Picking contenders, MVP frontrunners for 2017-18 NBA season

In this May 9, 2017, file photo, San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (2) waits during a timeout in the first half in Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets in San Antonio. Leonard will miss the entire preseason because of a thigh injury.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this May 9, 2017, file photo, San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (2) waits during a timeout in the first half in Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets in San Antonio. Leonard will miss the entire preseason because of a thigh injury.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Now that October is fully upon us with days becoming shorter and leaves falling off trees, I know what every single person is thinking: “the NBA season is in six days!” No? You were thinking about carving pumpkins and what costume you’re going to wear for Halloween?

Well, drop those meaningless thoughts for a second and take in what I just wrote: The NBA season is in six days! Now that everyone’s minds are off pumpkin spice lattes and on to the important business, let’s jump right into the 2017-18 NBA season preview. I’ll give you my Finals contenders, MVP frontrunners and League Pass favorites.

Finals Contenders:

The Finals contenders are the teams with a legit chance to win the championship this season. Per usual there’s the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, who have met in the Finals three straight years and have a combined seven All-Star players from last year on their teams.

The only other real threat in the Eastern Conference looks to be the Celtics, who reshaped their roster this season by adding the No. 3 pick in the draft, Jayson Tatum, former Utah Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward and superstar Kyrie Irving, among other players.

In the west, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder made huge splashes this offseason to thrust themselves into the contender race. Houston added the point god, Chris Paul, to a team with an already-explosive offense and the Thunder traded role players for two All-Stars in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, giving reigning MVP Russell Westbrook the help he needed last season, forming a starting lineup that looks perfect for combatting the Warriors.

Last, but certainly not least, are the ever-consistent San Antonio Spurs, with the best coach in the league and MVP/Defensive Player of the Year candidate Kawhi Leonard making sure the Spurs stay threatening.

MVP Frontrunners:

The MVP frontrunners are the players most likely to win the trophy for Most Valuable Player during the regular season. In the last six seasons, the players to win MVP were LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Curry and Durant are currently on the same team, which inevitably brings their odds of winning the award down.

Westbrook, the reigning MVP, now has Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on his team and figures to put up less gaudy numbers than last year. James is working with the deepest team he ever had and only cares about the playoffs anyway.

This means a first-time winner should walk away with the award this year and that first-time winner should be Leonard. He’s the best player on the Spurs, a guarantee for a top-four seed in the West, he has won Defensive Player of the Year twice, and is widely considered the third best player in the league behind Durant and James. If there’s any player that is due to be MVP this season, it’s Leonard.

League Pass Favorites:

The League Pass favorites are the teams that won’t sit high in the standings, but will be ridiculously exciting to watch. Tune in to the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nuggets are a young, rising team with a center in Nikola Jokic that either has eyes in the back of his head or magical powers. Jokic is entering his third year in the league and is already the best passing big man in the league with a knack for making the impossible look easy. Couple that with shooters around him in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris and fellow excellent passing big Paul Millsap and the Nuggets should have the most fun offense in the league.

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks is a seven-foot point guard that plays every position, and watching him defy the laws of physics is enough to justify checking this team out. The Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns, a top-three center in the league going into his third year, Andrew Wiggins, a superb athlete and an overwhelming scorer, and Jimmy Butler, one of the best two-way players in the league, to make up their fun big three.

Philly has young, frequently injured but very promising center Joel Embiid, along with back-to-back No. 1 draft picks Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. Philly is hoping these three exciting players can propel them back to relevance after years in the NBA’s cellar, and their climb will definitely be worthwhile to keep up with.


Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at zac.lane@uconn.edu.