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ESPN predicts LeBron James as 2016-17 NBA MVP

But will James go all-out during the regular season in pursuit of the award?

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

If an ESPN forecast comes true, LeBron James will once again be the NBA’s MVP next season.

As part of their 2016-17 NBA Summer Forecast, a panel of ESPN voters predicted that James will be the NBA’s MVP next season. James was first in voting with 18 first-place votes, three more than second-place finisher, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who won the MVP the last two season, finished fifth with two first-place votes.

James certainly should be in the conversation to win next year’s MVP, which would be his fifth overall and first since 2013. The Finals proved that he’s still the league’s best player and a dominate force on ends.

However, the MVP is a regular season award and James hasn’t gone full force for 82 games the last two seasons. It’s possible that he goes all-out this year, but it doesn’t seem likely considering his focus is almost entirely on winning another title.

Next year’s MVP race could in fact be wide open. Along with Curry, the Warriors also have Kevin Durant as a legit MVP candidate, but they could cannibalize each other’s candidacy. Perhaps that opens the door for someone like Thunder guard Russell Westbrook or Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard to enter the discussion.

Still, James should be in the conversation. If he wants to win MVP, it’s entirely possible that he will.