19. Is the MVP LeBron’s to lose?
Vegas, as well as conventional wisdom among the NBA intelligentsia, projects a three-man MVP race as most likely this season. LeBron James is leading the pack as usual, and Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis are nipping at his heels. This is a bit strange since none of the Lakers, Bucks or Pelicans are shoe-ins for even a top-four seed in the playoffs. However, the narrative surrounding each of these superstar’s rise to the award is easy enough to visualize.
For LeBron, it’s entirely possible that his arrival in Los Angeles leads to a double-digit improvement in wins and a return back to the playoffs, maybe even a 4-seed or higher if we’re getting crazy. The combination of bringing the Lakers back to the playoffs and how omnipresent LeBron will surely be in the news this season could be more than enough for a lifetime achievement MVP, his fifth.
For Giannis, the narrative would different, but just as easy to picture. If Mike Budenholzer’s arrival actually provides the necessary kick in the pants to the Bucks’ defense and Milwaukee vaults into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, then Giannis will absolutely be a frontrunner for the award, perhaps as the undisputed best player in the Eastern Conference (a title I’d wager he already has). The Bucks will need to win enough games though, and that remains a big if.
Davis taking the award is the least likely outcome of the three if you ask me. He’s unbelievably talented, and he could very well lead the league in scoring while also punishing those who seek to score on him at the rim for a full season. If he manages that and the Pelicans are a home-court team, I’d be ready to give it to him. However, the West is just too much of a bloodbath for me to really consider New Orleans in that way, and Davis always end up missing too many games to be a real MVP contender. He absolutely has the talent to pull it off, but it will be hard to leapfrog the other two.