The Most Valuable Player award attracts thought-provoking takes. In 2017, the award’s meaning was under massive debate due to Russell Westbrook and his infamous triple-double season. Unfortunately, there are no objective criteria, and the definition is typically stretched to the voters’ personal beliefs. The 2019-20 NBA MVP rankings are full of new narratives.
Regardless of the loose translations of the award, the race for MVP is an absolute joy to witness. The battle of high-scoring performances versus an overall dominance of the game produced quite the debate. Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden pushed the two basketball philosophies to their brink.
This season, perhaps the dawn of a new era, is loaded with new narratives (which makes for a suitable candidate) and the excitement of parity. The race has yet to commence, but the candidates are readying their respective positions.
MVP Candidates for the 2019-20 Season
5. James Harden
Congratulations on James Harden and Russell Westbrook pulling off the blockbuster reunion last summer. After much speculation, it seems the rumors of turmoil between Harden and Chris Paul were indeed true. In true Daryl Morey fashion, the team went star searching after it appeared Paul’s stardom regressed.
Now, in relevance to the MVP award, dropping Harden from the runner-up spot to the last ranking is a response to the trade. In addition to Westbrook taking some shine away from Harden, MVP fatigue also comes into play. The historic amount of MVP votes Harden accumulated over the past four seasons encapsulates the influence he holds over the league. LeBron James ranks second all-time in MVP shares; out of the currently active players, Harden is second on the list.
However, with younger players and fresh storylines, the media tends to gravitate toward the shinier and newer story. Once again, subjective views come into play for the prestigious honor. Harden isn’t exactly an exciting player, which sounds ridiculous when you look at his stats, but dribbling the ball into oblivion isn’t an aesthetically pleasing playstyle.
Regardless of what “looks good,” Harden’s MVP chances don’t only reduce out of pure disdain for his dribbling and methodical approach. Former MVPs and younger players are primed for more intriguing seasons. However, star power doesn’t dwindle with little resistance. It’s disrespectful to think the 2018 MVP is finished with impacting the league.
Despite Westbrook’s polarizing demeanor on and off the court, Harden’s scoring will not suffer. Matter of fact, Westbrook and Harden will complement their respective playstyles. Expect Westbrook’s relentless rim-pressuring attacks to benefit Harden’s scoring. Look for Harden to finish in the top-five in of the scoring, thus making it difficult to leave him off the 2019-2020 NBA MVP rankings.
4. Anthony Davis
The Los Angeles Lakers are back in business. Months after the turmoil caused by Anthony Davis and his representation, the proud franchise of purple and gold obtained their target. Davis, never playing with anyone in the same ballpark of LeBron James, is due for an MVP caliber season.
Despite James’ polarizing presence, Davis’ on-court performance will overpower any shenanigans the Lakers typically generate. James has played with potential NBA Hall of Fame players, however, in regards to Davis, he’s echelons above the rest. It’s in the Lakers’ best interest for James, at least in the regular season, to give Davis the crown of top-dog status on the roster. The 2019-20 NBA MVP rankings are open for Davis.
With Davis in the driver’s seat and James as his running mate, it’s impossible to leave the Kentucky alum off of the MVP ballot. The only red flag is Davis’ infamous injury history. However, it’s plausible with some rest on back-to-back games; he will save his body from potential wear and tear of a demanding NBA schedule.
Facelift to the Los Angeles Laker’s Gameplan
The Lakers require a defensive makeover. Davis, while only on a top-10 defensive team once in his career, is the catalyst for much-needed improvement in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to play at his best-fitted position, center. Although Davis spent 96 percent of his minutes at the five, the superstar is adamant about being a power forward. In essence, his maximized potential is playing the center position, but no matter where Davis is slotted, he will excel. The help defense with Davis at the five would be terrifying. However, the Lakers mustn’t mismanage the potential free agent by micromanagement.
The pick-and-roll option between LeBron James and Anthony Davis will wreak havoc on the rest of the league. Regardless of the angle the defender pursues, it’s highly likely the Lakers score. If the Lakers utilize the athletic prowess of its two stars, Davis’ scoring numbers will soar off the charts.
Potential injuries or missed games from rest and the high possibility of James taking votes away are the reasons Davis isn’t higher on the list.
