A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

MVP/Power Rankings Monday – The 10 most likely future NBA MVPs (who haven’t won any yet)

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Kevin Durant waiting for the tip-off in OKC vs...

Kevin Durant is a near cinch for future MVP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The NBA MVP feels the most important of the 4 major sports’. Since the best player in basketball matters more than the rest, so does the all-time rankings of players – and next to championships, MVPs are the most prestigious award they can get. Furthermore the NBA is unique from the other sports in that only the greatest talents even have a shot at the award, while in the NFL, MLB and NHL a very good but not transcendent talent can win an MVP if he breaks out to a spectacular statistical season. The MVP club is a much more exclusive lounge to join in the NBA.

Here are my rankings of who the most likely future MVPs are, among players who haven’t been awarded with one yet

Tier 1 – The frontrunners

1. SF Kevin Durant – A near lock to eventually get an MVP. He’s finished 2nd twice, is the dominant scorer in the league and is a media favorite due to his class and hard work. Most importantly perhaps is that winning an MVP just about requires finishing top 2 in the conference and Durant’s Thunder have the talent to consistently grab 1st and 2nd place finishes in the West for the rest of his prime. It’s much more likely Durant wins 2 or more MVPs than it is he wins 0.

2. PG Chris Paul – With 2nd and 3rd place finishes he’s proven he has the respect of MVP voters due to his transcendent true PG ability. Like Durant on the Clippers with Blake Griffin beside him he has the talent to lead a team strong enough to win an MVP and if the Clippers ever get that high, the narrative of saving that once tortured franchise will play in his favor.

3. C Dwight Howard – Like Durant and Paul he’s a consensus superstar who has 2nd, 4th and 4th MVP finishes. He’s easily the best at his position and the value of dominant two way centers has been recognized. My only concern with him is that after leading 59 W seasons in both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, he still only was rewarded with 4th place finishes both years. Even in the year he finished 2nd many argued Derrick Rose didn’t have the same value to his team enough to beat him. Is it possible Dwight’s lack of dominant scoring talent and polish hurts his chances of getting MVP respect? Perhaps, but he deserves to be ranked top 3 at worst.

Tier 2 – Reasonable bets to contend

4. PF Kevin Love – Love absolutely has MVP caliber statistics, putting up a Moses Malone/Charles Barkley-esque 26 points and 13 rebounds a game last year. His combination of elite skill, IQ and ability to space the floor at PF makes him a tremendous offensive 4. His defense is getting better due to his feel for the game. The question is whether his team can ever get to the level to earn that MVP respect. I don’t trust Timberwolves management, but Kevin Love’s MVP year could very well come on his 2nd team if they don’t improve in the next few years before his free agency. Love isn’t the most spectacular player of his generation, but neither were Karl Malone or Dirk Nowitzki, but their numbers were eventually called through sustained excellence at the PF position.

5. PF Anthony Davis – A superstar talent. Davis has the chance to physically dominate the PF position due to his explosiveness and shotblocking length, with combined with a supreme feel for the game on both ends and a guard’s skill level, give him MVP upside on both ends.

6. PG Kyrie Irving – I believe Irving is headed for superstardom. He can attack the paint and rim at will due to his speed, size and ballhandling, can be one of the most skilled PGs in the league and has a superior feel for the game. If Cleveland gets great while Lebron is still in his prime, it’ll be a nice story for him to be MVP leading his own brand of Cavaliers, as well.

Tier 3 – Longshots

7. C Greg Monroe – I’ve loved Monroe’s feel for the game and beautiful basketball feet and hands since watching his high school and Georgetown clips. So far he’s busted through the pre-draft expectations of his ceiling and finishing top 15 in PER as a 21 year old, perhaps he does have a ceiling of a top 5 player. He would join Love, Nowitzki, Dave Cowens, Bob Lanier as PF/Cs who either won MVPs or contended for it with superior skill and feel for the game rather than dominant physical tools.

8. SF Jabari Parker – At this point finding any players in the NBA with a real shot at MVP is difficult. Without great competition, I’ll go with Jabari even at his age. He seems to have the full package of size, elite shooting/passing skill and an effortless feel for scoring. Like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant he appears to be put on the earth to score over 25 points per game in the league, but his intangibles appear much closer to Durant’s. To me, the best prospect of the next 2 drafts and an MVP contender coming out of the next two, is a very reasonable expectation by historical odds.

9. SG James Harden – Seems high? Well, obviously if Harden stays with the Thunder long term, he’ll have no chance to compete. However if he indeed goes to his own team, I’d bet on his upside blowing expectations away and Harden turning into the Nash to Durant’s Dirk. Harden has a nearly perfect package for a SG of attacking the basket, size, outside shooting/passing skill and a superior feel for the game. I have him ranked as a superstar talent.

10. PG Rajon Rondo – Rondo has built up respect with clutch playoff runs. What separates his chance from players like Andrew Bynum, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony to me is that while those players may have MVP contention talent, something is missing from a leadership and effort level perspective. Rondo’s motor and competitiveness may be more endearing to MVP voters. But really the only way he has a shot to compete is if his scoring goes upwards to break 15 points a game, with a jumpshot players can no longer leave open. With an 11 or 12 assist per game score, that might be enough to give him MVP consideration. While this seems unlikely, it’s enough to make 9th on this list, where any player’s chance to win is going to be slim.

By Julien Rodger

Twitter: @ASFW_jrodger

Email: julienrodger@gmail.com (If I get enough questions, I’ll do a mailbag)

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