Giannis? Simmons? Embiid? Predicting the NBA MVP in 5 Years
Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo
- We created odds for who will be the NBA MVP in 2023-24 -- five seasons from now.
- Then we got our NBA staff together to make their picks and debate who will be the future MVP.
Man, the NBA is in a great place right now. The likely frontrunner for MVP this season is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is just 24 years old. One of his biggest competitors is 25-year-old Anthony Davis.
We saw elite rookie seasons last year from Donovan Mitchell (22) and Jayson Tatum (20), and the 2018-19 rookie class already looks to be one of the best we’ve seen in a while.
All of this hype prompted us here at The Action Network to have some internal arguments about who the NBA’s best long-term prospects are and who will emerge as MVP candidates over the next five years. So, we decided to create some odds for the discussion and make some picks based on those.
Below you’ll see the odds we made up for who will win the MVP in five years (2023-24 season). And, of course, we had to continue arguing about them.
Our 2023-24 NBA MVP Odds
Evan Abrams: Devin Booker (+5000)
Before I start, it should go on the record that the MVP of the NBA five years ago was Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant (depending if you want to count 2018-19 or not).
Both Curry and Durant won the MVP in their age-25 and 26 seasons, so it would be reasonable to say the MVP in 2023-24 would be between 19 and 22 years old currently. That leaves me 11 guys currently listed on our odds board or I could take the field.
I am sure many will go Zion Williamson or may be attracted to Mitchell, Tatum or Doncic, but I am going to go with a guy who has averaged 24.9 PPG the past two seasons, is a natural-born scorer, is a leader and will be 27 years old in 2023-24: Devin Booker.
When healthy, Booker has proven he can produce MVP moments (70 points in Boston) and score consistently (16 consecutive games with 20-plus points).
I do not necessarily prefer if Booker stays or leaves Phoenix for this bet; wherever he goes he will score in bunches. And if he does stay with the Suns, the hometown love could get him close in a few years, which is right around our timeline.
Matt Moore: Joel Embiid (+1200)
Before I give my pick, I want to run down a few guys who I don’t like taking.
- Devin Booker: Evan’s insane. Pass.
- Luka Doncic: Doncic’s scoring has been really good for a rookie, but doesn’t it kind of feel like this might be his statistical ceiling already? His game, his efficiency and his ability to impact the game will all get better, but I can’t see him putting up something like 25-10, which you’re going to need to get serious MVP consideration. I think Doncic will be a guy who wins a lot of games and is always underrated in the MVP conversation, but I also don’t think he’ll actually develop a voter base.
- Anthony Davis: Two concerns. One, injuries. Two, he’s either going to stay in New Orleans and never be good enough to win it, because if they wind up winning a title it will be a “shock the world, no one saw it coming.” They’re not getting another star. Or, more likely, he leaves and joins another team with a leading star, whether it’s the Lakers with LeBron or the Celtics or wherever. Then he suffers from the superteam problem. Davis absolutely has the talent, but it requires him to split a very precise set of outcomes.
- Ben Simmons: Probably won’t ever be the best player on his own team.
- Nikola Jokic: Jokic is very particular, and his stats will almost always exceed the eye test — even the stats like plus-minus, which are meant to indicate impact. He will never feel dominant, and that will always hurt him with voters.
So then it comes down to the remainder. I like Towns; I think he’s actually underrated at this point. I think Giannis is most likely; I don’t need to explain why Antetokounmpo could rattle off four out of five MVPs. I like Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum because of their ability to completely take over the game with the ball in their hands, and they don’t have any real red flags.
But I’ll go Embiid for my actual pick. No one is more dominant and looks more dominant than Embiid. No one makes an impression like Embiid when you watch him live. No one is more charismatic, which will impact votes, like Embiid. No one has as much on the line as a reason to improve so he doesn’t get embarrassed for all the shit he talks as Embiid.
He’s the best player on a good team already, the team has a lot of upside over the next five years (not as much with the upcoming Butler contract, but still) and when fully actualized, he has no weaknesses.
I’ll Trust the Process.
Ken Barkley: Ben Simmons (+1900)
If Matt gets to run down candidates he doesn’t like, than I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity to do the same (we’re very competitive around here, as you can tell).
The most important thing I’m trying to do here is basically abandon how I feel about any exact player right now for their ability to win MVP. Because the future MVP doesn’t have to be a complete player right now.
Evan made great points about age above, and I agree. The current MVP frontrunners this season are some mix of Giannis, Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid, and how did we feel about all three of them five years ago?
Embiid hadn’t played an NBA game yet, Giannis was in his rookie year and Davis had just had his first legitimately impressive season. As much as those guys seem likely to win in the future because we are watching them right now, in five years their window is most likely closed (because their window is right now; windows don’t stay open that long, and narratives move on to who’s “next”).
The most intriguing two players to me are Tatum and Simmons. Tatum came into the league with a polished offensive game. He’s on the right team. He should truly be featured and grow into his alpha role. He has the potential to be the leading scorer in the league.
Simmons already generates the stats to merit consideration — he can easily average a triple-double every year for the next 10 years — but has one glaring hole. Can he fix his jumper enough in the next 2-3 years, get on the NBA MVP radar (most winners do well the year before) and then succeed? I think so.
