is my feeling. I think the Knicks could end up actually being good this season, and Melo is going to explode and remind people that he is absolutely a top player in this league. Derrick Rose is probably the best PG Melo has played with since Chauncey Billups, and I am betting big on Porzingis making a big step to be a real star next year, and people are going to be surprised by how good the Brandon Jennings lead bench mob is going to be. The Knicks have a real chance to be good, and Melo back in the spotlight. Throw in playing in NYC and his name could be back in the MVP talk.
3 - Russell Westbrook
Just like his former teammate James Harden, Westbrook figures to have the ball in his hands a ton this coming season and could legitimately average a triple double. Like Harden, there will be some question as to whether or not the Thunder will win enough games to keep him in the race, but unlike Harden, Westbrook is likely to have lots of public support behind him as a reaction to Durant leaving. Most people will be rooting hard for Westbrook and the Thunder to do really well this season, and because people will want him to succeed they will be more likely to look past shortcomings in both his own and his teams play.
2 - Chris Paul
This is Chris Paul's chance. Steph Curry is on the most hated team ever and has to split shots with Kevin Durant, Ditto for Durant. Westbrook and Harden will probably not win enough games, leaving just LeBron James in his path. LeBron is obviously going to be #1 on this list, but if James decides to take it easy this season after finally winning one for Cleveland, then Paul could easily win MVP next season. Everyone knows he should probably have one in his career, and the Clippers could well end up being the best challengers to the Warriors in the West. This is Chris Paul's chance, I just hope he doesn't get hurt.
1 - LeBron James
He has all the momentum coming off one of the most remarkable Finals performances ever, and with Durant joining the Warriors LeBron (likely) lost his 2 main competitors for MVP, while at the same time having public opinion suddenly swinging towards his favor in a big way as people view him as the lone soldier to try and stop the monster that is the Warriors. On top of all of that, he now has gotten Cleveland it's championship that he has strived for so long, and while obviously more championships will have a lot to do with his legacy, the biggest thing left on his checklist is out of the way. It is no secret that LeBron legitimately worries about his legacy, and with the Larry O'Brian trophy residing in Cleveland, LeBron might decide that it is time to try and win DPOY and try and break the record for most MVPs won. On top of that, his performance in the Finals last year will make people more likely to vote for him (even though it shouldn't.) because he has so clearly proven himself to be so much better than everyone else in 2 straight finals, I think this award is his to lose.
What do you think? Make your own list!
Honorable mentions and why they were left off:
Anthony Davis: I want to see him be healthy, and the Pelicans might suck again this season.
Blake Griffin: I'm betting on a big year for Paul, which will likely put Griffin a bit further back. Also, his stock dropped a bit last season, it doesn't take away from how awesome a player he is. Just, even though it isn't right, people don't really look at just the one season when thinking about this award.
Damian Lillard: He should put up great numbers, and is a legit superstar in the league. But if the West is healthier I think the Blazers will not make big leap forwards, and if they win 44 games again, they will not be an awesome story, they will just be a run of the mill back end playoff team.