Entering a normal NBA season, it's fairly easy to pinpoint the two or three players who have a real shot at winning the MVP. The award almost always goes to the player on one of the best teams in the league, so usually, there are only a couple of guys who have a legitimate chance.
But this year feels different. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant might cancel each other out, LeBron James might coast through the regular season, and Russell Westbrook's Thunder might not finish with enough wins.
Here are 10 players who could wind up winning the MVP in the 2016-17 season, with their chances ranked from worst to first.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard doesn't get nearly the respect he deserves, and it's unclear as to the reasons why. It could be because he plays for a decent but uninspiring Blazers team that plays its home games at 10:30 p.m. ET, but that's really no excuse.
Lillard absolutely has the numbers to be included in the conversation, although Portland would likely need to finish as the two-seed in the West for him to be included in the conversation -- a proposition that, on paper, just doesn't seem possible.
NBAE/Getty ImagesSam Forencich
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Melo remains one of the best scorers in the game, and is coming off a strong performance with USA Basketball at this year's Summer Olympics.
New York has retooled with the additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, and has added Jeff Hornacek as a capable new head coach.
If the Knicks overachieve and finish as a top-four seed in the East, Anthony might have a claim to the MVP award -- even in his 14th NBA season.
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
It's fair to say that Griffin owes the Clippers for last season, when a combination of a quad injury and an embarrassing fight with a friend (and team employee) combined to sideline him for half the regular season.
The time is now for this version of the Clippers, and if L.A. is to realize its potential, it might take an otherworldly season from Griffin to make it happen -- and he's definitely capable of pulling it off.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY SportsAnthony Gruppuso
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
George has been open about wanting to win the MVP this season, and with new pieces like Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson in place, along with a new head coach in Nate McMillan, Indiana might be able to make the necessary leap in the standings to make George a legitimate contender.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY SporTrevor Ruszkowski
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is the best player on a Spurs team that has a very real shot at challenging the Warriors for first place in the Western Conference. If that happens, Leonard's play will be a big reason why, and he'll find himself firmly in the MVP conversation.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
The unanimous MVP from 2016 faces an uphill climb to win his third straight this season. The addition of Kevin Durant will mean less opportunity for Curry to dominate, and other players on less-stacked teams will have more of an opportunity to create individual shine.
Still, as one of the best and most unique scorers in the game, it's possible that Curry maintains his place in the MVP conversation.
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
If you thought Durant was one of the top-three players in the league before he joined the Warriors, just wait until you see the way he's able to play with so many other offensive threats on the roster.
He and Curry may end up canceling out each other in the eyes of the voters, but Golden State is almost certainly going to finish the regular season with the best record in the league -- and if that happens, Durant or Curry will be strongly considered, especially if no one else is able to make a compelling case.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook's name is the first to come to mind when fans discuss the MVP award for the upcoming season, and with good reason. We know the brodie is capable of averaging a triple-double if he chooses, and now that Durant spurned him for The Bay, many expect Westbrook to go completely nuclear on all of his opponents.
While that very well could happen, this is your friendly reminder that the MVP award traditionally goes to the best player on one of the top two or three teams in the league. Unless Westbrook's vengeance translates to wins, his individual numbers simply won't be enough to match those of the stars on the league's elite teams.
Getty ImagesBrett Deering
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Even though LeBron James is considered by most to be the best player in the NBA, he's been overlooked by MVP voters in each of the past two seasons.
A win in last year's Finals should refocus the spotlight where it belongs, and if the Cavs finish the season atop the Eastern Conference once again, there will be plenty of reasons to give LeBron the fifth MVP trophy he so desperately deserves.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
James Harden, Houston Rockets
In all likelihood, James Harden will win the MVP this season.
For those of you surprised at this declaration, consider this: Harden finished last season with better numbers in every statistical category than he did the season before, when he finished a close second to Curry in the MVP voting.
Harden is the game's most efficient scorer, and when you add in the fact that he finally has three-point shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon around him, along with having the offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni as head coach, Harden should put up even more incredible numbers in the upcoming season.
If the wins are there, too, then Harden has the best shot of anyone at winning the 2016-17 league MVP.