The National Basketball Association has only seen four players win back-to-back Most Valuable Awards since the turn of the century. So while Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks might be favored to repeat heading into the season, the next MVP will likely be another player on another team.
Tim Duncan and Steve Nash did it twice last decade, and LeBron James did it twice before and twice Derrick Rose in 2011; and only Stephen Curry is on the list of players who won back-to-back MVP awards since the start of the 2001-02 NBA season. Looking to join this list is last year’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. As James Harden discussed this offseason, the award is often given to the player with the best story to be told and who narrative was written before the season began, with the story line ending at the end of the year as the most valuable player.
The “Greek Freak” of the Milwaukee Bucks is currently the betting favor to win this year’s MVP, with Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard close behind. Two teammates, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are also at 10/1 or better to win this year’s award; however, when two teammates are that close in standing, they often cancel each other out with voters, making each of them unviable choices.
With all the free agency drama he created and the chance that he has to win the first title with a second franchise, it is hard for me to say that anyone will win this year’s NBA MVP over Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers. Already a two-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP, many are moving the 28-year-old Leonard into the upper echelon of players in the league, and are outwardly predicting that he will take his new team to the promised land of the NBA Finals, even help guide them to their first title in franchise history, just as he did last season with the Toronto Raptors.
As a dark horse candidate for MVP, I would say Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. I say this because with so much on the Western Conference this year, a player that often saw his game start late at night on the East Coast will likely catch the eye of many more fans this season. Also, with many people picking Portland as a dark horse team to make some noise in the West this season, the narrative already has a few paragraphs written in the preseason, which give the 29-year-old a leg up in the MVP chase.
With the season just over two weeks away from beginning, let the MVP race begin.