Last season Nikola Jokic became the latest first-time MVP in the NBA. When we attempt to predict who will win the MVP award, we tend to gravitate to former MVPs. This is probably due to the feeling of safety in the familiar. But what if I told you that a vast majority of the time, the winner is a first-time MVP. In fact, of the 22 MVP awards given out this century, 15 of them were first-time winners. The dominance of LeBron James skews this number a little more in the direction of the repeat winners but it is still a staggering statistic.
NBA betting online will have you believe it is best to go for one of the golden oldies, the proven players who have done it before. In reality, the players who have never won the award are usually the best bet. Let’s look at some NBA stars who have a shot to become the next first-time MVP.
Making the case for a first-time MVP
The Obvious “Up Next” Player
The first name that will come to mind when reading the title of this article is Luka Doncic. It’s easy to see why. Doncic is only 22 years old and is already one of the ten best players in the league and has led a pretty mediocre Dallas Mavericks team to two consecutive playoff appearances. With many major injuries afflicting the western conference this year, Dallas could be the team to rise up the ranks and become a top 4 seed. This, combined with another year of gaudy numbers from Doncic would make for a very clear MVP case. If anybody is going to become the next first-time MVP, it’s Luka.
The One Whose Team is too Good
People aren’t going to want to hear this, but yes there is a case for Anthony Davis to win MVP this upcoming season. He’s not my pick and he shouldn’t be your pick either, but it’s still plausible. The biggest thing holding AD back from an MVP at this point is his team. In New Orleans, his team was terrible and it is very difficult to win MVP that way. Now on the Los Angeles Lakers, the team is too good. If the Lakers romp the western conference, Davis is not gonna get MVP votes when LeBron is on his team. It’s even harder with Russell Westbrook also in town.
Those are two players who will not only take some stats, but also credit. Credit they will rightfully deserve being major parts of the team. So what is the case exactly? It’s a similar case to what LeBron needed back in Miami. Davis needs a season where he is the clear number one on the Lakers, while James and Westbrook miss some time. All of this needs to happen while the Lakers are also one of the top two or three seeds in their conference. Can it happen? Certainly. Would I bet on it? Not a chance. But considering the fact Davis is the best player on this list, I had to mention him as a possibility.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
The only thing holding Philadelphia 76ers center, Joel Embiid back from an MVP, is his health. Last season Embiid was neck and neck with Jokic for the award and lost it mostly due to games missed. If Embiid can play at least 65 games while maintaining a high seed, he should be one of the favorites for the award. Last season Embiid had a career year, averaging 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds on 51-38-86 shooting splits. He had career highs in scoring, steals, as well as his FG/3P/FT percentages. The Ben Simmons trade looms over the city of Philadelphia but if Embiid is healthy enough to play a majority of the season, it won’t matter. Embiid is probably the most fun pick for a first-time MVP, in my book.
Is the Team Good Enough?
The final two potential first-time MVP winners are in similar situations so I thought I’d pair them up. Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard are both MVP caliber players but neither of their teams feels good enough to breakthrough. The Portland Trailblazers have had (virtually) the same roster for half a decade and have had one meaningful playoff run and have won 50+ games once. I don’t see a reason to believe that Portland will have a significantly better year this season than last but that is the only way Lillard is ever getting an MVP on this team.
Tatum is in a similar (albeit easier) situation. The Boston Celtics are not an elite team but they are a good team. A team that is theoretically good enough to make the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. That’s all it would take for Tatum to have an MVP case. With a slight uptick from the numbers he put up last year (26-7-4), Tatum could be right there on the podium. The east is notoriously weak and has only two locks to make the top of the conference. If the Celtics can stay healthy and maybe win a few of those close games they lost last season, Tatum could become the first Celtic since Larry Bird to walk away with the Maurice Podolof trophy.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images