Last year's NBA season was quite unique, especially when it came to the regular season MVP race.
There were four legitimate contenders that all had strong cases. Normally the field isn't that large or as accomplished as the incredible group we saw last season, putting on epic performances almost every night and carrying the fun through the playoffs as well.
Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James all made their case every game and all of them played every night. The leader seemed to shift on a day to day basis.
But the top candidates for last year's race should already tell you a lot about how this year's race will go, namely the absence of two names: Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
There's an ESPN piece that's being passed around San Antonio media and fan circles today. Two writers preview this season's upcoming MVP race and come to the conclusion that Kawhi Leonard is going to win it.
But there's really only three reasons why Kawhi Leonard will win the MVP if he plays as well as he did last season (Is it even possible for Kawhi to get any better?).
1. Westbrook has been exposed
We talked about this last season: Russell Westbrook's 2016-2017 season was a gimmick unworthy of an MVP vote. He slacked off on defense to pad his rebounding numbers and didn't effectively make his teammates better so that they could have a chance in the playoffs when they played a quality opponent every night.
They lost in five games to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs after failing to win 50 games (only winning 47). Frankly, they should've been swept.
It's not just voter fatigue that will keep people from voting for Westbrook next season. It's the fact that his stat-stuffing is holding the team back.
2. Super teams
If you're playing with another Western Conference All-Star, then the team will probably be fine without you, which killed Curry and Durant's value last year (plus Durant's injury) and will likely take away a ton of votes for Harden now that he'll be playing with Chris Paul.
The only guy left is Kawhi Leonard, in the Western Conference anyway. But that leaves one other guy.
3. Kawhi has surpassed LeBron
Don't get me wrong. LeBron is still Superman. But Kawhi is the love child of Batman and Wonder Woman.
Voter fatigue won't affect LeBron because he actually hasn't won the award since 2013, which is crazy. It's kind of silly that he didn't win it each of the two years before Westbrook won it this past season. The award went to Curry, but he had a superior team and coach before LeBron and the Cavs won Game 7 on the road to bring a title to Cleveland.
He was the best player in the world, and those MVPs to Curry feel all the more empty in retrospect.
But now is Kawhi's time. He isn't playing on a super-team. And while he's playing for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, any argument that the team is better without him because of his regular season record when he sits was thrown out the window when the Warriors swept the Spurs out of the playoffs last year after Zaza Pachulia took Kawhi out of the series.
We've all known it since last year, but this year will be the one in which Kawhi is cemented as the best in the world.
Spurs fans can only hope that a title comes with it.
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