3. Nikola Jokic
Continuity is hard to come by in today’s sports world. The Denver Nuggets are an anomaly in the league. Nikola Jokic, the team’s star player, carries the beat of his drum with a delightfully odd tune. Last season, Jokic earned a career-first NBA All-Star selection, averaging 20 points, 10.8 rebounds, and seven assists.
Unicorn is a flashy nickname nowadays for NBA bigs with superb offensive skills, but once again, Jokic zigs while everyone else zags. The 2019 NBA All-Star is more like a grizzly bear with a pair of Adidas Boost equipped; his build is husky, yet still moves agile enough to punish defenders; also, he likes to wrestle.
Although the Denver Nuggets finished with the second-best record in the NBA, it somehow still wasn’t enough for Jokic to land in the top-three of the MVP ballot.
The NBA has released the finalists for its end-of-season awards. pic.twitter.com/paGHjezcab
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) May 18, 2019
Jokic is setting up another cannonball in NBA waters. Although the Denver Nuggets didn’t make any flashy signings last summer, no significant players signed elsewhere. While the rest of the NBA finds its footing with the newly acquired players, the Nuggets will find early success with its returning core. If the Nuggets end the season as the Western Conference’s one-seed, it’s highly plausible Jokic finishes as a finalist on the MVP ballot.
2. Giannis Anetetokounmpo
The 2018-19 season will forever be known as the year of Giannis Antetokounmpo. In a season where Kevin Durant kept the world guessing of his pending free agency decision, LeBron James and his constant player meddling, Antetokounmpo reigned supreme throughout the regular season. The undeniable force of the Milwaukee Bucks superstar won’t allow the NBA media to forget.
Humility is a rare characteristic to find, especially in someone befitting of superstar status, but Antetokounmpo is the constant reminder of what makes him unique.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 14, 2019
The day the Bucks and Antetokounmpo celebrated an ultimate achievement, there was a declaration made, but more importantly, a defining determination in his speech. It’s inevitable the Bucks land a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference. Also, the chances of securing the best record in the East is quite a realistic possibility. Antetoukounmpo is adamantly against the load management movement, unlike most of his superstar counterparts.
Not enough changed in the summer to knock Antetokounmpo off the 2019-20 NBA MVP power rankings. Voter fatigue isn’t a valid excuse for someone of Antetokounmpos’s elk; it’s unethical for a reporter to deny him another go at the MVP. The MVP is just about his if he can replicate the 27 points on .644 true shooting, and even improve on his subpar, but willful three-point attempts.
Between the games played, the narrative of conquering an improved conference, and potentially producing dominant stats, the possibility of consecutive MVP honors isn’t farfetched. All signs point to the reigning MVP returning to last season’s form to fight for his spot on the throne.
1. Stephen Curry
Every decade, the NBA is blessed with a dynasty. In the 1980s, it was the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. In the Michael Jordan era of the ’90s, the Chicago Bulls dominated. As representatives for the new millennium, the Lakers resurfaced as a dynasty, and the San Antonio Spurs set a new standard for team-building with its three championships in the decade.
Despite the Miami Heat earning two championships in the 2010s, it’s the Golden State Warriors that dominated the decade. Stephen Curry, the only unanimous MVP in league history, is mostly to thank for the Warriors championship success. Unfortunately, all things must come to an end. However, despite the two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant leaving for the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors aren’t buried just yet.
Curry, the ultimate teammate, loosened his grip on the offense for the sake of Durant. Although his usage rating didn’t drop at a significant rate, it was clear the offense focused on Durant with Curry as the second-option. Most players who see a regress in touches also suffer in production. Curry, however, is one of the league’s most efficient players. Even during the three seasons of Durant, the two-time regular season MVP averaged 26 points.
Building the Narrative
The time has come for Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr to unleash Curry on the league he once dominated. Every MVP hopeful needs a narrative for the media to get a legitimate push from the media. The resurgence of Curry as the primary option, and the other half of the splash brothers, Klay Thompson injured, is quite the story.
Typically, candidates on the top-seeded teams are given the nod over players on lower level seeds. However, just like in Westbrook’s case in his MVP campaign, astonishing numbers and the right narrative are worthy enough for the media to shift gears. Curry’s game will age beautifully into his thirties, similar to Steve Nash. This comparison isn’t to say Curry will rattle off two more MVPs, but a fitting swan song for such a prestigious honor is highly possible. Curry is a likely finalist for the 2019-20 NBA MVP rankings
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