The NBA landscape drastically changed due to a wild free agency, setting up an interesting 2019-2020 MVP race for next year. Team records will heavily figure into the equation for MVP. Four out of the last five MVP’s came from a team at the top of the standings and there is no telling how the overly crowded West will end up seeding wise. The East is far more predictable as the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are poised to control the conference. Based on the current Vegas odds, here are some of my favorite picks for the league’s Most Valuable Player next year.
Anthony Davis (+1000) – The Brow got his wish and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, ending his tenure in New Orleans. Davis at +1000 is my personal favorite pick to win MVP next year, especially given the fact that he has not won the award before. The NBA has tended to give a slight edge to players who have never won before (i.e. Giannis beating out Harden this year). LeBron James is going to be 34/35 this upcoming season and the Lakers will be sure to not overwork him as they have their sights set on a deep postseason run. Davis, on the other hand, at the prime age of 26 should be the workhorse for the Los Angeles Lakers this year. He is also coming off a season where he only played in 56 games and averaged his lowest minutes per game since he was a rookie – both due to the trade demand debacle. Bottom line: Anthony Davis is well-rested, in his prime and where he wants to be, the sky’s the limit. Remember the 2017-2018 season in New Orleans when DeMarcus Cousins went down with a torn ACL? Anthony Davis went on all-time run where over the course of the next 13 games he averaged 33 points and 13 rebounds to keep the Pelican’s playoff hopes alive – including some jaw-dropping performances like 53-18, 45-17 and 42-15. If this AD shows up next season, how could he not win MVP?
Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300) – Giannis is the Vegas favorite to repeat as MVP and become the first player since Steph Curry (2015 & 2016) to do so. He’s only 24 (will turn 25 in December) and everyone in the league has come to a general consensus that he has not even fully reached his potential yet. Another offseason to train will only make the Greek Freak even freakier. If Giannis improves his outside shooting this year even just a bit (he shot 25.6% from three last year) then his game goes up an entire level. His passing should also improve from last year, as he now has a full season under his belt where he was the predominant ball handler and playmaker. Additionally, the Milwaukee Bucks are returning pretty much their entire core sans Malcom Brogdon, so Giannis will not have to adapt to playing with any new stars or learning a new system. The Milwaukee Bucks are also the favorite to win the East, which helps Giannis’ MVP chances even more, as the award is usually given to a player on a team with the 1 or 2 seed. Expect the Greak Freak to pick up where he left off last year with even more tricks in his bag, and if no other players are up to the challenge then a repeat does not seem unlikely.
Joel Embiid (+1200) – Joel Embiid’s MVP chances rely heavily on the Philadelphia 76ers’ success this upcoming season. This seems like an obvious thing to say but I believe Embiid’s only chance for MVP is if the 76ers can beat out the Milwaukee Bucks for the 1 seed in the East. If not, it might be too difficult for Embiid to challenge Giannis for the prestigious honor. Embiid’s averages last year were MVP caliber at 27 points / 13 rebounds and he played in a career high 64 games. If Embiid can use this offseason to get his conditioning to new heights, I believe he has a real chance to play 70ish games. Another encouraging sign for Embiid is that his free throws per game and free throw percentage have both steadily gone up all three seasons he has played in, culminating in 80% from the charity stripe last year. Furthermore, the addition of Al Horford will help take some rebounding and defense pressure off Embiid, which should help alleviate some of Embiid’s conditioning woes and let him focus on offensive domination. The team can also give the big man more rest now that they have a defensive stud in Horford to hold things down when Embiid’s off the court, a privilege they could not afford last year. If this 76ers team gels quickly, gets the Eastern 1 seed and Joel Embiid averages 27+ points with 12+ rebounds, it would be hard not to give him the MVP.
Steph Curry (+500) – It seems that everyone has just about given up on the Warriors. Some may forget that before Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, Steph Curry was busy racking up back-to-back MVP’s, including the first ever unanimous MVP. Now that KD is gone and Klay Thompson is out for much of the regular season, Steph will need to put the team on his back. Draymond Green, for all the amazing things he does, is not a natural scorer and the only other consistent scoring option Golden State has is newcomer DeAngelo Russell. Point being, it is not wild to assume Steph averages 30+ points while also maintaining his insane efficiency standards (he’s shot over 45% from the field and over 41% from 3 his entire career!). Ironically, the one major obstacle for Steph getting the MVP will be the Warriors and their lack of firepower this season (oh how times have changed). This new look Warriors team will have difficulty competing for a top seed in the crowded West. If the Warriors are able to shock the world and claim a 1-2 seed in the West behind Steph’s heroics, then Wardell might find himself with a 3rd MVP come next year. This feat would put Steph in an elite echelon of players with 3 MVP awards – Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Moses Malone – further cementing Steph has one of the all-time greats of the game.
The season is obviously still a long ways away and plenty can change in that time. These players all have good value based on their odds and situations next year. One notable omission is reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. This is because I believe the Clippers and him will follow a similar blueprint to the one he had last year with the Raptors and only play Kawhi in 60ish games. This will save his body for the playoffs, but it will be near impossible to win MVP while only playing in only around 60 games.
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