We are in the home stretch of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For more than a month (and continuing through the start of the NBA season) we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We are entering the prediction portion of the preview season, today the PBT staff is tackling:
Who will win the MVP?
It’s tempting to choose Russell Westbrook or James Harden here — both guys are going to put up MVP-level stats this season. However, traditionally voters tend to pick the best player from one of the best teams in the league (55 or more wins) for the award, and I don’t see the Thunder or Rockets getting there. I will go with LeBron, knowing full well that the past couple of seasons he has dialed it back a little during the regular season so he could turn it up to 11 during the playoffs. Last season “dialed back” LeBron averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game with a true shooting percentage of 58.8 percent — those are still MVP numbers. With all the stars in Golden State siphoning off shots and votes from each other, I’ll take LeBron to win his fifth MVP.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will split opportunities for production and, therefore, votes. I’m tempted to take LeBron James, but he has cruised through the last couple regular seasons, and every Finals trip gives him more incentive to relax the next year. So, I’ll pick Leonard, who’s a superstar and the clear top player on a team that could win at a clip that typically produces MVPs.
Dane Carbaugh: James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden is part of a new Rockets offense crafted by Mike D’Antoni, one unencumbered by the player who led the league last year in post touches in Dwight Howard. Harden is already a constant in the scoring title race, and now it appears his assist numbers — an overlooked part of his game — are on pace to become absolutely eye-popping. Factor in a potential step back for the Spurs, the Warriors foursome cannibalizing each others votes, and a finish in the Top 6 out West for the Rockets could very well get Harden the MVP.