There were a lot of big moves this NBA off-season, in what is arguably the most exciting off-season to date. Dwayne Wade went home to Chicago, the Knicks picked up two former Bulls, Kevin Durant formed the leagues first big 4, and LeBron along with several other stars got a huge contract. The off-season was anything but predictable, but how about the MVP race? Will there be a dark horse this season, like Carmelo, or Paul George? Or will it be the usual bunch?
Top Five MVP Candidates for 2017
5. Kevin Durant
2016 Numbers: 28.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5 apg, 1 spg, 1.2 bpg; fg% 51%
Projected 2017 Stats: 24.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg; fg% 53%
Despite his dominant return from an injury plagued season, Kevin Durant didn’t get a whole lot of love in the 2016 MVP race. It didn’t help that Stephen Curry had one of the most destructive seasons ever. Durant finished 5th in voting last year and I believe that he will find himself in the same spot this year. Durant’s workload will likely decrease on the stacked Warriors, as he will have to take a back seat to Stephen Curry.
4. LeBron James
2016 Numbers: 25.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.6 bpg; fg% 52%
Projected 2017 Stats: 24.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 7.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.6 bpg; fg% 55%
Expect LeBron’s production to decline slightly this year, as Kyrie will take a larger role on the Cavaliers. LeBron will average less than 25 ppg for the first time since his rookie season, but his efficiency will be just as high as it’s ever been. LeBron will still be LeBron but at the age of 32 I expect his numbers to dip slightly, finishing 4th in the MVP race.
3. Russell Westbrook
2016 Numbers: 23.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 10.4 apg, 2 spg, 0.3 bpg; fg% 45%
Projected 2017 Stats: 30.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 9.6 apg, 2.2 spg, 0.3 bpg; fg% 43%
With no Kevin Durant to share the load with, Russell Westbrook will have the greenest light in the whole NBA. I expect Russ to continue his reign as the triple-double king of the NBA, but his assist and rebound numbers will drop slightly as he will be relied on much more to score. Don’t be surprised if Westbrook wins the 2017 scoring title, but his supporting cast, and turnovers, will prevent him from winning an MVP. I expect the Thunder to finish 4th-5th in the West.
2. Stephen Curry
2016 Numbers: 30.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 6.7 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.2 bpg; fg% 50%
Projected 2017 Stats: 24.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 7.8 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.2 bpg; fg% 52%
Only three players in NBA history have ever won three consecutive MVP Awards (Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird), and Stephen Curry has a legitimate chance of becoming the fourth. His production will take a big hit with three other stars to share the basketball with, but his incredible efficiency, and a top two finish in the West wil throw him right to the front of the MVP race once again.
1. Kawhi Leonard
2016 Numbers: 21.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 spg, 1 bpg; fg% 51%
Projected 2017 Stats: 23.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.1 spg, 1.1 bpg; fg% 51%
Kawhi Leonard is only 25 and hasn’t even reached his full potential yet. We got a glimpse of it last year, as he averaged career highs in points, blocks, free throw/ 3 point percentages, and assists. The Spurs lost Duncan but replaced him with a slightly younger Pau Gasol who will fit the system perfectly. I expect the Spurs to finish first in the West, and Kawhi will be the main reason why. Kawhi Leonard will win his 3rd straight defensive Player of the Year Award, and become only the third player to win an MVP in the same season.