With the 2016-17 NBA season upon us, the league has been shaken up with the aftermath of the Kevin Durant move to Oakland along with other moves from Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and others thereafter. And so begins the previews for the teams and predictions for the season. The NBA MVP prediction is always highly debated, and I’ll add to it.
The biggest prediction is the MVP prediction. Last preseason, James Harden was chosen as the favorite to be the MVP and Steph Curry was not even in the top five favorites to defend his reign as MVP, so predictions can be completely wrong, which is going to make this fun. This season’s MVP race will be very entertaining to watch. With that, here are my top five players that are most likely to win MVP.
Kevin Durant left for “unselfish” ball. Russell averaged 10.4 assists per game last season and while Durant was responsible for some of those assists being recorded, Westbrook has been able to find his centers and cutting forwards for dump offs whenever he’s bulldozed through a defense and decided to make the pass. There’s no reason he can’t keep doing that, regardless of whether Durant is there or not. Westbrook has an opportunity to do something only one player has ever done in NBA history and that is average a triple-double for the season. Oscar Robertson was the last and only player to accomplish the feat when he carried the Royals throughout the 1961-62 season and he didn’t even win the MVP that season, as Wilt Chamberlain made sure of that (50 points per game on 50% shooting trumped the triple-double season evidently). Russell Westbrook has the talent, skill, vision, and willpower to make the plays and carry his team through the season. Westbrook has been able to post a triple-double on any given night in the past two seasons (lead the league in the last two seasons in the category with 18 and 11) so there’s a possibility he could do it and win the MVP; he’s my pick to win it.
Two words: Point. Guard. With the new perks of being moved to the point guard position, Harden will have the ball more often in his hands than he already did before. Despite his lack of defense, Harden will carry the Rockets to the playoffs by controlling how the ball gets into the hoop with the assist numbers going up. And as an added bonus, not many point guards are a 6’4” scoring machine so there will be plenty of mismatches in his favor outside of a 6’11” Giannis Antetokoumpo in Milwaukee (who’s going to run point forward for his team).
With Tim Duncan retired, I predict that the new face of the well-oiled machine that is the San Antonio Spurs will lead his team in points, steals, and 3-point shooting. He is an elite defender and able to score at will whether he’s looking to or not. Greg Popovich will rely on him to lead his team to the playoffs and beyond. He has game-changing combination of athleticism, length, and skill. He is the definition of “quiet assassin” and could very well be the “Quiet MVP”.