LeBron James installed as the favourite to win MVP next season

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Lakers

James Harden was named as the MVP for the 2017-18 season in a landslide victory after guiding the Houston Rockets to their best ever campaign. 

'The Beard' overcame fellow finalists LeBron James and Anthony Davis after leading his team to a franchise-record 65 wins and the number one seed in the Western Conference. 

Throughout the campaign, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the superstar would claim the honour for the first time, both for his success individually and collectively.

But there is an expectation that the race for the prestigious Maurice Podoloff trophy will be more fiercely contested next year. 

Outstanding pool

The early odds by Las Vegas bookmaker Bovada show that LeBron is the favourite to claim his fifth MVP accolade. 

James leads the pack at 10/3 and is followed by Anthony Davis (4/1), Giannis Antetokounmpo (9/2), Harden (11/2) and two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant (9/1). 

Outside of that top five, the likes of Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Joel Embiid also made the list which shows that this could be one of the best MVP battles in years.

Installing LBJ as the favourite may be an easy choice since he already has four and is the best player in the league - which he proved emphatically last season. 

The 33-year-old played all 82 games for the first time in his career and almost single-handedly led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the finals for the fourth straight year - his eighth consecutive appearance. 

He averaged 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists and ruled the Eastern Conference once again despite being on a dysfunctional Cavs team that overhauled its roster at the trade deadline. 

But despite the King's incredible exploits, he finished a distant second to Harden which shows that team success is also a major factor in the voting. 

2018 NBA Awards - Inside

Westbrook's historic triple-double campaign two years ago was the exception. 

However, since James is now in the tougher west, he'll receive serious MVP consideration if he's able to lead the Lakers to a top-four finish and back in the playoffs. 

Success as a team is usually a determining factor but it's interesting to see LBJ, Antetokounmpo and Davis as the top three names since the trio are unlikely to be competing at the top end of their respective conferences. 

Individually, all three players will put up great numbers again but the award is most likely to go to the best player on the best team as is so often the case. 

But the race for the MVP crown is definitely more wide-open that it has been in a long time. 

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