Three candidates who can take MVP award from Kevin Durant

Sports Mole takes a look at three candidates who can take the title of MVP away from Kevin Durant this season.

The start of the new NBA season is just over a week away, and the league's stars will have their eyes on personal honours as well as the title.

Kevin Durant was named MVP last season, but he has been dealt a blow before his defence begins with the news that he will miss at least the first month of the campaign with a foot injury.

Below, Sports Mole takes a look at three of the contenders for the award.

1. LeBron James

Despite being beaten to the award by Durant last season, LeBron James is considered the favourite to win the vote for a fifth time. His decision to leave the Miami Heat in the summer dominated the headlines for weeks, and he returns to Cleveland Cavaliers under huge pressure to deliver the title for the fans who worship him once again.

Miami Heat's LeBron James in action during a basketball clinic on July 23, 2013© AFP

If, as expected, the Cavaliers quickly assert themselves as genuine title contenders, it will be because James has combined with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the same way he did with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Florida. Not many people will be backing against James to collect the award, despite his struggles to win over everyone in a brilliant career. There is not a more complete player in the league, but his chances are likely to hinge on how he gels with his new teammates.

2. Derrick Rose

Another former MVP makes our list, but it's fair to say that the selection of Rose is a far greater risk than singling out James. The Chicago Bulls point guard appeared set to join James at the top of the sport after being voted the league's best player in 2011, but his knees had other ideas.

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 29, 2012© Getty Images

In the past three seasons Rose has only managed to play 49 games, and Chicago have been unable to make a realistic challenge for the title as a result. At his best, Rose is a numbers machine and he is a real fan favourite due to his exciting style of play on the court. The Bulls have improved over the summer to ensure they have an opportunity to become champions once again, but their season will depend on the fitness and form of Rose. If his knees can stay strong, there is a chance he could be the MVP of a title-winning side.

3. Chris Paul

When NBA fans see Paul's name on this list, there might be some questions asked, but would it really be a shock to see the Los Angeles Clippers point guard named MVP? He was arguably the best point guard in the league again last season, and he seems to be more comfortable now with being labelled the team's leader. In recent years, the Clippers have been exciting to watch, but have ultimately failed to reach the NBA finals. There are no more excuses, and if they are to challenge for the title, Paul's form will be vital.

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul in action against Utah Jazz on October 23, 2013© Getty Images

Blake Griffin will often steal the headlines due to his eye-catching style, but the Clippers won't get close to edging out the Oklahoma City Thunder or defending champions the San Antionio Spurs in the Western Conference without Paul producing magic along the way. At 29, Paul is now entering the peak of his career, and he'll that feel Los Angeles are genuine contenders to lift the trophy in 2015.

He might not score as many points as the likes of Rose or Stephen Curry, but his all-round contribution to the team's cause earns him a lot of respect from players, coaches and fans. A healthy, hungry Paul is a joy to watch. The campaign for him to be named MVP will quickly gather pace if he can carry the Clippers to the next level.

A dejected LeBron James of the Miami Heat looks on from the bench as the San Antonio Spurs win the NBA title on June 15, 2014
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