Every season, the NBA hands out its most prestigious award to its most valuable player. Winning the award is second only to winning a championship, and although the league names its MVP each season, each team, even the worst teams in the league, also have a player that stands out from the rest. My job is to discern the MVP's from the rest of the team.
The MVP might not even be the best player on the team. The MVP award doesn't go to the best player in the NBA, it goes to the most valuable. That may seem a bit confusing or a bit stupid, but there is a difference. Take LeBron James for example. He has been the best player in the league for about 10 seasons now but he only has four MVP awards. He also always been "The King" but he doesn't have even close to that many MVP trophies. The toughest part about this list is predicting next year's rosters. With NBA teams looking to package their players and get some talent in return, it is tough to say who will end up where. Other teams that just can't get over the hump are looking to trade with the lottery teams. Huge free agency signings have shaken up the league completely. Kevin Durant joining the Warriors has sent shock waves through the league and many teams are feeling the ripple effect.
30 Atlanta Hawks - Paul Millsap
With many of Millsap's teammates leaving, he will be looked upon to do most of the scoring. Dwight Howard will be replacing Al Horford but won't make an MVP bid because he hasn't been himself since his days with the Magic. Jeff Teague leaving also leaves a lot of extra responsibility for Dennis Schroeder at the point. The Hawks will have a new look and a lot of adjusting to do for their new reputation and style of play.
29 Boston Celtics - Al Horford
The Celtics may have signed Al Horford just to try to lure in Kevin Durant, but that, as you know, did not work. Now the Celtics get Al Horford but no KD. While they were hoping to get KD as well I don't think it was ever a very realistic possibility (sorry Celtics fans). Even though they didn't get their main guy, they still get Horford, an all-star level talent. The Celtics have many other players that could also be the MVP such as Isaiah Thomas or Jaylen Brown, but I think Thomas overperformed last season and will be brought back down to Earth this year. Brown will need a season or so to get adjusted to the NBA.
28 Brooklyn Nets - Brook Lopez
The Nets have really unloaded their roster and there isn't much that remains. Brook Lopez has been the only solid piece that has remained constant. The Nets have ousted Thaddeus Young and spent big bucks to bring in Allen Crabbe and Jeremy Lin. Choosing Brook Lopez was a pretty easy decision because the rest of their roster is 10-win worthy. I would look for the Nets to have the worst record in the NBA this season and the worst part about that is they won't even get the overall #1 draft pick because of a previous trade with the Celtics to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
27 Charlotte Hornets - Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker has really shown strides to becoming a top-5 point guard in the NBA. Last season Walker increased his scoring output as well as his field goal percentage all while keeping assists consistent. Walker had a very good season last season and I look for him to build off of that and follow it up with another outstanding season.
26 Chicago Bulls- Jimmy Butler
Even with the additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler wins Bulls MVP going away. The Bulls are his team, and he has been waiting for this for a while. Derrick Rose is gone and Rondo will replace him. I'm not quite sure whether that makes the team better or worse, but the addition of Wade is clearly an improvement. Wade and Rondo have both seen their better days, but still, look for them to play key roles in the Bulls playoff run. I surely expect the Bulls to miss Pau Gasol, who left in free agency.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James
Is there any question here? LeBron is near the top of the MVP voting every season if he doesn't in fact win it himself. He already has four league MVPs and has been the most valuable player on every team he has played for to-date. I don't need to do too much convincing here. The only other player on this team that you could even mention being MVP is Kyrie Irving. Irving was key in the finals, but let's be real, the Cavs wouldn't even sniff the finals if it weren't for LeBron.
24 Dallas Mavericks - Harrison Barnes
I'm still not sure if Harrison Barnes is worth a max contract or not, but the Mavericks are going to need him to play like a max player. Dirk Nowitzki would be the next player on my list, but I think Barnes is poised to have a breakout season. If he does, Barnes could make the Mavericks his team when Dirk retires. That seems to be the plan anyway, considering how the Mavericks are paying him.
23 Denver Nuggets - Emmanuel Mudiay
The Nuggets have a pretty sad roster so that leaves a big hole for Mudiay to fill. He and Jamal Murray are going to have to be the top scorers on the team and they are going into their sophomore and rookie seasons respectively. The Nuggets haven't had a star in a while and have recently gone to the draft to rebuild. They have two solid players so far in Mudiay and Murray, but I don't see them getting out of the lottery any time soon. Stay strong Denver fans, hey, at least the Broncos just won the Super Bowl.
