The scary part is that LeBron is still only 29-years old, while the precocious Kevin Durant is only 25-years old. Both players are still in the prime of their careers and could easily win the next 5 MVP’s between the two of them. LeBron looks like he could still be in the prime of his career for another 4 years and with the way that Durant plays, it looks like he could be in the prime of his career for another 8 years.
But it is not inconceivable for one of them to miss a good chunk of the season due to an injury and pretty much disqualify themselves from winning the award. And it is very conceivable that voters may experience voter fatigue and vote someone else besides LeBron James and Kevin Durant just because.
This begs the question, if LeBron James or Kevin Durant were not to win the MVP award one year for some inexplicable reason, which player would most likely be the candidate to win it? This player would not only have to have impressive numbers all across the board, but they would have to be the type of player that could lead their team to a high amount of wins and into the playoffs. There are many players that have inflated numbers, but that is because they play on such poor teams. A true MVP is the type of player that can have great numbers on a great team.
To give you an idea of just how difficult it is winning this award is, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal have only won the MVP award once during their illustrious careers. So, it takes a player of incredible magnitude to win this prestigious and illusive award. The following is a list of the Top-10 players that have the best shot at winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the event that LeBron James or Kevin Durant inexplicably do not.
10. Dwight Howard
Sometimes it feels like Dwight Howard is a lot older than he really is, but the former most dominant center in the NBA is still only 28-years-old. This year, Howard was on his third team in the past three years and was finally drama free and injury free. If Howard can continually refine his game under the tutelage of Kevin McHale and if his guards learn how to throw better entry passes while Dwight has post-position, than Howard could easily turn back the clock to his Orlando days. If Dwight Howard wants to be the best center in the NBA and the best defender in the NBA, he could easily do that, the question is how much he wants it.
9. James Harden
James Harden exploded out of the gates last year as the number one option for the Houston Rockets. Harden proved to everyone that he is not only a good 6th man, but he is one of the best players in the league. In fact, with the decline of Dwyane Wade, it is safe to say that James Harden is the best shooting guard in the NBA. The only glaring hole in Harden’s game is his aversion to defense. In fact, he has developed such a bad reputation in the league for defense, that his lack of defense is now on every team’s scouting report. Harden likes drawing contact, but he hates receiving contact. If he can learn to become an average defender, than Harden can easily enter into the MVP conversation.
8. Damian Lillard
Is this kid a stud or what? Damian Lillard already looks like a veteran in just his second year in the league. The 3-point bombing point guard was overlooked in high school and overlooked in college, but the Weber State point guard is now a household name in Portland and all across America. After winning the Rookie of the Year Award last year in a landslide, Lillard took the Blazers to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Right now Lillard is still a bit green, but his growth trajectory suggests that a MVP award is close around the corner.
7. Russell Westbrook
You have to believe that you are the best player in the world in order to win the MVP, and Russell Westbrook not only believes that he is the best player in the world, but the best player on his team. Russ plays with the current MVP, Kevin Durant, but he continues to believe that he is the Thunder’s best player. And that is the type of mentality you need to have in order to win one of these things. Westbrook’s confidence in his own ability is as high as any other superstar and he believes that he can score on anyone, no matter how many bigs pack the paint. If Russ and Kevin ever part ways, do not be surprised if Russ enters into the MVP conversation as soon as he is out of Durantula’s shadow.
6. Kevin Love
Is there any player in NBA history quite like Kevin Love? He shoots the ball like Stephen Curry, but he rebounds the ball like DeAndre Jordan. Love is a double-double machine and is as tough as nails. The only real weakness in Love’s game is his mediocre defense. As a result, he has never been able to lead his team to the playoffs once in his entire career. Love’s offensive game is clearly at a MVP level, but if he can get his defense even to an average level, he could easily enter into the MVP discussion and lead his team to a playoff birth.
5. Paul George
PG was in the MVP conversation early on in the season, but his name quickly dropped out of the conversation after the Indiana Pacers went through some locker room turmoil. At this point, George is simply happy to be in the MVP discussion with no real desire to actually win the trophy yet. But if he experiences enough heartbreaks and suffers a bit more in the playoffs, his contentment as an All Star will one day become a burning desire to be the Most Valuable Player in the League.
4. Anthony Davis
If Anthony Davis can stay healthy for the majority of the season and if he can lead his team to the playoffs, he has as good of a chance of winning the MVP award as anyone. This season Davis led the league in blocks and controlled the paint better than any other big man in the league. Davis may lose positioning on defense, but because of his frail frame he more than makes up for it with his extendo-arms. Furthermore, Davis has developed a really nice 18-footer and is one or two post-up moves away from commanding a double team on defense.
3. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is one of the most complete two-way players in the league. On offense, he prefers to play the role of distributor, but if he wanted to, he could easily average 27 points per game. However, his natural inclination is to pass the ball or take the ball, so it is no surprise that CP3 is usually the assists leader and the steals leader. The only thing that prevents CP3 from winning the MVP is his teammate Blake Griffin. Every time CP3 throws an assists Blake gets a dunk out of it. So, in essence, the two players are almost cancelling each other out.
2. Blake Griffin
He came in third place this year to LeBron James and Kevin Durant, so he could potentially be the next Most Valuable Player if James or Durant do not win it. The only real Achilles in Blake Griffin’s game were his free throws and blocked shots, but he significantly improved in both areas this past season. Blake Griffin has become a complete player on offense and defense. He even has a midrange bank shot that he regularly utilizes when he is too tired to go into the post. And contrary to popular opinion, Blake Griffin is not soft. There is no player in the league that gets as many elbows in the face and shoulders in the chest than Blake Griffin, yet he rarely ever retaliates.
1. Carmelo Anthony
Melo is arguably still the best scorer in the NBA. Kevin Durant may have won the scoring title, but he does not have as complete of an offensive game as Melo. Melo can pound it in the post like a power forward and shoot the 3-point ball like a shooting guard. He is flat out a bully on offense. The only reason why Melo continues to get overlooked in the MVP conversation is because he is surrounded by such a poor cast of role players. If Melo had just a little bit more help, the 9th seed Knicks would not only have made the playoffs, but Melo would have easily been back in the MVP conversation. At this point in Melo’s career, he has earned his stripes and could make a case for the MVP if the Knicks are ever relevant again.