Will Zion Williamson be the next American-born MVP?

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The first order of business for Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans is to stay healthy this season, and if he does, good things will follow.

Not only will the Pelicans have a shot to make some noise in the Western Conference, but Zion has a real chance at MVP, and he certainly looked the part in his return against the Chicago Bulls.

So much so that the sports books quickly hedged against an avalanche of Zion Williamson MVP bets by dropping the odds by nearly half after the Pels’ first win.

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But even if Zion can stay healthy, he’ll have plenty of competition, especially from the international scene, which is now producing almost all of the top MVP candidates.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson vs. the World for MVP

The biggest change in NBA basketball over the last decade has been the rise of the international game, as play has improved dramatically from the time when American-born players dominated the sport.

The MVP odds for this season are a reflection of this, as the top four guys (according to Fanduel) were born outside of the United States:

  • Luka Doncic (+450)-Slovenia
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700)-Greece
  • Joel Embiid (+700)-Cameroon
  • Nikola Jokic (+1000)-Serbia

This makes sense, as the last four MVP’s have been foreign-born players and there is a very good chance it happens again this season, as Luka has all of the buzz and will almost certainly win if he has another huge all-around season and drags another mediocre Dallas team to a top-4 seed.

If you look at the next guys on the list you have Kevin Durant (+1000), Ja Morant (+1300), Jayson Tatum (+1300), Stephen Curry (+1500) and Zion Williamson (+2500), all players born in the United States.

Of those guys, Curry and Durant would be the likely frontrunners, but both are entering the tail-end of their primes, so really only have another season or two to win an MVP. Of the rest, Tatum is the most-likely candidate, especially if Boston were to take the top seed in the Eastern Conference after making to the NBA Finals last season.

But if Zion Williamson stays healthy, he’s arguably the best player not named Durant or Curry, who have both had injury issues of their own over the years.

Zion might be the best chance for the States to claim back the MVP trophy, which says a lot about how far the international game has come, as the top players aren’t all from America anymore.

This isn’t likely to end anytime soon, as the top prospect in next year’s draft, Victor Wembanyama, is from France and the NBA is expanding in other markets including Africa.

This is an exciting time for basketball, as the game is exploding all over the world and there is talent coming from everywhere. As someone who lives outside of the States and has for a long time, it’s a golden age to be a basketball fan.

Next. How Victor Wembanyama will help the Pelicans. dark