22 Detroit Pistons- Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond is a throwback player in the way he plays. He is a true big man, not a stretch 4 or any of the new style players that have come along these past few years. He keeps it simple, he defends, he rebounds and he dunks. What more could you ask for out of your center? Not only does he rebound, but he is the best rebounder in the NBA. He is one of the few players in the NBA that can grab over 20 rebounds and score 20 points some nights.
21 Golden State Warriors - Steph Curry
This was easily the hardest decision that I had to make while making this list, but when I thought about it, how could I not make the two-time reigning MVP of the NBA the MVP of his own team? Kevin Durant is no doubt a great player in this league, and he has won an MVP on his own, but right now, you can't go against Steph Curry. Sorry KD, no matter what Steph says about strength in numbers, it will still be his team until you can prove otherwise.
20 Houston Rockets - James Harden
James Harden and Dwight Howard clearly didn't get along. Now with Dwight out of town, Harden doesn't have to deal with Howard's complaints and lack of hustle and desire. Harden is no angel himself though. A few seasons ago, when asked how the team would handle the departure of Chandler Parsons, Harden called himself and Dwight the stars while all the others were just role players. And even though that may have been the case, that doesn't sit well in a locker room.
19 Indiana Pacers - Paul George
There were many questions regarding Paul George and if he would bounce back to be the player he once was after he snapped his leg in a Team USA scrimmage. George answered all of those questions and proved that he was back to normal this season. It is incredible for anyone to break their leg like that and even be able to run again. What's even more incredible is that George broke his leg like that and is back to playing professional basketball at the highest level. Medical science has come a long way.
18 Los Angeles Clippers - Chris Paul
Although their record might not reflect it, the Clippers missed Blake Griffin last season. He was out for a good part of the season due to injury. Griffin has sort of been a wildcard for the Clippers because you never know what he's going to give you. Last season he broke his hand for punching the equipment manager in the face. And that guy was his buddy!... Anyway, look for Lob City to be back up and running this season, and Chris Paul will benefit the most out of anyone. Paul will be throwing many oops to both DeAndre and Blake. Easy assists are coming his way, that's for sure.
17 Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Clarkson
Although the Lakers had the 2nd pick in the draft and selected Brandon Ingram, he won't be their MVP this season. Ingram will be more of a late-bloomer and may take a season or two to get adjusted to the NBA. Ingram will have to live in the weight room and the kitchen over the next few seasons so he can get up to a respectable playing weight. No one is questioning the kid's talent and potential, but he won't have as big of an impact in is his rookie season as one might think.
16 Memphis Grizzlies - Mike Conley
Mike Conley better be the Grizzlies MVP with all of the money that they are throwing his way. There is no doubt that Conley is looking to prove everyone that thinks he is being grossly overpaid, wrong. Marc Gasol will give him a good run for his money but Conley will ultimately prove most valuable to the Grizzlies because he orchestrates that offense and is the quarterback of the team. Marc will have a good season as well though.
15 Miami Heat - Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside finally got rewarded for his work he has been putting in for so long. From just getting a chance with the Heat last year after being out the NBA, to getting a max contract, Whiteside has been through it all. He is a player that every team would love to have. He gets it done on both sides of the ball and is an enormous physical presence that is hard to match-up with down low. Whiteside is much more than an ESPN highlight, he is invaluable to the Heat.
14 Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo, or otherwise known as, "The Greek Freak" is truly a freak of nature. A man standing almost 7 feet tall is impressive in it's own right but to couple that with a 7' 3" wingspan, he becomes one of a kind. That's not what makes him so great, though. He is huge, but he doesn't play like a big man. Giannis is actually the point guard for the Bucks which will make him the tallest point guard of all time by a long shot. Needles to say, the Bucks point guard will be taller than most other teams' centers.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns looks to be the Timberwolves future. It was a really hard decision to choose between Wiggins and Towns, but Towns gets the slight advantage because of his well-rounded game. Wiggins undoubtedly has superstar potential, but Towns shoots better, rebounds better and will eventually score more. Towns has the higher ceiling and I think after winning Rookie of the Year he will come back even more impressive.
12 New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis
This one should come as a no-brainer. Davis is clearly the most important player on the Pelicans and that is exemplified when he isn't on the court. Davis' presence is extremely missed and the Pelicans don't realize how valuable he really is until he's gone. Buddy Hield is the newest addition to the Pelicans, and while Pelicans fans may think he's the next Kobe, or the Steph Curry, he won't be, at least not next season.
