The Def Pen Sports 2016-17 NBA preview is coming to an end and we saved the best for last. Over the last week we’ve given you our picks for the NBA conference standings, the top newcomers in the running for Rookie of the Year, which players might come off the bench and make an impact in the Sixth Man of the Year nominees, the players who will take the next step in the Most Improved Player award standings, gave you our best bets for the Defensive Player of the Year award and gave you a look at some of the best coaches and league executives. Now it’s time to pick the MVP.
Stephen Curry ran away with the NBA’s MVP award, becoming the first player to unanimously win the award in the history of the NBA. Not LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant or even Wilt Chamberlain. Stephen Curry was the first unanimous NBA MVP and he deserved it. Putting up some ridiculous stats on his way to winning his second consecutive MVP award. But Curry added a new teammate during the offseason. A guy named Kevin Durant, you might have heard of him. So with the last three NBA MVP’s on the same team, votes might cancel each other out, which leaves a seemingly wide open race for the NBA’s most valuable player in 2016-17.
2016-17 NBA Preview
Winner: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
T-3. James Harden, Houston Rockets
T-3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
T-3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Other nominees: Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Karl-Anthony Towns, Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard
LeBron James has already come out and said that he wants this award despite his expected reduction in minutes. As ‘The King’ ages, his minutes and games played drop, his play appears to get better and better. He’s logged over 42,000 minutes in total over his career and he’s never missed more than 69 games during his Cavs career. He can produce the minutes and games played and if we can take anything from game one, he’s looking to completely diversify his game. After posting a triple-double in the Cavs season-opening victory on ring night, LeBron and his coach Tyronn Lue both agree he’s never looked better. James even said he’s feeling like he’s 19 years old again and if that’s the case. The NBA should be on high alert. LeBron isn’t looking to take a break after leading Cleveland to the city’s first major sports title in over 50 years. He wants to repeat and also add another MVP award to his legacy.
Kawhi Leonard is our choice to win the NBA’s defensive player of the year but also win the NBA MVP? It’s unheard of and has only been done twice before by Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan. Can Kawhi add himself to that list? There’s a really good chance he does. Already two games into the season and ‘The Klaw’ has posted back-to-back 30 point games and he’s earned a great amount of praise from players around the NBA. He might be the most underrated star in the league and if his dominance on the defensive end can match his offensive output, we might be looking at a runaway winner for the MVP award. It just makes sense. Kawhi Leonard’s Spurs are expected to be a top-three team in the West and his statistics, barring injury, should be even better than last year. Plus, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers stars will take votes away from each other. Russell Westbrook might come close to 50 wins but can he continue to put up near triple-doubles on a nightly basis? And how much will James Harden’s game change under new head coach Mike D’Antoni and can the Rockets be a top-four team in the West? All signs point to a Kawhi versus LeBron showdown for MVP and as we’ve seen in the past, those are some pretty good matchups.
David Morrow makes the case for why James Harden should be your pick for the NBA MVP.
Per Bovada, James Harden’s odds at winning MVP are listed at +1000, putting him in a four-way tie for fourth most likely in the NBA. Yet, Russell Westbrook is being given a league-best +200. Why? Both are dynamic offensive superstars who carry a massive burden for their respective teams. But Westbrook has never done this before. He’s been on winning teams throughout much of his career, but let’s face it: Durant was always the first option.
Since 1982, every NBA MVP has been on a 50+ win team. I’m pretty high on Steven Adams, and even on Victor Oladipo. But I don’t think that this team wins 50 games. I’m not fully sold on this Rockets team winning 50 games either, but I do believe that they’ll be better than the Thunder. In 2014-15, the Harden-led Rockets won 56 games. While this year’s team did lose Dwight Howard, they also bought into the all-out offense approach, hiring Mike D’Antoni — a coach who is known for winning lots of games coaching teams that are offensively-focused and defensively-challenged. The Rockets further embraced D’Antoni’s philosophy by signing gunner Eric Gordon and stretch-four Ryan Anderson, who are both capable of filling up the scoring column.
I don’t know that this Houston team will be good enough for Harden to win MVP. But he will put up incredible numbers, and if they can make it work, he should be considered the favorite for the award.