Russell Westbrook had a season for the ages in 2016-17. In his first year without Kevin Durant by his side, Westbrook (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists per game) became the first NBA player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. He ended up winning the league MVP award handily over James Harden and Kawhi Leonard.

The script has been flipped for 2017-18. Now that Westbrook and Harden have both been joined by superstar talent this offseason, Leonard has vaulted into top spot on the MVP futures market at +350. LeBron James (fourth place last year) is next at +450, followed by Durant at +550 and Westbrook at +600. Harden is tied for fifth at +1000 with rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Least Voluble Player

Leonard is one of the most respected two-way players in the NBA. He’s a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the NBA Finals MVP from 2014, when he led the San Antonio Spurs to victory over James and the Miami Heat. However, Leonard is one of the quieter players in the league, playing for a small-market team. His chances of winning league MVP honors have been greatly enhanced by the rush to form superstar teams around Westbrook and Harden.

In Westbrook’s case, he’ll be part of a Big Three on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul George came over from the Indiana Pacers in July, and Carmelo Anthony waived his no-trade clause with the New York Knicks to secure a deal on Saturday. Harden, meanwhile, will be joined with the Houston Rockets by Chris Paul, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a multi-player deal. This will improve the chances for Westbrook and Harden to win the championship, but they might have to sacrifice MVP consideration in the process.

James, on the other hand, could be in line for his fifth MVP award. He’s still one of the very best players in the league, and James will stand out more now that Kyrie Irving has gotten his wish and been traded to the Boston Celtics. Point guard Isaiah Thomas arrives in Cleveland with a pre-existing hip condition that could force James to carry even more of the burden than usual. He’s done it before; if James succeeds in keeping Cleveland near the top of the Eastern Conference, he’ll have the MVP edge with the sportswriters and broadcasters who vote for the winner.


*Odds as of September 25, 2017