11 New York Knicks- Joakim Noah
Noah may seem like a strong candidate for MVP of the new look Knicks, but if you think back to a few seasons ago, Noah was one of the top vote getters for the league's MVP. I don't think the Bulls were using Joakim effectively for the past few years but this upcoming season will surely be a bounce back. You may say I'm crazy, but before you do, think about Carmelo. What has he ever won?... Nothing. He may be a great scorer but that's all he is and all he will ever be.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder - Russell Westbrook
9 Orlando Magic - Serge Ibaka
The Magic traded Victor Oladipo to the Thunder along with Ersan Ilyasova and Domantis Sabonis, and I don't think it was a wise decision. They lost their best young player and they got Serge Ibaka in return who is nothing more than a solid veteran. Ibaka does however bring rim protection, which is exactly what the Magic need. Although the move wasn't the best for the Magic, Ibaka is a good fit with Nik Vucevic. Vucevic lacks on the defensive end and that's exactly what Ibaka brings. On the offensive end, Serge is merely a spot-up shooter who stretches the floor and prevents a log jam down low.
8 Philadelphia 76ers - Ben Simmons
The 76ers don't have too many candidates for MVP, so Ben Simmons will be able to walk right into Philadelphia and steal it. Simmons is extremely NBA-ready and one of the top reasons he was the top pick in the draft. He is also the ultimate team player which MVP is all about. Okafor, the next most likely candidate, is only a one-way player, or at least he was last season. In order to be MVP, your overall impact needs to be positive and with Okafor, that still remains unclear.
7 Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker
Devin Booker had a phenomenal rookie season and I think he will come back this season even better. Last season he averaged 13 points per game and I think that could jump up to nearly 20 ppg this season. He has shown in Summer League this year that his three-point shot is becoming deadly and he has a multitude of ways to score. I think Booker has the brightest future of any player on the Suns and will be their next superstar.
6 Portland Trail Blazers- Damian Lillard
Ever since the Blazers lost veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard has been the man in Portland. This season will be no exception as Damian Lillard will be at the helm for the second straight season. He and C.J. McCollum will be running the show and the young Blazers will be growing every single game. Lillard has always been a fan favorite in Portland ever since getting drafted, and for good reason. He is a great guy and ball player alike.
5 Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins is a selfish player and not typically thought of as a winner. With that being said, he is still easily the best and most valuable player on the Kings. He is by far their best rebounder and scorer. The Kings are a sort of dysfunctional franchise so they don't have another player that even compares to a player like "Boogie" Cousins. He has yet to win anything but when he gets some teammates and grows up a little bit, he will be great.
4 San Antonio Spurs - Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is already extremely accomplished for his young NBA career. He already has two Defensive Player of the Year awards, a ring, and a Finals MVP. He has such a bright future ahead of him, I expect to see him win a couple of league MVP's and maybe even a couple more DPOY's. Leonard is the epitome of an MVP. He impacts the game in all aspects and is a true team player. He is the prototypical Spur.
3 Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry is a very tough point guard from Philadelphia. Lowry has been an All Star for the past two seasons and looks to be in the prime of his career. Lowry brings a lot of energy to the game and is so important to the Raptors because he runs the offense. DeMar DeRozan was another good choice for MVP, but I gave it to Lowry because he does more than just score. DeRozan is simply on the court to put the ball in the basket. Lowry is much more than that. He dishes, scores and defends.
2 Utah Jazz - Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Two seasons in a row, he has averaged only a point under 20 a game. Not only that, but he hits the boards with 5 rebounds a game and gets his teammates involved with about 4 assists per game. Also, Hayward only missed two games last season which is so valuable. As you know, the best ability is availability. You can have the greatest player ever but if he is constantly hurt, what good is he?
1 Washington Wizards - John Wall
There really is no question with this one. John Wall is one of the most explosive players who has the quickest crossovers and changes direction on a dime. He is nearly impossible to guard. Selfish is that last thing that he is. Dishing the ball to to others is one of his favorite things to do on the basketball court. The past two seasons, Wall has averaged 10 assists per game. No one else on the Wizards can even come close to Wall in importance.
Beal is a good 2nd man but comes nowhere near Wall when is comes to the MVP conversation. Wall is the franchise centerpiece and all of their decisions are based on how it will effect him. The Wizards need to get him some help though now that they know KD isn't coming. Sorry Wizards fans, KD isn't pulling a LeBron and coming home.
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