Steph Curry may have been the unanimous MVP for the 2015-16 regular season, but it was LeBron James' dominance in the NBA Finals that played the deciding role in the Cleveland Cavaliers' championship. Couple James' insane two-way play with Kevin Durant heading to Golden State and thinning potential for a star-laden team to garner enough votes for one individual and it's James who tops ESPN's forecast for the 2016-17 season.
James' 18 first-place votes narrowly edges out Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (15) who will be coming off of back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons and will also no longer have Durant to dampen potential output. The question in Westbrook's case will be the Thunder's record as their second-best player becomes Victor Oladipo. Durant (6), San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard (4), and Curry (2) round out the top five in ESPN's MVP forecast. James finished third in the 2015-16 MVP voting (behind Curry and Leonard) but went on to unanimously win the NBA Finals MVP award, becoming just the third player in league history to have a triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals—joining Jerry West in 1969 and James Worthy in 1988—tallying 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists,, finishing off a series where the Cavaliers became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit.
ESPN's Forecast team recently pegged the Cavaliers to once again win the Eastern Conference with 57 wins.