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Why LeBron, Harden won’t win MVP, but Steph will

By: Ben Meyerson
Follow me on Twitter @byBenMeyerson

The NBA MVP is the most prestigious and misleading award the league gives out every year. When you think of MVP from the outside looking in, you may think that it should be the best player in the league, but it wouldn’t be interesting if LeBron were MVP every season. Because of that, it comes down to whoever has the best season in the NBA that year, or so you’d think. In actuality, the award is voted on by 100 biased media members.

At the end of the day, just because you have the best statistical season, that does not mean you are going to win. Think about Russell Westbrook winning the MVP award. He averaged a triple-double (first person to do it since Oscar Robertson in case you didn’t hear). Every season since, he has also averaged a triple-double and hasn’t finished top-4 in MVP votes since he won the award. Look at James Harden, who won the award in 2018. He averaged 36 points per game, putting up video game numbers and a legitimate case as the greatest second-place MVP season EVER.

Via Bleacher Report

They both lost for the same reason MVP fatigue. People in NBA media cannot differentiate different seasons for players. I’m not saying that either of those players should’ve won MVP. It’s incredibly hypocritical that a guy wins MVP for a triple-double and keeps doing it and gets completely ignored. The NBA media usually latches onto a guy early on and sticks with him unless someone else makes an emphatic case that can’t be ignored. Now that we understand how this award works let’s look at my four best bets to win the award, odds via Odds Shark

Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300)

Via Forbes

In a league where duos are as popular as pink on Wednesdays at North Shore High, Giannis is entering battle as the only real difference-maker on his team. When it’s time to vote at the end of the season, if Giannis is atop the East, he’ll have to be in consideration. With the LA/LA duos and Rockets duo, Giannis will be one of the few MVP candidates with no second star who could win 50+ games. If it’s between him and LeBron/Kawhi for MVP and they all win roughly around the same amount of games, it would be hard to deny Giannis the award. 

Giannis is the favorite for a reason. Not only was he MVP last season, but it seems like there is only more room for growth. On the defensive side of the ball, he was making a DPOY candidate, finishing second in defensive rating and, third in defensive win shares. He’s just one of the best rim protector’s in the league:

Via Twitter

Steph Curry (+500)

Why not? That’s how I feel about Steph potentially winning MVP. The one reason he might not win is if Giannis takes his game to another level. Steph is in a very ironic situation. He doesn’t have a true co-star in a year where the top of the league is made up of co-stars. He will be in a prime position to win MVP if the Warriors finish top-4 in the Western Conference. Steph can also have explosive 50-point games like this one he had against the Wizards last year.

Steph is also the type of player who could put up 50/40/90 (FG%, 3P%, FT%) since he already did when he won MVP in 2015, and the Warriors won 73 games. With the Warriors moving into a new arena, the rest of the team having been hurt, cut, traded, or aging Steph could be a great narrative. Most had also forgotten how beloved Steph Curry was before the Kevin Durant era. They don’t realize how popular he and the new-look Warriors can be. With the MVP being a narrative award, it seems like an excellent opportunity for the three-time champ. 

Anthony Davis (+700)

Anthony Davis not only has the potential to be one of the best offensive players in the league but also the best defensive forces in the league. Plus, he also had one of the best April Fools jokes ever. He can take over games single-handedly just look at this game from his opening night in 2016 when he dropped 50 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, seven steals, four blocks. 

With LeBron starting to get to the end of his career, I think he realizes that he needs an MVP performance out of AD to go to the finals. This will be one of the most hyped teams in the league and will have a lot of expectations. If the Lakers live up to expectations and LeBron takes a step back in the regular season, he can win.

Kawhi Leonard (+900)

There is one huge reason I would avoid this bet, Kawhi just doesn’t really care about winning this award. I’m not saying a guy should want to win MVP in spite of team success (cough* cough* Russell Westbrook), but on an individual level, the guy should want that. Although Kawhi has 0 interest in winning this award, he could easily put the best numbers out of anyone. The Clippers could be the one seed and win on accident. Also, Kawhi was hobbling in the finals and was on load management for all of last season. 

But with the Finals performance he had that was truly legendary who knows if he just wants to be atop the NBA. With his terminator like basketball mentality, he could win DPOY and drop 28. If you’re looking at qualities of an MVP, he definitely checks off a lot of boxes. 

Just missed the cut

Lebron (+650), James Harden (+800), Nikola Jokic (+1200), Damian Lillard (+2800)

LeBron is a bet I would avoid for MVP since he has already won the award. If you look at his past few regular seasons, he has coasted especially on the defensive end. The reason I would not put Harden in the MVP race is that he literally averaged 36 points a game and didn’t win last year. You can’t expect him to win the award this year after not winning last year.

A tremendous dark horse for MVP could be Damian Lillard. He could have the type of electric season with high efficiency that would win him MVP. With Jokic, he could have a great season, and the only thing holding him back is the rest of his team. They may just not win enough games.

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