The regular season Most Valuable Player award is the highest individual award for any NBA player. A lot of players have won championship rings sitting on the bench. There are also plenty of players with a lot of minutes, but nobody ever won this award without consistently putting in stellar numbers for 82 games. Hall of Famer Gary Payton's prediction? ─ Four-time winner LeBron James.
Payton never won the coveted award himself. He came in the top 10 many times in his 17-year career, but the highest he ever reached was 3rd place behind fellow Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. He was part of the team that challenged Jordan's supremacy in the '90s together with the Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf. Kemp is the man who defines "Power" in the Power forward position. His EA Sports NBA live character is a testament to that. Schrempf, on the other hand, put Germany in the basketball map until '07 MVP Dirk Nowitzki overshadowed him.
Payton has plenty of credibility and experience to predict who would be this year's MVP so early in the season. His words aren't empty ramblings of an old pro. According to Payton, James is almost averaging triple-doubles every game. According to Basketball Reference, he is scoring 26.1 points a game, with 8.3 rebounds and 11.1 assists. Those are stellar numbers. Especially with the assists part, that means he is the center of the Lakers offense. Half of the team points are either scored by him or from the opportunities he created.
"My prediction of who I think will win it this year is LeBron [James]," Payton said. "I got LeBron winning MVP, and he's showing it now. You see, he's almost averaging a triple-double now. Look at the way they are playing and what he's doing … MVP."
Payton said reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is still a strong contender. His 29 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 7.6 assists this season are even more impressive. Both players lift up their team and are fan favorites. It's going to be a tight race.