The MVP race for the 2011-12 NBA season will be interesting. There is no lack of top flight talent in the NBA right now which should make this year's discussion very interesting. Derrick Rose was a bit of surprise last year but won't be sneaking up on anybody now. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant will be in the discussion but this year lines up perfectly for Kevin Durant to walk away with the honor. Dwight Howard should have won last year but it's hard to see him having another great year with everything that's going on. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should also both be in the mix. Here's a look at the candidates.
Kobe Bryant: We all know you can never count Kobe down and early indications are that he's healthy and motivated and with less talent around him he will naturally feel the need to score even more.
LeBron James: James has to split stats with Dwyane Wade but he seems to have a better mental approach to this season and could have to pick up a larger load if the schedule wears down Wade. James might have worn out a lot of his welcome, but it wouldn't take much for him to bounce back.
Derrick Rose: Rose was incredible last season but he had to be on that team that didn't have enough other scoring options. He was still a fairly inefficient scorer and very well could be a better point guard this year but see a decline in his scoring totals.
Dwight Howard: Dwight should have been the MVP last season with his combination of defense and improved scoring in the post. This year, however, he will be wrapped up in his future and could see a slight (temporary) decline.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin: These two will certainly make each other better and will be a LOT of fun to watch. For the MVP race, however, they will steal each other's thunder. It might not be fair, but the package deal will likely hurt their individual chances.
Kevin Durant: Things line up perfectly for this young stud. The compressed schedule will help his young legs and there will be plenty of shots available for him on that team. Durant should also show us some new facets to his game, including better defense and passing. He's our pick for NBA MVP for the 2011-12 season.
Most Improved Player is always a difficult award to predict. It's hard to say who will jump forward and the award is often tied to a return from injury.
The traditional candidate for MIP is Andrew Bogut. He should be fully recovered from the elbow injury and could easily take a big leap forward. Other second-year players to consider are Evan Turner and Greg Monroe. We expect both to make a big jump this season. Bogut is our pick.