Sports 2.0’s NBA MVP Favorites and opening day in the NBA. It’s like Christmas morning — well, three days early, that is.
The 2020-21 NBA season begins Tuesday night, just over two months after the last season ended. For the Sports 2.0 staff, it means more basketball and more fun, and we’ll take it.
To tip off the season, we’re giving you our staff’s view on the season, with preseason picks for major awards to picking this season’s champion to even just a few extra tidbits here and there. Keep checking back for more NBA coverage throughout the season as well.
In this piece, we’re going to be looking at our thoughts on the NBA’s MVP race, which is as good as ever this season. There seem to be more and more stars healthy and ready to carry their teams than ever, with Kevin Durant, John Wall, and Stephen Curry all back and fully healthy to start the 2020-21 season.
But none of those three made our top three in the MVP race. Who made the top three, and who is our pick to win this season’s award? Read on and find out.
Sports 2.0 NBA MVP Favorites – Also Receiving Votes
In the interest of building up some suspense, we’re going to start with the players that did get some mention from the Sports 2.0 staff first, followed by the top three in inverse order.
Some of the players that received votes in our top three system were the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Phoenix’s Devin Booker. All four of those are part of star duos — and notably, all four are from the Western Conference, where there seems to be a proliferation of MVP candidates.
3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James may be the main man on the defending champions, who are also one of the top contenders for the title this season, but he could see some of his headlines taken by Davis. Sports Illustrated had Davis on its NBA preview issue cover rather than James, and this is a media award.
Still, James is looking as good as ever, and if this was more than a regular-season award and included the postseason, James may win every season. As it is, he’s won four times and is going for his fifth, just like his NBA title count as well.
Last season, James became a distributor more than ever, leading the NBA in assists per game with a career-high 10.2. Add in his 25.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, as well as his presence on the defensive end, and you can see why James is always in consideration for this award. Part of the reason he may be down this low in the preseason predictions is the fact this is his 18th NBA season, so familiarity makes him old news in some people’s eyes.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The two-time reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to great heights in the regular season, with the Bucks sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings in each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately, the postseason hasn’t been as kind, with Milwaukee being eliminated before reaching the NBA Finals in each of those seasons.
Now Antetokounmpo has a new supermax contract and some new teammates to try to repeat the regular-season success and add some more in the postseason. The 26-year-old also won the Defensive Player of the Year a season ago, and he is a difference-maker on both ends of the floor.
With the addition of Jrue Holiday, the Bucks have another scorer to add to Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, but don’t look for Antetokounmpo’s stats to drop much. He will still be the focus of Milwaukee’s offensive attack as he continues to add to his game. Antetokounmpo will get his share of votes for his gaudy stats and the Bucks’ team success, but like James, he may be hurt in the voting due to the fact he’s won the award two years running.
Sports 2.0 NBA MVP Favorites – 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
“Bang! Bang!” As many great highlights as there were in the last season’s NBA playoffs, Luka Doncic’s game-winning three-pointer in overtime of the Mavericks’ Game 4 against the LA Clippers was one of the top ones, eliciting Mike Breen’s signature “Bang” to be uttered twice by the ABC announcer.
That shot capped a 43-point, 17-rebound, 13-assist masterpiece from Doncic, pushing the underdog Mavericks to a win against one of the favorites to win the NBA title. It’s that kind of one-man show performance that definitely wins fans and MVP voters over.
Entering his third NBA season, the 21-year-old Doncic is already considered by many to be the best guard in the game, with the potential to become the best overall player soon, if he hasn’t already. The Mavericks will be in the second tier of projected contenders in the Western Conference, but that’s a statement on Doncic’s supporting cast rather than about him
Doncic averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists last season, with Kristaps Porzingis the next highest scorer at 20.4 points per game. Doncic is the clear leader for Dallas, but he doesn’t let the pressure get to him. He may smile more on the court more than any other player in the league because the game does seem to come so easy to him.
Gaudy stats, a game that produces highlights on a nightly basis, and a team that could be moving up in the standings? Let’s just say Doncic has it all going for him right now, which is why we see him as this year’s MVP winner.