I’ll take Simmons in his age-27 season, a perfect time for everything to come together.
Matt LaMarca: Ben Simmons (+1900)
Put me down for Simmons, as well. The MVP typically goes to a player who puts up the best counting stats for a good team, and Simmons has the ability to check both of those boxes.
The 76ers pushed all their chips into the middle of the table with the Jimmy Butler trade, and assuming they re-sign him, they should be competitive for the next few years at a minimum.
Some of the other players on this list are intriguing — particularly Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson — but they could be stuck playing for cellar-dwellers early in their careers. That shouldn’t be an issue with Simmons.
As for the counting stats, Simmons is already a pretty elite contributor in terms of assists and rebounds. He averaged more than eight assists and rebounds per game as a rookie, making him the first player to do that since Oscar Robertson in 1960.
Any time you’re doing something that hasn’t been done since the Big O, that’s pretty damn impressive.
The one big hole in his game is his ability to score the basketball, particularly from the perimeter. He hasn’t even attempted a single 3-point attempt through his first 21 games this season, which is almost unfathomable with the way basketball is being played in 2018.
He’s also a subpar free-throw shooter — he’s making just 60.6% of his attempts this season — so the fact that he’s still averaging more than 15 points per game for his career is actually somewhat impressive.
If he can add the ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter and earn some additional points from the charity stripe, he has the potential to see a big boost in scoring as his career progresses. That should be enough to put him in the MVP conversation most years.
Bryan Mears: Luka Doncic (+1600)
There have been some really good points made in this piece, and each option certainly has strong arguments for and against. There are two main arguments against wunderkind Luka Doncic, and I’ll tackle those.
First, it’s that Luka developed so early that there’s less room for growth in his game than, say, for someone like Jaren Jackson or Ben Simmons. And I get it: When a young player has a definable flaw — Simmons’ shooting, for example — it’s easy to see how they make the leap to superstardom.
It’s low-hanging fruit because it’s so obvious.
With well-rounded players, it’s more difficult, but history shows that those players still get better with age. And more importantly, being incredibly well-rounded and this good at 19 years old means something — that player might be destined for the Hall of Fame.
This isn’t the perfect exercise, but here’s the historical list of players who posted a Win Share season of 5.0 as a teenager — something Doncic could very well do if he continues to play similar minutes this year.
- Dwight Howard: 7.3
- Jayson Tatum: 7.1
- Chris Bosh: 6.2
- Carmelo Anthony: 6.1
- Anthony Davis: 6.1
- LeBron James: 5.1
There’s only one point guard or lead ball-handler in that group: LeBron. Big men and off-ball players can develop more quickly, but lead ball-handlers take time, and Luka could get into a range only LeBron has been in as a teenager.
That’s not to say Luka will be LeBron — no one will be. But just because he doesn’t have a huge, definable flaw early on doesn’t mean he won’t wholesale improve as he approaches his prime.
Bad can become good, but good can also become elite. And it’s easy to argue Luka is on that trajectory.
And finally, the second argument against Luka is that the Mavs might not be good enough. Yeah, we’ll see. He’s in a great organization with a great owner, and if he continues to develop as expected, the Mavs might be pretty good in five years.
Justin Phan: Joel Embiid (+1200)
This award is as much, if not more, about winning than it is about talent. Nineteen of the past 20 MVP winners were on teams that won at least 54 games (or were on pace to do so in the case of the two lockout years).
That’s why the Devin Booker pick doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. He hasn’t shown that he’s more than a “great stats, bad team” type of player, and he just signed a five-year extension with a team whose front office has an extensive history of bungling first-round picks. (They get zero credit for Deandre Ayton, by the way, and you could argue they bungled that pick, too, by passing on Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson Jr.)
Yes, Booker has produced some MVP moments here and there, but it doesn’t matter if he’s stuck on a lottery team.
With team wins in mind, it came down to four players for me: Giannis, Davis, Embiid and Tatum. Giannis and Davis are the chalk frontrunners, Embiid is the best value and Tatum is the wild card.
I don’t have a problem with Bryan’s pick of Doncic, but I have serious doubts that the Mavs will be able to assemble the cast needed to emerge from the gauntlet out West.
If you look at their roster, who’s still around five years from now who they can build around? Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. and Jalen Brunson? That’s not going to cut it.
Tatum is actually the most intriguing player to me on the list, and I would’ve gone with him here if Embiid was priced closer to +800. Danny Ainge’s cupboard remains stocked with an obscene amount of assets that will keep the Celtics firmly atop the East, and Tatum’s time is coming with Kyrie Irving possibly changing teams and Al Horford getting older.
There’s a very good chance that Tatum is the best player on one of the league’s two or three best teams by 2023-24, which is half the battle.
Embiid at +1200 is silly, though. Simmons is a star, but Embiid is in a whole different superstar class with only a handful of players around the league. The only knock on him has been health, and he’s not only played every game this season but is currently second in total minutes played.
He’s proven he can anchor an elite defense and is all but unguardable on the other end of the floor. Every Simmons writeup has included the overused “if he adds a jump shot” trope, which doesn’t seem all that realistic given he’s shown little progress or inclination to do so.
What is realistic is that Embiid, who’s played just around 200 (!!) games of organized basketball dating back to high school, continues to elevate his game.