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5 players to watch in 2020-21 Kia MVP chase

A way-too-early look at some names to monitor next season

Yes, it’s early. Way too early, in fact.

But since Kia MVP watching has become a year-round affair, it makes sense to mention five players, absent from the list this season, who will play their way into the conversation next season:

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1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: Just two years ago, on the heels of back-to-back Finals MVP performances, we were debating whether or not Durant had overtaken LeBron as the best player in the NBA. Now would be the time to put some respect on his name as he returns from sitting out an entire season recovering from Achilles surgery. He will be on a vengeance tour with teammate Kyrie Irving as the both lead a dangerous Nets crew.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: Another seemingly forgotten member of the MVP club, a broken hand and the Warriors’ abrupt fall from their dynasty days back to the lottery will no doubt fuel the fire of the two-time MVP. Having fellow All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green fully healthy for 2020-21 will only help Curry’s cause, too.

3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: He was supposed to be a legitimate challenger to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hold on the top spot this season. But this was yet another tumultuous season for the most talented big man in the game. We’re still trusting in “The Process” … for now.

4. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks: The All-Star guard finished his second season ranked in the top five in points and assists. Somehow, he’s still scrapping for respect when it come to the MVP discussion. That will end next season, if and when the Hawks turn the corner and compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: His first season as the clear-cut face of the franchise in Washington was just more evidence to what we already knew: he’s one of the NBA’s most unstoppable scorers and underrated two-way players. If the rumblings about John Wall being back healthy and ready to go this fall are true, the Wizards could also be one of the wild card items in the Eastern Conference next season.

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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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