Although the 2018-19 NBA MVP has yet to be announced, the race for next season's award is already starting to take shape.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo enters this offseason as the favorite, with potential Los Angeles Lakers teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis not far behind, according to Caesars Palace:
Given recent events, that list should come as no surprise.
The Greek Freak is expected to take home the 2018-19 MVP award after establishing new career highs in scoring (27.7 PPG), rebounding (12.5 RPG) and assists (5.9 APG) while adding 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. Meanwhile, he led the Bucks to an NBA-best 60 wins during the regular season before leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
After being named MVP in 2017-18, Houston Rockets star James Harden led the league in scoring for the second consecutive year, dropping a career-high 36.1 points per game. His season was highlighted by a historic 32-game streak in which he recorded 30 points or more.
In his first season after a quad injury limited him to just nine appearances, Kawhi Leonard reminded the basketball world of what he is capable of. Not only did he average a career-high 26.6 points during the regular season, but he posted 30.5 points per game while leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship, winning his second career Finals MVP in the process.
It's difficult to gauge Leonard's MVP odds at this point, however, given his looming free agency, should he decline his $21.3 million player option.
Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry already has two NBA MVP awards—including the only unanimous selection in league history. And if his team is going to make a run at its sixth consecutive Finals appearance, No. 30 will have to be a big part of it as Klay Thompson (ACL) and Kevin Durant (Achilles), both of whom can test free agency this summer, are expected to miss most, if not all, of next season due to injury. Their absences figure to result in gaudier numbers for Curry next season.
Meanwhile, James and Davis are set to team up as the Lakers look to end a franchise-record six-year playoff drought. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday that L.A. had reached a deal to acquire Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, though the deal cannot be made official until July 6.
Pairing James, a four-time NBA MVP, and Davis, a six-time All-Star, figures to make the Lakers formidable enough to garner MVP consideration for each star. But as Curry and Durant have learned, sharing the spotlight can also deter voters and/or split votes.
With the draft and free agency approaching, a lot can change between now and October. For now, though, there figures to be plenty of familiar faces in the MVP race next season.