The NBA regular season, which commences on October 16th, should be as promising as ever. LeBron James took his talents to Los Angeles, DeMarcus Cousins made Golden State even stronger, and Carmelo Anthony has been added to the Houston roster. In result, ten superstars have stood out among the rest in the 2018-19 NBA MVP race. Note that James Harden is not mentioned on the list, as we are focusing primarily on new MVP winners.
With the help of twelve analysts from The Athletes Hub, here is who holds the best odds to bring in the reward after the upcoming season:
10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Average Ranking: 9th, First Place Votes: 0, Highest Ranking: #7, Lowest Ranking: #10)
Through the offseason, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has directly stated that he wants to work towards receiving the NBA MVP award. As the roster continues to develop, certain members of The Athletes Hub disagree with his short-term chances.
In fact, five of twelve analysts believe that Embiid has the worst chances among the ten candidates. The last time a pure center won the MVP award was back in the 1999-2000 campaign with Shaquille O’Neal in his Lakers days. While Embiid is nowhere near that level quite yet at the age of 24, he is certainly a player on the rise.
9. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (Average Ranking: 8th, First Place Votes: 0, Highest Ranking: #4, Lowest Ranking: #10)
Finishing right above Joel Embiid is fellow teammate Ben Simmons. Going into his (technical) second year of play, Simmons has shown promise in becoming one of the more elite passing point guards in the league.
While his ceiling his high, Simmons’ lack of a jump shot and ability to execute at the free throw line are just some of the reasons his MVP campaign may take a toll. In 2017, the 22-year old shot 56% from the FT line, which was well outside the NBA’s top 100.
8. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (Average Ranking: 7th, First Place Votes: 0, Highest Ranking: #5, Lowest Ranking: #9)
After a season riddled with injuries in 2017, Kawhi Leonard will be seeking a new start in Toronto for the 2018-19 campaign. While he may be ranked #8, there is tremendous potential for Leonard to finish with a few MVP votes next season.
Labeled as one of the best two-way players in recent memory, the biggest worry surrounding Leonard is his ability to play a full season. While Toronto is gambling by investing in someone who missed 73/82 games last year, the small forward may be able to prove his worth through his aggressive play on the court.
7. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics (Average Ranking: 7th, First Place Votes: 2, Highest Ranking: #1, Lowest Ranking: #10)
Out of all the candidates, Kyrie Irving may very well be the most polarizing. Although he finished with two first place votes, the Boston Celtics point guard also finished with four last place votes as well.
Perhaps it’s because Irving will be surrounded by talents in Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and more, but his ceiling was pretty much reached after his 2016 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The point guard will finish with impressive numbers after the 2018-19 season, but it’s doubtful that he receives any MVP votes.
6. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (Average Ranking: 5th, First Place Votes: 0, Highest Ranking: #2, Lowest Ranking: #10)
I was throughly surprised when Anthony Davis didn’t receive the praise he has worked for. After a 2017-18 season with a career-high in minutes played, points, FG %, as well as assists, the main concern around Davis includes his lost assets. After DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo took off in free agency, some of the analysts likely believe Davis’ numbers will suffer.
On the contrary, New Orleans could request similar minutes from Davis this season, as he is the obvious centerpiece for this franchise. While it’s unlikely he will finish the season as the MVP, Anthony Davis is vastly underrated in this particular setting.
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (Average Ranking: 5th, First Place Votes: 1, Highest Ranking: #1, Lowest Ranking: #9)
After three championships in four consecutive seasons, Stephen Curry has been a large factor in the success of the Golden State Warriors. With that being said, Curry has now found himself on a roster with yet another All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins. Although he won’t play until January in all likelihood, will Curry’s support be overshadowed to the point where his MVP case cannot be taken seriously?
Based on his previous accolades, I can’t see Stephen Curry as the MVP of the 2018-19 season. Since his remarkable 2015-16 season, the fields of shots taken per game, as well as points and assists, have steadily decreased as time passed. With another superstar added late into the season, the trend very well may continue for the five-time All-Star.
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (Average Ranking: 4th, First Place Votes: 0, Highest Ranking: #2, Lowest Ranking: #7)
Although Russell Westbrook is possibly the most athletic player in the NBA, he is also vastly overrated as far as MVP voting goes. After two consecutive seasons of averaging a triple-double, he only received the MVP award in his first go-around. With the removal of Carmelo Anthony, perhaps it will be easier to run the floor, but his ceiling can’t get much higher.
To reiterate, Westbrook could finish with a triple-double once again, which is practically unheard of. On the other hand, the NBA universe has witnessed Westbrook’s dominance before, so I’m not sure a triple-double will be enough to grant him another MVP award.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Average Ranking: 5th, First Place Votes: 2, Highest Ranking: #1, Lowest Ranking: #8)
After putting his name on the map over the last two seasons, there is hope that Giannis Anteokounmpo will break out for an MVP season in 2018. With two first place votes, Antetokounmpo is the youngest candidate on the board with a projected vote for MVP.
This one is interesting, as the Eastern Conference has gotten progressively weaker. If the Milwaukee Bucks can take advantage of their “easier” opponents and impress with a regular season standing, it certainly won’t hurt Antetokounmpo’s case.
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (Average Ranking: 3rd, First Place Votes: 3, Highest Ranking: #1, Lowest Ranking: #6)
Much like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant is surrounded by a plethora of talent that becomes a double-edged sword when talking about his MVP case. His stats were among the elite in 2017, but Durant is likely incapable of reaching another season of 30+ points per game.
The second slot in terms of likelihood to receive the MVP award is a bit of a stretch, but Durant is labeled clearly as the second-best player in the NBA. If his stats are superior in comparison to his competition, perhaps Durant will win the award for the second time in his career.
1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Average Ranking: 2nd , First Place Votes: 4, Highest Ranking: #1, Lowest Ranking: #4)
Although the gap between Durant and LeBron James is close in this survey, I believe the gap is a lot larger. While Durant is adding to another franchise’s previous success, James is starting from scratch and hoping to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
Although it’s unfair for the goal of the Lakers to be the NBA Finals, a playoff slot is more likely. James has made it through the Eastern Conference each of the last eight seasons, and with the young potential and deep bench Los Angeles contains, the Lakers ceiling could be as high as the #4 seed in the West.