LeBron James has lost his chance to three-peat as regular season MVP.
Since the regular season MVP award is basically only considered in the annals of "Greatest Player Ever" discussions and Hall of Fame voting, and since LeBron already has the latter locked down and just signed his way out of the former, his MVP chances are effectively dead.
The NBA Most Valuable Player Award is an honor given to the most highly-acclaimed NBA player in the regular season. The best analogy I can think of is "High School Prom King/Queen." Does the Prom King always finish the night the right way? Ultimately, does it guarantee his success after Prom Night? Is the NBA MVP just a huge popularity contest? Does the MVP always win the NBA championship?
Without further ado, the MVP candidates for the 2010-2011 NBA Season:
Deep breath. Woo-sah. OK, let's do this.
No matter how you slice it, Kobe has been an MVP contender each of the last four seasons. He should have won it last year for playing through those injuries. Even though every basketball pundit in the nation, including myself, was jocking LeBron, I couldn't help but feel that Kobe's ability to triumph through adversity was MVP-worthy.
Of course, MVP voters don't give a crap about things like that, and that's why LeBron won near-unanimously.
This season? He has a puncher's chance; if he puts up all-around numbers and embraces team basketball to the point that the Lakers repeat the regular season success they had in 1999-2000, along with thrashing the Heat the two times they meet this year, well, maybe the voters reconsider. Maybe.
We still haven't come up with a nickname for KD, but if Oklahoma has unprecedented success (READ: ONLY with 55+ wins), then Kevin Durant just may hoist the MVP trophy in the postseason. Once again, the truest test of an MVP candidate will be in games against juggernaut teams like L.A. and Miami.
Last year, the Thunder won all the games they were SUPPOSED to win, and lost all the other ones. They are still a bubble team in the Western Conference playoff picture until this upcoming season proves otherwise.
Derrick Rose MIGHT blow up this season. I'm not saying he's the second coming of Tiny Archibald in the stats department, but people underrate the Carlos Boozer-talented-young-point-guard symbiosis potential. Boozer plays bigger than he is (6'9" listed) and can finish down low to give Rose a second option.
The Bulls are missing a spot-up shooter who can knock them down, but if one of their young players step up and the Bulls win more than 50 games in an admittedly loaded Eastern Conference, 2010-2011 just might be the Derrick Rose "coming-out" party we've all been waiting for.
Free agency year! Like Carmelo needs to prove himself. Please. Well, with a marriage to Lala on the way, Carmelo's been having himself a cushy offseason. Melo proved last year he has what it takes to be the leading man on a team with championship ambitions, but like LeBron, he needs the pieces around him to make it work. In the regular season, though? Are you kidding me?
If Melo goes to camp and becomes a workout freak and develops that Kobe-like competitiveness, the ceiling on his offensive potential gets even bigger than it already is. Melo has been working on his defense each of the past offseasons and it shows. He needs to up his quickness on defense and move his feet more quickly to be a true factor, however.
With all the partying and nonsense out of his system (hopefully), Melo could be a low-profile MVP candidate this year.
My choice for the MVP this season, however, is...
As long as Superman doesn't stay Clark Kent on offense, and he ditches the nice, happy, smiley Dwight for a healthy scowl here or there, Dwight Howard is my lock for MVP.
He's learning. Last year's exit from the playoffs could be a boon in the "mental toughness" department. The Magic stay contenders as long as Dwight ups the intensity on offense and starts playing like he means it.
This year, Dwight Howard will come home with the MVP hardware.
With a comfortable situation and a chance to win the Eastern Conference altogether (providing the Miami experiment fails to create regular season chemistry), and a healthy amount of negative energy and feeling of being dismissed by the rest of the NBA (remember what dismissing Orlando did in the 2009 postseason?), Orlando could come out like gangbusters this season.
The only way we know, though, is if we watch.