The NBA season tips off on Tuesday and some of the favorites for league MVP will be on display. Just don't expect any of them to actually win Most Valuable Player. The way the NBA is put together now, the best players team up and rest.
Kawhi Leonard has Paul George and load management. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have each other and their own bodies to worry about if they plan on making a deep playoff run. James Harden will still run the show in Houston, but Russell Westbrook will stuff the stat book enough to hurt Harden's MVP chances. So we'll have to look elsewhere to find the 2019-2020 NBA MVP.
5. Joel Embiid (+1200)
How healthy is he? What kind of shape is he in? Can he break the 70-games played mark? Will he stop taking so many damn threes? Will he be the first big man since Kevin Garnett to win an MVP?
The 76ers have won 50+ games each of the last two seasons. Embiid was 7th in MVP voting last season as he averaged career-highs in points, rebounds and assists. If everything goes well for Embiid and he focuses on kicking everyone's butts down low this season, he could jump up over 30-points a game and get the Sixers into a top spot in the Eastern Conference.
4. Damian Lillard (+2800)
At this point in his career he's a perennial MVP candidate. His numbers have been pretty similar over the last three seasons. Lillard was 6th in MVP voting last season and 4th the year before. In seven seasons, he has never played in fewer than 73 games.
If he can make like one more three-pointer a game and the Blazers can get over the hump, from third-seed to one or two-seed while other teams rest for the playoffs, Lillard is an obvious pick for MVP. He has a great second-banana in CJ McCollum, who is a wonderful player, but he's just not a superstar. Sorry, Jennifer.
3. Giannis Antentonkounmpo (+300)
The reigning league MVP and current betting favorite actually lost a key part of his supporting cast over the summer when Malcolm Brogdon signed with Indiana. That means if the Bucks are going to be as good as last season, Giannis is going to have to be even better.
Usually when a guy averages 27 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, there isn't much room to improve, but that's really all Giannis has done so far in his career. He has increased his scoring and rebounding every single season of his career. He averaged a career-high 5.9 assists last season. His three-point shooting came in at a low 25.6 percent last season, but he still finished 9th in the entire league in effective field goal percentage. We should just assume that Giannis will continue to get better until he doesn't.
4. Nikola Jokic (+1200)
MVP Jokic is probably the most fun possibility on this list. Last season the Nuggets were a 2-seed and this year the West is wide open and loaded. Jokic turns 25 in February and averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals last season. If Jokic makes another leap and the Nuggets finish first, he's a no-brainer.
As good as he was last season, he only shot the ball 15.1 times a game and averaged just 20.1 points a game, while shooting a career-low 30% from three. If he shoots just a little more and a little better, his resume will look incredible. Plus, he has played in 80, 73, 75 and 80 games in his first four seasons. Jokic plays at his own pace and stays on the court.
1. Stephen Curry (+550)
Curry won the last two MVP awards before Kevin Durant showed up in Golden State. Curry was 5th in voting last season. He also has the benefit of being the only guy who doesn't need to be a top seed to get serious consideration. KD is gone again and Klay Thompson is out for most of, if not the entire, season. It's just Steph and Draymond Green.
Predictions for this Warriors team are all over the map, but if they are a playoff team, it will be considered a great accomplishment considering the circumstances. If they're going to be a playoff team, Stephen Curry is going to have to be incredible. If he's incredible, he might win his third MVP.