Who will be named this season's Most Valuable Player?
Ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff reveals their picks for the end-of-season award.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): This is the toughest one yet, which speaks to how loaded the NBA is right now with top-end talent. You can make the case for a number of players - LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will almost certainly be up there once again, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard could make a strong push this season, Kevin Durant shouldn't be ruled out, Nikola Jokic and James Harden are perennial MVP candidates, and so on and so forth.
Even with all that in mind, it's hard for me to go against Luka Doncic.
He's only entering his third season, but Doncic made a leap last season, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 43-32 record with averages of 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. The only other players in NBA history to post those numbers? Russell Westbrook (once) and Oscar Robertson (four times). If he takes his game to another level this season and the Mavericks continue to rise up the Western Conference standings, Doncic's case is going to be incredibly hard to beat.
Working in Doncic's favour is that he's the clear No. 1 on the Mavericks and his running-mate, Kristaps Porzingis, is expected to miss the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Mavericks are at their best when Porzingis is healthy, but him being sidelined will only lead to more Doncic early in the season.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Like Scott said, the field is wide open this year with a bunch of players who you can make cases for.
I feel like this will be the year of a first-time winner because the voters have seen enough of Giannis and LeBron. I wrote about all the potential first-time winners and their path to the award this year, and while doing the research for that piece I found myself continuously coming back to one guy: Anthony Davis.
It wasn't long ago that AD was in conversation for the pound-for-pound best player in the league fictional title. I see him getting back into that conversation this year. Davis' defence got all the praise on the biggest stage in the Finals. It wasn't new information - AD has always been an elite defender - but it hits different when you do it in the Finals. It hits different when you're doing it on national TV and it hits different when you're anchoring one of the best defences in the league.
Let's face it: I think we won't be surprised if LeBron is in cruise control in the regular season, but both LeBron and AD can't afford to do that for the Lakers to be in the best position come the playoffs. With LeBron stepping back, I see AD stepping up and adding to his resume with an MVP award.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I see the infatuation with Luka Doncic as an MVP-favourite. I can also see Giannis Antetokounmpo making a push for his third straight award, as well as guys like Damian Lillard or a comeback MVP for Kevin Durant. I even think a player like Jayson Tatum could receive surprise consideration for the award if his Boston Celtics have the best record in the Eastern Conference.
But with all that being said, the general consensus is that the Lakers are going to be the best team in the NBA again, right? And the expectation is that they're talented enough that LeBron James should be able to take some nights off or play on cruise control, like Carlan said. So if that's the case - that the Lakers are going to be the best team in the league and LeBron is going to reserve himself to be as physically ready as possible for the playoffs and another title run - then there is no one else better for the award than Anthony Davis.
Davis has widely been considered one of the top talents in the NBA for years now and has slowly but surely been checking all of the boxes to fulfill that title. He's a multi-time All-Star, he's made All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams and, just recently, he's won an NBA title. This season, I expect Davis to check another box in winning league MVP, and he just might make a run at Defensive Player of the Year, too, after falling just short to Antetokounmpo last season.
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Giannis Antetokounmpo is rightly the favourite to win the award for a third-straight year, but I'm taking a new winner, and that's Damian Lilllard.
Can the bubble MVP earn his first regular season MVP?
Hear me out, only three players in NBA history have won the award in three consecutive seasons ... Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird, making Antetokounmpo's quest for a 3-peat a historical feat.
Lillard's numbers are MVP-worthy, averaging 30.0 ponts, 8.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 46.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.1 percent from the 3-point line in 66 games last season, but the key for him here is team success.
With the Blazers bolstering their roster in the offseason in adding Robert Covington, Enes Kanter, Derrick Jones Jr. and Harry Giles III, plus the returns of Rodney Hood and Zach Collins from injury, the front office has surrounded Lillard and CJ McCollum with plenty of depth. After scraping into the playoffs via the play-in tournament, I expect the Blazers won't be taking the regular season lightly.
If they end up being a top four seed with Lillard dropping monster scoring nights and 3-pointers from the logo, his MVP campaign will garner plenty of attention.
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