Last season, San Antonio Spurs top star Kawhi Leonard placed third in the MVP voting, behind eventual winner Russell Westbrook of the #Oklahoma City Thunder and #James Harden of the Houston Rockets. Currently, Leonard is rehabbing from the ankle injury that he suffered in the playoffs. The Spurs made it to the Western Conference Finals but Leonard injured his ankle in Game 1. The injury kept Leonard out of the rest of the series, allowing the Golden State Warriors to advance to the NBA Finals via sweep. Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 boards and 3.5 assists in 74 starts last season.

In the coming season, Leonard is expected to step up again for the Spurs and have another MVP-type season. However, Leonard will be in for a tough challenge from some players for the coveted award, according to Rob Wolkenbrod of Air Alamo.

No back-to-back MVPs for Russell Westbrook?

Wolkenbrod said Leonard will be up against Westbrook, who had a historic season after averaging in triple-double in the regular season. Westbrook finished the regular season with an average of 31.6 points, 10.7 boards and 10.4 assists, becoming only the second player in NBA history to average in triple-double in the regular season. With Paul George on board, the Thunder will reliable one-two punch next season but Westbrook’s statistics should drop because he has to share the ball with the former Indiana Pacers forward.

Another contender for the award is #Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Earlier, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant challenged Antetokounmpo to win the MVP award next season and this could serve as driving force for the Greek Freak, who placed eighth in the MVP voting last season. However, 22-year-old Antetokounmpo bagged the Most Improved Player Award after averaging 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game last season.

Paul, Irving and James could emerge as contenders

Despite having Harden as a teammate in Houston, Wolkenbrod believes that Chris Paul could get the MVP votes for being the veteran leader of the Rockets, who made it to the Western Conference Semifinal last season. If the Rockets surpass their achievement last season, this will boost Paul’s stock in the MVP race.

If the deal is finalized, Kyrie Irving could get his chance to become a legitimate MVP contender with the Boston Celtics, where he will be the top guy ahead of Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Hayward. LeBron James is determined to prove that he can carry the load for the Cleveland Cavaliers even without Irving by his side. James placed fourth in the MVP voting last season after averaging 26.4 points, 8.6 boards and 8.7 assists in the regular season. James’ numbers are expected to rise next season as he tries to win a second title for Cleveland before his reported departure in 2018.