The chase for this season’s NBA MVP award is just over two months away and is looking as star-studded as ever. Here are my 10 most likely candidates – not based on just going down the gambling odds – to win the prestigious award for the 2018-19 season.
10. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard stepped up his game once again last season with the next step being an MVP candidate. Lillard will have several players to leap over in order to win the award, but a possible 29 and 8 season from Dame would surpass most of them. A bad basketball fit with emerging-star CJ McCollum prevents Lillard’s stats from exploding and passing more of them.
1. Kyrie Irving
Leading a team to the best record in the NBA is an instant booster in an MVP race, which leads us to Kyrie Irving. Irving will mesh better this year with the Celtics and will be the centerpiece to the juggernaut they will become. Irving played Robin to LeBron’s Batman for three years while simultaneously becoming one of the better players in the NBA. In 2018-19, Kyrie Irving will be Batman on the NBA’s best team while simultaneously earning the MVP award.
9. Russell Westbrook
With Carmelo Anthony now gone, Russell Westbrook’s numbers will go up and a third-straight year averaging a triple-double is probable. At this point, numbers are not going to earn Westbrook with another MVP award, he must increase his efficiency greatly as well as making those around him more effective.
8. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is going to be the X-factor in the MVP race. An improved version of last year’s campaign will storm into the MVP discussion. The Magic Johnson-like player is going to win more than one MVP in his career. Is this upcoming season too early? Derrick Rose won the award at age 22.
7. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is actually an underrated player. The gap between him and LeBron for league supremacy is not as wide as most believe and his all-time ranking is closer to the top 10 than the top 20. Durant’s chances of becoming the best player in the NBA are better than becoming league MVP due to perception, but both will be in play.
Now, as for Finals MVP, Durant should again be the favorite.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Could this be the year? Giannis Antetokounmpo is a bionic-type human, yet, has so much room to grow. If he develops an effective outside shot, the list of players with a better season will be really short. The Bucks will also need to improve as a team showing Antetokounmpo’s game can translate to wins in order for the award to be won.
5. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard was an MVP candidate when last seen healthy and is in for a monster season with the Raptors. The best two-way player in the NBA will quickly become a nightmare once again to be defended by, and a go-to player late in games. The third best player in the NBA has perhaps more to prove than all of his contemporaries.
4. James Harden
James Harden must top last season’s MVP-winning season to become the 12th player to win the award back-to-back. Leading the NBA in scoring again should be anticipated. Harden’s biggest challenge will be keeping the Rockets afloat. They have had a brutal offseason and with Carmelo Anthony on the way, months of chemistry issues are in store.
3. LeBron James
LeBron will get most of, if not all of the credit for the Lakers inevitable growth increasing his chances of winning the award. What will not bode quite so well is blame he will receive for the growing pains the team will suffer. The offset of those narratives in an up and down season will keep LeBron from winning his 5th MVP award in another ridiculous, unbelievable, storytelling season.
2. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is required to put up otherworldly numbers (like Russell Westbrook had to do in 2017) to win the award because his team will once again not be in the upper echelon of the NBA. Which just might be what happens. Davis impacts the game on both ends, and by impacts, I mean dominates.
Davis’ points per game have increased every year he has been in the league, 30 ppg on better than 55% shooting is on the way very, very soon.