The 2019-20 NBA campaign is still two months away, but we already know the prime candidates for the MVP award. Your Kawhi Leonards, Giannis Antetokounmpos, James Hardens, that sort of thing.
But there are some players who you wouldn’t normally consider to be top MVP candidates who actually do have a shot of winning the award. An outside shot, but still a shot.
So, here are five sleeper candidates to win the MVP award for next season:
5. Karl-Anthony Towns
There is no question that Karl-Anthony Towns puts up the types of numbers that are certainly worthy of an MVP award. It just might come down to whether or not the Minnesota Timberwolves win enough games, which is why he is so low on this list.
It’s a shame, because Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best offensive big men this league has ever seen, as he owns a ridiculous career true-shooting percentage of 61.9 percent. Sure, his defense leaves something to be desired, but offensively, you will struggle to find five better players in the league today.
If the Timberwolves somehow sneak into the playoffs (which is a possibility) and Towns averages something like 25 and 12 on his usual inhuman efficiency, you can bet that he will get some MVP votes.
4. Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker has been one of the best guards in the league for a few years now, but because he had spent his entire career with the Charlotte Hornets up until now, he didn’t really get the recognition he deserved.
Now, Walker is playing in a large Boston market, and he is also a member of a team that is capable of winning 50 games and landing one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics don’t resemble a title contender at the moment, but you don’t necessarily have to be a championship team to yield an MVP. Just take a look at Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City back in 2017.
And remember: that same year, Isaiah Thomas was an MVP candidate, as he led the C’s to 53 wins and a No. 1 seed. In Brad Stevens’ system, Kemba Walker could have that type of season, and if he does and Boston has a great year, he will get some MVP consideration.
3. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is coming off of the best season of his career and led the Portland Trail Blazers to their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2000, so we are all definitely wondering what he will do for an encore.
Of course, the West will be a bit tougher this time around, so it won’t be as easy for Lillard to lead the Blazers through the gauntlet in the playoffs, but MVP is a regular-season award.
Let’s say Portland wins over 50 games and is somehow able to nab a top-four seed in a very strong conference with Lillard posting yet another career year in the process.
If that ends up occurring, Damian Lillard will unquestionably get some MVP buzz. Let’s face it: if the Blazers are going to make any kind of run, it’s going to be because of Lillard.
2. Donovan Mitchell
The Utah Jazz were unceremoniously bounced out of the first round of the playoffs by the Houston Rockets this past spring, making it increasingly obvious that they needed a lot more to make any kind of noise in the postseason.
Well, the Jazz went out and landed Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic this summer, vaulting them into legitimate contention out West and finally giving Donovan Mitchell the help he needed on the offensive end.
With more supporting options offensively, Donovan Mitchell might end up having a career year in terms of efficiency this coming season, and if Utah ends up winning over 50 games and notching one of the top seeds in the West, he will get some MVP votes.
Let’s remember that Donovan Mitchell is still improving as a scorer, and now, he actually has some backup.
1. Nikola Jokic
The Denver Nuggets were one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises this past season, winning 54 games and grabbing the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference behind unbelievably impressive play from Nikola Jokic.
This is a seven-footer who averaged 20/11/7 during the 2018-19 campaign, a truly incredible feat.
The Nuggets are also bringing back the same team they had this past year, so we should expect natural improvement from the youngsters. Not only that, but Denver also added Jerami Grant to the mix, and Michael Porter will be making his debut so long as he stays healthy.
This is a Nuggets club that has a legitimate shot of earning a top two or three seed in the West, and if that does happen, Nikola Jokic will almost surely be the driving force and will garner a whole lot of MVP consideration as a result.