With training camps set to begin at the end of September, the NBA offseason is winding down, bringing us closer and closer to the start of the 2014-15 season. Here is a quick preview of the top MVP candidates for the season.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
As the best general manager (according to Isiah Thomas) and best player in the league, James stacked the odds even more in his favor than he did in 2010 by coming back home to Cleveland this summer. Having won four of the last six awards, he’s formed the best trio in basketball with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, along with potentially the best starting five (Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters).
Overall, his numbers may dip playing alongside Love, who is an elite rebounder and Irving, who is a scorer and distributor. It’s the success of the team that will likely keep James at the top of this list.
In most cases, the award goes to the best player on the best team during the regular season. Say the Cavaliers win 60-plus games next season and finish as the top seed in the East – it’s hard to envision a scenario where James does not win his fifth MVP, unless the next candidate on this list does something even more spectacular than last year.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
After witnessing first hand Paul George’s freak injury during Team USA’s scrimmage a few weeks ago, the reigning MVP was smart to back out of the FIBA World Cup and focus on this coming season. Durant won the award at 25, putting up numbers that have not been averaged during the regular season since Michael Jordan in 1992-93.
With Russell Westbrook by his side, the Thunder remain near the top of an extremely competitive Western Conference. Capturing an MVP is one thing – winning a title in King James’ prime is a whole new element that would globalize the KD brand entirely.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The Unibrow is entering his third season after posting the league’s fourth-highest PER last year at just 21 years old. He may have already established himself as a top 10 player as one of the game’s most versatile two-way big men, leading the league in blocked shots.
Davis has put on close to 20 pounds of muscle this offseason and continues to expand his overall game built around his incredible length and athleticism. That combined with his willingness to run the floor like a perimeter player, teams simply can’t stop him in transition.
He’s gaining even more valuable playing time with Team USA as the starting center. Still just a puppy by NBA standards, if Davis builds upon his sensational sophomore season and can lead the Pelicans into the playoffs, he’ll be James and Durant’s biggest competitor for the award.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin was the Clippers best player last season – he proved it when Chris Paul missed a stretch of games due to injury and the team still won games with him elevating the play of his teammates. With his developed post game, the ball handling skills he possesses as a power forward and an improved jump shot, Griffin reached a level where teams seriously had to game plan around him defensively, instead of just defending him on the pick and roll.
He posted career-highs in points and shot better than 70 percent from the free throw line for the first time in his career. The Clippers won the Pacific Division but failed to get past the second round in consecutive seasons.
Under new ownership and as the face of the franchise, Griffin has to embrace the challenge of bringing a championship to the city of Los Angeles for a team not named the Lakers. With Paul still widely considered the best point guard in the game and Doc Rivers as his coach, now is the perfect time for the Clippers to take over L.A., and Griffin’s game is blossoming at the right time.