Magic Johnson recently threw his hat into the ring for MVP predictions, and graced us with a laundry list of 16 candidates. Thanks Magic! I won’t be going 16 picks deep here, but I’ve made the argument for and against 9 players that LMBF thinks has a legitimate shot at the award.

j-hardenJames Harden

Why he will: New coach Mike D’Antoni has officially moved Harden to point guard, or “points guard” as Mike likes to call it. Harden is an underrated playmaker and will rack up the assists in an offensive scheme that Chris Duhon averaged 7.2 assists in not too long ago. Replacing Dwight Howard with Ryan Anderson will free up the lane for Harden’s drives, and Clint Capela will thrive as his pick & roll partner now that he has the starting center position locked up.

Why he won’t: Historically, NBA MVP’s have been the best players on elite teams, and while the Rockets may be a playoff team this year, they don’t project as a WCF contender. Additionally, unless Harden can find a way to motivate himself on the defensive end, that will be a demerit on his candidacy.

62d0724910c3e2fa854e7f168a37095a_crop_northAnthony Davis

Why he will: AD is going to put up insane numbers on a Pelicans team void of talent. Not only are his offensive numbers going to be huge, but he’s also contested the most amounts of shot in the NBA so far this season. I’m not sure anyone influences a game more than AD.

Why he won’t: The drop off in talent after Davis is substantial to say the least, and it doesn’t look promising that they’ll even make the playoffs. No chance AD gets the award without being on a playoff team.

kevin-durant-and-steph-curry-1024x775Steph Curry/Kevin Durant

Why they will: Early struggles aside, the Warriors are the most talented team and project as the 2017 NBA Finals Champions. Now, nothing is set in stone, but if we believe the Warriors will finish as the best team in the league, then chances are high that one of either Kevin Durant or Steph Curry will take home their 2nd or 3rd MVP honors, respectively. These two are an unfair shooting combination that will create an unprecedented amount of open looks for both of them.

Why they won’t: If the Warriors continue to “struggle” (Less than 60 wins), then the voters will hold that against Durant and Curry for not converting their all-time collection of talent into a dominant regular season team. Additionally, if Draymond and/or Klay decide that they want to expand their role(s) this year, then the raw numbers might not be there for either of Kevin or Steph to warrant an MVP nod.

bsdoxesKawhi Leonard

Why he will: With Tim Duncan riding off into the sunset, this is finally Kawhi’s team. If Kawhi manages to improve upon his 21/7/3 numbers on nearly 50/40/90 splits, keeps up his all-world defense, and the Spurs secure a top-3 seed, then he might have as strong an argument as anyone. Coach Pop is letting the 2-time NBA Defensive MVP spread his wings offensively, and all early signs point to Kawhi being ready for the challenge.

Why he won’t: Leonard’s shooting percentage’s and defensive effort may fall as a result of his added scoring load, and not having Tim Duncan as his second line of defense might force Kawhi to be a bit more conservative. But I’m grasping at straws here; Kawhi seems ready to make a serious run at this award.

tjmgky4Lebron James

Why he will: LeBron is fighting an uphill battle against the supremely talented Warriors, and I think he takes that personally. King James is absolutely aware of all the career narratives that surround him, and he knows that another MVP at age 32 would send a message to the Warriors; that he is not prepared to give up that title belt just yet.

Why he won’t: As mentioned above, LeBron is nearing 32 with 1,000,000,000 miles on his body. In terms of minutes, he’s played more than 2 seasons more than anyone else currently on an NBA roster. No one would blame him if he took it easy during the regular season, and it would be smart to take his foot off the gas for a good chunk of the 82 game grind. LeBron knows he needs to be completely healthy in June, so why risk it in January?

9ef105d1658b00ba9b1348907add6d8aRussell Westbrook

Why he will: In case you haven’t already heard, Russell Westbrook excels at getting triple-doubles. He’s had 2 in 3 games, and people are already predicting that Russ is going to become the first player to average a triple-double since the Big O in 1962. And honestly we can’t put anything past this dude, considering that he was recently quoted saying that being tired is a “mind thing”. There are going to be some mind-boggling stat lines coming from Oklahoma City this season.

Why he won’t: The Thunder have no talented wings on this roster, and that’s not a way to build your roster in this NBA. I’d be very surprised if the Thunder get more than 45 wins.

From LMBF White Sox/Trail Blazers writer Charlie Wooding:

damian-lillardDamian Lillard

Why he will: Lillard is an absolute monster, as seen in his monster 40 point performance in a playoff win over the Warriors last year. He can score with anyone in the league and is one of the most likeable point guards in this new era of star PG’s. The Blazers run everything through Lillard and SG C.J McCollum so there is no question the usage will be there for Lillard. A scoring title is not out of reach for Dame, and if the Blazers make the jump from 44 win squad to 50 win team Lillard could easily hoist the MVP trophy. Plus, he just dropped his first rap album, so you know he is feeling good coming into the season. Damian Lillard, 2016-2017 NBA MVP, say it with me.

Why he won’t: The Blazers added Evan Turner this off-season to help take the ball out of Lillard’s hands a bit, and this could really cut into his numbers, as Lillard works best as a pick and roll guard with the ball in his hands. Plus, the Blazers don’t look like a likely top 4 seed and he plays in the same conference as Russell Westbrook and James Harden who also promise to put up huge numbers on bad teams.

And finally, from LMBF Political/WWE writer Nick Anton, out of left field… (get it? Great ballboy joke by me)

hqdefaultDwight Howard

For the last few seasons multiple teams have been trying to get Dwight Howard to stop being a baby and return to his “Magical” form. In a class full of flashy guards Howard sticks out as an EXTREME dark-horse candidate. He has moved back home to Atlanta where Coach Budenholzer hopes avoid getting run out of town by this notorious coach-killer. Is this a serious prediction? Absolutely not. A big man has not won the MVP since Dirk in ‘06 and that almost doesn’t count. I personally have never been a fan of Howard since he left Orlando but I do hope he does well in front of his home fans. As an added kicker LMBF author Pete has stated that he will eat a pair of shoes (preferably Yeezy’s) if Howard gets the MVP. For the sake of great blog content we can only hope that Dwight defies all reasonable expectations.

There it is folks, I’ll eat a pair of shoes if Dwight wins MVP. Anything for content.

My pick: Kawhi Leonard gets his first MVP.