I think we can all presume that the unanimous number one is LeBron James. Who, throughout the last few seasons, has played better all around basketball? Say what you will about him leaving Cleveland, a team that was destined to go nowhere and joining two all stars, but are two rings and two Finals MVP awards not enough to silence that critique? No, LeBron did not take the traditional route, but to deny his level of play and role on his Miami Heat is preposterous. LeBron is one of the league’s best defenders, both on ball and off, and he is dangerous chasing down the fastbreak. He is a top level facilitator who makes the oft-criticized “smart play” by dishing to a plethora of able teammates. Have I mentioned his scoring yet? Being an oversized brute with guardlike ball handling and superb athletic ability has its perks. There’s no need to go into details regarding James’ ability to get to the rim. That’s already well precedented. What is worth noting is the incredible post game James has developed since joining the Heat. His jumpshot is nothing to scream and holler about, but it’s not as if he was Shaquille O’Neal spotting up to shoot. Is there a facet of his game I haven’t admired … oops I mean analyzed … yet? Needless to say, LeBron James is my early, preseason MVP pick.
I know what’s next to come. If you’ve managed to read this far, you’re either a LeBron James fan, or just about ready to shower me in a deluge of “stop riding LeBron” or “There’s no way LeBron is better than Jordan”. Wait, who mentioned Jordan? All jokes aside, now is when I make my case for players that will go out this season with the sole intention of proving me wrong … well, not me specifically, but they want to prove they are MVP material.
With Westbrook out for the foreseeable future, most will cite last season’s playoffs as reason to believe the Thunder won’t be as potent as we’ve become accustomed to them being. This presents The Durantula with not just an insurmountable obstacle, but also a tremendous opportunity. He’s always been just on the cusp of ‘it’. There’s always been LeBron James in the way, or the “he has Westbrook” argument. Now it’s time for KD to buckle up, and carry this young Oklahoma City team to the top of the Western Conference, where they belong. It certainly will not be easy, but Durant has the ability to do it. We’ve never questioned his offensive ability. This season, his role will be increased as the elites of the league are determined by every facet of their game.
The man has been an MVP before. He carried an otherwise mediocre Chicago team for an entire season and elevated not just his own game, but everyone else’s around him. Add that ability to the hunger he must have after missing an entire season due to injury and you have a player that’s out there trying to reclaim his throne, and possibly add a Championship ring to that throne room.
Lob City is no more. Doc Rivers is in town and he wants to establish championship basketball. He will implement his proven system and it’s up to one man to run it, to own it. That man is CP3. Chris Paul is one of the league’s most elite point guards. He is the leader of a young team that is emerging from its adolescence and is ready to hang with the big boys now. The Clippers have had their bedazzled fun, and that’s not to say we’ve seen the last of our beloved alley oops, but the red, white, and blue of Los Angeles are ready to be taken seriously as championship contenders and Paul is the glue that holds that locker room together. Look for him to elevate his already stellar game to a whole new level this season.
There may be some surprise contenders that will vie for MVP consideration. On this list, I have included Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, Tony Parker from the San Antonio Spurs, Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks, James Harden from the Houston Rockets, and Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Other than Parker and Anthony, these players listed are young team leaders that I see one day competing for MVPs, just not yet, but could make a nice surprise surge this season.
Parker is listed because somehow the Spurs always find a way to contend and he is now the anchor of that team. Anthony is the opposite. He’s got the skills, attitude, and desire to be on the MVP list, but I don’t see his team competing at a high enough level to put him in serious MVP contention.