By: Tom McDermott
After back to back years of first time MVP’s winning the trophy, will the 2018-2019 season see the first repeat winner since Steph Curry? Could a newcomer like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Anthony Davis shake things up in this year’s race? The new season will bring a race that will likely be closer than any MVP race we have seen in recent years. LeBron’s great move to Los Angeles could prove to be the key in winning his fifth MVP. Here is a look at how the race will shake out.
The Dark Horses:
Devin Booker – 250/1
I hate to include who has been putting up numbers on such a terrible team for the past few years, but numbers have won MVP’s in today’s NBA. In 2017-2018, Booker put up 24.9 points per game, which would have been good enough for 8th in the NBA. If he is able to make that jump to a superstar level with this new and improved Suns team, it is not out of the question that we find Booker in the MVP conversation come June.
Victor Oladipo – 100/1
Who would have thought at this time last year that Indiana would be the apparent winners of the Paul George trade? What a difference a year can make. In 2017-2018, Victor Oladipo made his leap to stardom, resulting in his first All-Star appearance. As the clear alpha dog on a very good Pacers team, it is not totally unreasonable to see a scenario where Oladipo puts his name in the race with his staunch defense and rapidly improving offense.
Donovan Mitchell – 100/1
Rookie (n.) – An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team (credit Mitchell’s clothing). What a rookie season for the heir apparent to Gordon Hayward. He won the 2018 dunk contest and came up just short in the Rookie of the Year award voting. If the king of incredible jumping, both in his performance level and for dunks, can make a similar leap like last season, the sky is the limit for him. The Jazz are Mitchell’s team and after leading them to a shocking second round run last year, they have gotten even better and younger, which is the perfect formula for Mitchell to ascend to MVP heights.
The Team Players:
Any Member of the Celtics or Warriors
The Celtics and Warriors have built absolute super teams ready for a supersized clash in the NBA Finals. While this is great for the franchises as a whole, this will restrict any one player from either team from becoming the 2018-2019 NBA MVP. Selfless team basketball is the recipe for success in the NBA, but not for the last two MVP’s, not to name any names. While the players on these teams are clearly MVP caliber, it is highly unlikely that anyone from either roster will be accepting the award in June.
6. Russel Westbrook – 20/1
Back to back triple double averages and only one MVP to show for? It has become clear that the voters are trending to more toward impact on the game rather than just gaudy stats. Russ is not likely to slow down on those crazy numbers that we have become used to seeing. Even with those numbers, voters will not be likely to side with him on another mediocre team this year. With so many other emerging contenders throughout the NBA, I see Russ as a serious threat for winning an MVP, but he will not emerge victorious. For this reason, I have him coming in 6th in this year’s MVP race.
5. James Harden - 5/1
Voter fatigue is a real issue for anyone who wants to repeat an award in any major sport in this modern era of sports. For James Harden to win this year’s MVP, he will be unfairly judged against his performance last year. Last year, James Harden was historically good. With 30.4 points per game and 8.8 assists per game, James Harden led the Rockets to the first seed in the Western Conference over the mighty Warriors. With numbers and success like that, it is hard not to name someone the league MVP. However, for Harden to win again, he will need to do something new that will excite voters. Where is there to go up from those accomplishments? I do not see a way to answer that question, which is why I have the reigning MVP at 5th in the voting.
4. Kawhi Leonard – 10/1
Will Kawhi be back to his former Finals MVP form? Or will taking an entire season away from basketball prove to be detrimental to his development? There are far more questions than there are answers with Kawhi Leonard as we approach the new season. Moving to the East should be a huge weight off his shoulders night in and night out. Rather than scraping and clawing for a playoff spot, as he would with the Spurs, the Raptors should be able to coast to a top 3 seed as Kawhi shines. We have all seen the flashes of brilliance that he can display over the course of a season. This year will be a true test on whether or not he can put all of it together and lead his team to greatness as the sole focal point. Given the question marks surrounding him this season, I am reluctant to put Kawhi any higher than 4th on this list, despite the enormous potential he possesses.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo – 5/1
Last season, the Greek Freak put on an absolute show. Throughout the early parts of the season, experts across the NBA widely considered him to be the frontrunner in all MVP discussions. That buzz did fade significantly as the season progressed, which resulted in him finishing 6th in the race. The NBA has been waiting on this Bucks team to reach their full potential ever since Giannis made his jump into superstardom. The odds currently have him as the 3rd favorite to win the MVP which is precisely where I will place him. I believe that with an improved jump shot and more freedom on this team, the sky is the limit for this man.
2. LeBron James – 3/1
Vegas’ favorite does not get my top pick for the MVP. LeBron goes year in and year out producing MVP caliber performances. To show for, LeBron has won four career MVP trophies and has not finished outside the top 4 in MVP voting since his Sophomore year in the league. To give some perspective on the last time LeBron James fell outside of the top 4 in voting, George Bush was currently on his first term as president when the season began. Success like that is why I believe that this award is LeBron’s to lose this year. For this reason, I do not have faith that he will go out and get that award. Being surrounded by a group of young talent on the Lakers will require him to bring the rest of the guys up to speed and get them involved on both sides of the ball. LeBron has been known to coast through seasons to prepare for the grueling postseason. This is no disrespect to him. He is just that good that he can do this. While LeBron may go out this year putting up insane numbers to silence the MJ debates, the possibility of him coasting through the season is far too great for him to be my pick for MVP.
1. Anthony Davis – 4/1
My top choice for MVP currently has the second-best odds and already has a top 3 MVP finish. The growth we have seen from Anthony Davis has been incredible, but nothing we did not expect when he was drafted first overall out of Kentucky. He has double his point per game averages since his rookie year and started averaging double digit rebounds and two and a half blocks per year. Last season he even shot 34% from three, which was a career high for him. If this trend continues, there is no reason not to expect Davis to drop 30+ points per game, while also maintaining his elite rebound and block numbers. Davis will have even less playmakers on his team this year, allowing him to have the entire offense go through him. I would expect both his point and assist averages to rise this year given his increased use by his team and the rise in focus he will receive from other teams. There has been a trend of MVP’s being the ones carrying the majority of their team’s offensive load. Davis certainly fits this description and more than has the ability to put up the ridiculous stats that we have seen from Harden and Westbrook in recent years. For that reason, I have Anthony Davis as the top choice for league MVP.
All stats from www.espn.com and www.basketball-reference.com.
Odds from Sportbook.ag
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