If only the other professional sports leagues could take a page out of the NBA’s playbook—free agency in the NBA is exciting (unless you’re a Knicks fan). In the span of a few short hours, billions of dollars were promised to a relatively small group of athletes (kids—start practicing your jump shot now), and the outlook for several teams changed.
Was a new contender created? That is hard to tell. Teams can look great on paper and then totally flop once they take the court. But there are a lot of teams with promise; their situations are much better now then they were Sunday morning.
Should these teams live up to the hype, not only could their outlook change, but the MVP race could see a few new contenders emerge. Some excellent players could be in situations that will allow their talents to be on display more than they ever have.
Of course, taking down the front runner, Giannis Antetokounmpo is not going to be easy. With Malcolm Brogdon leaving town, the door could be open for him to showcase his game even more and make an even better case for the award next season. James Harden, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Anthony Davis—the guys you expect to lead the conversation still will.
But if the stars align for any of these guys and against some others, the MVP may be someone no one expects it to be next season (odds via FanDuel):
- Joel Embiid +1900
He isn’t exactly a new name to the MVP conversation, but with Jimmy Butler and J.J. Reddick gone, the 76ers will need someone to fill the scoring void. Tobias Harris and Al Horford will help, but if Embiid can shoulder most of the additional load his name will be in the conversation throughout the season.
- Kyrie Irving +3200
Irving is an exceptional player, but he has never been ‘the man’ for his team. In Cleveland, he played second fiddle to LeBron; in Boston, there was the rest of a very talented Celtics roster. But with the Nets, at least for next season, he will be the one.
If he can get the Nets into the top four in the East, he stands to have a good shot at winning MVP.
- Donovan Mitchell +8000
Yes, he is one of the better young players in the NBA today—but no one has talked about him as a serious MVP candidate. But with the team he will now have around him, not only will the Jazz be a serious threat to win the West, Mitchell will have the opportunity to shine like he never has before.
If he does, he could have an MVP-worthy season.
- Kemba Walker +10000
To make himself a viable candidate, he needs to continue to score 25+ points a game like he did last season. But he also needs to lead a talented roster and help make them even better than they already are. Kyrie Irving couldn’t do it, but the Celtics still made the playoffs anyway.
If Walker can, not only will the Celtics make the playoffs, they will contend in the East (which will make Walker an MVP-candidate).