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Summer Dreaming: Who will win the Kia MVP Award?

Taking an extra-early look at who could be in the running for the 2016-17 Kia MVP

POSTED: Sep 1, 2016 10:15 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury

NBA.com

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Will LeBron James regain the Kia MVP throne that Stephen Curry has held for the past two seasons?

There's nothing like a hot, lazy afternoon taking a nap on the beach with the roar of the ocean in your head to let the mind wander to those cold winter nights when the roar of the crowd is filling the gyms.

Summer Dreaming: Executive of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Coach of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Most Improved Player of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Rookie of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Sixth Man of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Defensive Player of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Comeback Player of the Year

The season openers are still several pages ahead on the calendar, and the playoffs are so far out there like distant galaxies that it would take a telescope to see them. But it's never too soon for our annual Summer Dreaming series, where we pick the 2016-17 award winners, to zero in on the big dogs that will make a difference. Here are our top five contenders to bring home the Kia MVP award:

Best Of Phantom: LeBron James' 2016 Finals Highlights

LeBron James won one for the land and secured his third finals MVP in the process. Check out his highlights from a historic series through the phantom cam!

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: After making every big play that needed to be made, after bringing his team back out of the 3-1 hole in The Finals, after ending the half-century drought in Cleveland and winning the third championship of his career, James said all that's left for him is to chase the ghost of Michael Jordan. So it's time to saddle up and ride to his fifth MVP award, which would tie The King with His Airness, leaving only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record six still out there. James hasn't won the award since 2013 and if the playoff run didn't do it, now is the perfect time to re-assert himself as the best player in the game. Period. Let Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry -- combined winners of the last three MVPs -- grab the spotlight and the headlines in their first year together on the Golden State super team. At 31, there's still plenty of time and opportunity to chase the ghost.

Kevin Durant Top 10 Plays

Check out the top 10 plays of the 2015-16 season from Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors: Remember those questions and reservations that the free agent Durant had when trying to decide if a jump to join his rivals would ruin all the special chemistry the Warriors had developed over the past two fabulous seasons? Steph Curry, Draymond Green and the rest told him not to worry during their meetings. But what better way to show him than for the Warriors to throw their arms wide open and turn him into the MVP in his first season in the Bay Area. The shots Durant will get will be so much more wide open than in OKC. The game will be so much easier to play. He could probably score 30 points per game with one of his long arms tied behind his back.

Westbrook's Triple-Doubles

The Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook led the NBA this season with 18 triple-doubles.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: Move over, Oscar Robertson. After 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, here's the real threat to post a triple-double for the season. Now that Durant is gone and the deed to the entire State of Oklahoma has been turned over to Westbrook, the new favorite son of all Sooners can cut loose and go wild. Those 18 triple-doubles a year ago that matched Magic Johnson as the most in the last 30 years could be passed before Christmas. Or maybe Thanksgiving. Yes, coach Billy Donovan is going to need Westbrook to embrace the role of team leader and get everybody involved in the offense. But this is why he stayed -- to have his ball, his team, his franchise. The numbers he produces could be off the charts.

Kawhi Leonard's Top 10 Plays of 2015-16 NBA Season

Check out the Top 10 plays from Kawhi Leonard's 2015-16 NBA Season.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: Gregg Popovich has been grooming him for this moment for the past five years that he's been in the league. Face of the franchise. The straw that stirs the drink. Leonard had already become the main thrust -- along with LaMarcus Aldridge -- at both ends of the floor. But now that Hall of Famer Tim Duncan has finally shuffled off into retirement, the keys to the AT&T Center have been placed into his hands. We saw how high Leonard could take his game when he was named MVP of the 2014 Finals. He's only grown stronger and more confident since then. He's a 20-a-game scorer who has won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors and has an attitude that tells you he wants much, much more.

Curry Wins Second Kia MVP Award

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry is the 2015-16 Kia Most Valuable Player of the Year.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: After winning two in a row and the celebrated unanimous choice in 2016 that, followed by the letdown in The Finals, you know that there is going to be a considerable backlash this season. Call it politics. Or human nature. But don't call it accurate to say Curry won't merit serious consideration again. It could be that his scoring dips a bit with the integration of Durant into the offense. On the other hand, with Durant attracting defenders, won't there be even more wide open shots? With his ability to pass, handle, drive to the hoop and stick shots from way beyond the limits of normal comprehension, Curry remains the NBA's most singular show.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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