It's never too early to look ahead in the NBA, and with all the offseason movement thus far, the race for the league's MVP might even be tighter.
According to BetOnline, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the favourite to repeat as MVP. The usual suspects all appear on the list, including Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
|Player||NBA MVP 2020 Odds via BetOnline|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)||+300|
|Stephen Curry (Warriors)||+500|
|James Harden (Rockets)||+550|
|LeBron James (Lakers)||+700|
|Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)||+700|
|Anthony Davis (Lakers)||+1000|
|Paul George (Clippers)||+1400|
|Russell Westbrook (Thunder)||+1400|
|Joel Embiid (76ers)||+1400|
|Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)||+1600|
We asked our NBA.com experts who they think will win the 2019-20 MVP.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think it'll be between Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but I'll give Antetokounmpo the edge for now.
Most of the players on the list above are either teammates with another MVP candidate (LeBron James and Anthony Davis, for example) or are expected to sit out a good chunk of the season due to some form of load management (Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard, for example). Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, is without question the best player on the Bucks and it would be a surprise if he doesn't play 70-plus games.
That alone doesn't make him the favourite, of course. But with Leonard leaving the Raptors in free agency, the Bucks have a clear path towards being the best team in the Eastern Conference next season. Antetokounmpo also has room to improve, which is a terrifying thought considering he became the third-youngest player in the last 40 years to be named MVP last season.
If he develops a more reliable jump shot and the Bucks pick up from where they left off, Antetokounmpo has a great shot at repeating.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'm going with Anthony Davis.
Davis has long been in the MVP discussion but has never really broken through to be a serious contender to win the award. Injuries have certainly played a part in that, but so has an underachieving Pelicans team when he was at the helm.
With the Lakers, Davis will have the record necessary to be in the conversation. We know he'll have the numbers to boost his argument. The last piece hinges on whether or not LeBron James allow him to shine as bright as he can be, and the answer is YES.
LeBron has made it clear before the season has even started that it's time for him to start picking and choosing his spots. Entering his age 35 season, it's about the postseason and the MVP award isn't something that he's chasing anymore. We've already seen him go out of his way to make Davis feel comfortable by giving up his famous No. 23. He won't stop there, he'll be feeding AD and encouraging him to be the best player on the court every single night.
It's going to be weird to see a LeBron teammate win the league MVP when most still believe he is the best player on the planet, but it's going to happen, and Davis is the guy to do it.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): It's admittedly hard to go against Giannis Antetokounmpo, who just won the MVP despite not yet having a reliable jump shot. Unlike so many other big names, he doesn't split votes with anyone and if he comes back with a jumper, he'll be virtually unguardable.
That said... I'm going with Stephen Curry.
I'm actually surprised he's receiving the second-best odds as it feels like people are being too quick to write off Golden State. With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson out for the majority of the season, there's no guarantee the Warriors win enough games to keep Curry in the conversation.
And yet Draymond Green is in a contract year and could become super max eligible, which means he'll have plenty of incentive to deliver a great regular season.
D'Angelo Russell is an incredibly gifted scorer that could easily average in the low 20s for a Warriors team that badly needs scoring.
Kevon Looney is back in the fold after a relatively cool market led to him returning for a below-market three-year contract.
Those three should help fill in the margins around Curry, who suddenly has the opportunity to once again lead the league in scoring while simultaneously riding a strong narrative. MVP voters in particular like a good story, and a two-time MVP dragging the Warriors back to contention on the heels of their remarkable Finals fall from grace would certainly qualify.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm going to give the nod to LeBron James.
James had last year's Lakers squad sitting pretty as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference before injuring his groin against the Warriors on Christmas Day. Even after he returned from the injury, he wasn't the same player and the team around him was depleted.
His effort was called into question and people have entertained the thought of his age (34-years old) finally catching up to him. For the first time since the 2007-08 season, James did not make First Team All-NBA. After averaging 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists he was placed on the All-NBA Third Team, which was reasonable given he only played in 55 games.
Now, LeBron is paired with one of the most physically unique athletes on the planet in Anthony Davis and has an essentially custom-made roster that directly tailors to his abilities. He's coming off of his longest offseason since 2005 and should be fully recovered from the groin injury that hindered his first season in a Lakers uniform. On top of that, it's been reported that the Lakers intend to play James at point guard, which gives him a new opportunity to impress the masses - though he's always been a point forward even without the official title.
He's going to come into this upcoming season with a chip on his shoulder ready to prove to Laker-loyalists that last year was a fluke. His averages will be equally as impressive as this past season and he may average double-digit assists for the first time in his career with the talent he's surrounded by.
I expect The King to return to his throne in 2019-20.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I can't help but think that we'll see Giannis Antetokounmpo repeat as the league's MVP.
He's coming off of a season in which he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists over 72 games to lead the Bucks to the league's best record.
Couple the fuel that Giannis will take from the team's Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors with the fact that the Bucks are now the presumptive favourite in the East and you have the recipe for a solid MVP case. I fully expect him to build upon last season by adding to his game based on an understanding of his faults and shortcomings.
As Micah said, if Giannis is to develop a jump shot this offseason, he'll be virtually unstoppable.
When Antetokounmpo's improvements again lead Milwaukee to the top of the Eastern Conference - and likely the top of the league with an ultra-competitive Western Conference - he'll have a compelling case to become the first since Stephen Curry to win back-to-back MVPs.
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