May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) dribbles against Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3, left) during the first quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NBA: Early Look At 4 Potential MVP Candidates For 2013-14

May 5, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (center) holds his fourth MVP trophy next to head coach Erik Spoelstra (left) and Heat president Pat Riley (right) at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013-2014 NBA season already looks to be one of the most competitive in recent years.  The Western Conference has six teams that could make a solid run at a championship.  In the East, the Miami Heat will be challenged by the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, and the Chicago Bulls, who will be aided by the return of Derrick Rose.

The season’s MVP race should also be competitive. LeBron James has had a stranglehold on the award as of late, but plenty of players out there are tired of finishing behind him.  There is also the often discussed issue of “voter fatigue.”

Some people think voters get tired of the same player winning an award too often.  LeBron has won MVP four out of the last five seasons, so this season could be the perfect time for another player to snatch the award for himself.

Note: Seeing as LeBron is a given, I won’t include him on this list.

Here are four other candidates for next year’s MVP award:

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

April 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates after dunking the ball during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The City Thunder defeated the Warriors 116-97. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Durant has said he is tired of finishing second, so maybe it’s time for him to finally escape LeBron’s shadow.  Durant is widely considered the best scorer in the league.  His length, combined with deadly shooting, is nearly impossible to defend.  Most opponents just cross their fingers and hope he misses.

Durant leads the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the top teams in the West.  The competitiveness of the conference could make it difficult for MVP candidates to stand out, but Durant’s stats will most likely be difficult to ignore.

It’s hard to believe Durant is only 24; his game is already so developed.  If Durant continues to tackle his weaknesses in the offseason, there is no telling where his ceiling is.

Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets

Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After the fiasco that was the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2012-2013 season, Dwight Howard might not be seen as an MVP candidate.  However, Howard was injured for much of last season and he still put up impressive numbers (17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game).

The main reason Howard could win the MVP is because all eyes will be on him.  If he can help turn the Houston Rockets into legitimate contenders, he will receive most of the praise.  A great season under the spotlight will definitely lead to more MVP votes.

One player standing in Howard’s way is James Harden, who could receive votes for MVP himself.  Harden had a breakout season in his first year as the “go to” guy and could build on it next year.

Harden and Howard could end up taking votes away from each other if they both play extremely well.  If one of them is going to win it, Howard makes the most sense because he is the best at his position and he has the media’s attention.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

May 18, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) stands on the free throw line against the Indiana Pacers in game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony was the sole reason LeBron James did not win the 2013 MVP unanimously.  Many were outraged that Anthony got a first place vote, but Gary Washburn, the voter, explained why he thought Carmelo deserved the award.

Anthony is an amazing offensive player.  He isn’t that great of a defender, but scoring alone should keep him in the race.  Anthony also benefits from playing in one of the biggest – if not the biggest – markets in the NBA.

The New York Knicks had a great season in 2012-2013, finishing second in the conference.  Another strong performance could land Anthony the votes he needs to unseat LeBron.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry is the least established and well-known player on this list, but the hype surrounding him during last year’s playoffs showed just how popular he can be.

Going into last season, the Warriors were an afterthought.  It wasn’t until the Warriors clinched a playoff berth that people started paying attention.  That attention grew to a frenzy once the Warriors knocked off the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the playoffs.

Curry’s performances – specifically his shooting displays during third quarters – were the main reason the Warriors were getting love from fans and analysts alike.

Curry is the best shooter in the league.  If he is going to be an MVP candidate, he is going to have to shoot even more than last year.  Everyone is going to be watching; ESPN is going to track how many three-pointers he makes.

If he can break his own record of 272 made three-pointers in a single season, he will surely be considered for MVP.

Everyone is waiting for someone to do something spectacular.  LeBron isn’t going to take his foot off the gas yet.  It will take an incredible season for someone to wrestle the MVP award from him.

All of the players listed above have a chance – they just need to make it happen.

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony Dwight Howard Golden State Warriors Houston Rockets Kevin Durant LeBron James Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Lakers Miami Heat New York Knicks Oklahoma City Thunder Stephen Curry

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