He's still considered the best basketball player in the universe, and the early NBA odds from across the pond have LeBron James as next year's runaway MVP choice.
We could debate this all day and still not come up with an answer. LeBron James is the consensus No. 1 basketball player in the world, but James (25.9 PER, +7.4 BPM) had a bit of a down season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he finished third in last year's MVP voting, behind Stephen Curry (28.0 PER, +9.9 BPM) of the Golden State Warriors and James Harden (26.7 PER, +8.4 BPM) of the Houston Rockets.
So who will win the MVP next season? There are some early basketball odds floating around in the Euro markets, where James is the clear favorite at around 2-1, followed by Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1) and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans (9-2). Curry and Harden are next at 6-1. Is this another case of James carrying too much chalk? Or is he being set up for success in 2016?
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Things are definitely looking up for James and the Cavaliers. This will be Year Two of LeBron's second tour of duty in Cleveland, and the easy comparison is there to be made with his experience in Miami, where it took two years for James to lead the Heat to the NBA title. Cleveland opened as the 11-4 favorite at Bovada, and remains on top as we go to press, just ahead of the re-tooled San Antonio Spurs at 3-1.
The Cavs don't have to win the championship for James to be named MVP, of course. The award is based on regular season play. But the writers and broadcasters who vote for the winner will base their decisions on which teams are competitive, and the Cavaliers should look very competitive indeed in the Eastern Conference. Popularity is a big part of the equation, too, and the narrative of James chasing down his first title in Cleveland should dominate the sports pages in 2016.
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It also helps to have quality teammates on your side, and since the middle of last season, the Cavs have been making upgrades, just like the Heat made for their second year after The Decision. This will be a deeper team with Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams coming off the bench for Timofey Mozgov and Kyrie Irving, respectively. And we'll presumably see Tristan Thompson sign on the dotted line to back up Kevin Love at power forward.
Even a player like Richard Jefferson (11.3 PER, –0.7 BPM) should be much more useful to James and the Cavaliers than some of the allegedly warm bodies that were populating Cleveland's bench last year. And yet we're a bit hesitant here at the home office to rubber-stamp James as the next MVP. He's 30 years old now, with a ton of extra miles on the odometer from making the NBA Finals five years running. We're going to be looking elsewhere for our MVP picks if these NBA odds hold up.