The NBA playoffs have been electric this year, featuring multiple series going down to seven games, tight finishes, historic plays and numerous upsets.
While it may only be a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season, the conversation of who will be the MVP award winner has already sparked. While former MVP winners Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are still in the conversation, the award will ultimately be awarded to LeBron James or Luka Doncic.
Both James and Doncic have had incredible starts to the season, with Doncic nearly averaging a triple-double (29.3 points per game, 9.6 rebounds, 8.9 assists per game) in just his sophomore season. James is also having a solid season, averaging 26.1PPG, 7.3RPG and 10.7APG, with his assist averages being on track for his career-high within a season.
While these stats might not be as impressive as the numbers both Harden and Giannis have been able to record, it is easy to forget that LeBron is doing this in his 17th season at the age of 34.
Another thing voters will look at in crowning the MVP is the team’s records and improvements. While both the Bucks and Rockets have had solid starts to the season, with the Bucks even having the second-best record in the NBA, both teams were expected to be good. However, if you look at both the Lakers and Mavericks of the 2018-19 season, they were abysmal. The Lakers’ promising signing of LeBron James did not help them, as they finished tenth with a record of 37-45, with James missing a hefty amount of time due to injury. The Mavericks were also less than impressive, finishing 14th in the Western Conference with a record of 33-49.
Both teams have had a big turnaround already, with James’s Lakers holding an NBA record of 24-3 at the time of writing, already 14 wins away from beating their win total from last season. While this is partly attributed to additions of players such as Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard, it cannot be understated how big an impact LeBron has had this season, as he leads the league in assists and is still playing at a high level.
The turnaround of the Mavericks is also surprising, with the Mavs currently sitting third in the Western Conference with a record of 18-8 at the time of writing. They have been led by a very much improved Luka Doncic, who is averaging Russell Westbrook-like numbers as he is nearing a triple-double average for the season, putting in some historic performances.
The Mavericks have had big wins against top contenders, and this is mainly due to Doncic playing at an incredible level. It will be interesting to see how long Doncic sits out after his injury days ago and to see how the Mavericks perform without him.
Another aspect that leads to the belief that the award will be given to Doncic or James is the narrative that will surround the awarding of the MVP trophy. Everyone loves a narrative when it comes to sporting events, awards or players. This is also true for the NBA, as narratives such as the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers winning championships in recent years have been spun.
The narrative surrounding James would be that he would become the oldest player to ever win the award, at the age of 35 when the winner is announced, while he would also be the player to pull the historic Lakers franchise out of bottomfeeding teams and into contention for the first time since Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were members of the franchise.
There would also be a major narrative surrounding Doncic, as he will become the youngest player to win the NBA MVP award, with the current youngest player to ever win the award being Derrick Rose back in 2010. He would also be the first player to win the MVP award on the Dallas Mavericks since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007, with both aspects being narratives that the NBA could spin.
As their battles have shown, both James and Doncic are hungry this year, and with their teams performing well, they are both prime MVP candidates. The award is theirs to lose.