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Predicting the next NBA MVP

Historically speaking, the MVP has followed a fairly reliable formula. Being great isn't good enough. Age, wins and teammates matter. And so do some not-so-obvious indicators. So who has the best chance to grab the hardware this season?

By Tom Haberstroh and Titus Smith
EVERYONE'S INVITED: 500+ PLAYERS

Technically speaking, every player who suits up in the NBA this season has a shot at being dubbed the league's Most Valuable Player. But how do you separate the real candidates from ... everyone else? Time to make some cuts!

THERE'S AN AGE LIMIT: 428

Age is only a number, but if history repeats itself, this season's winner will be between 22 and 35 years old when he lifts the trophy. (You've already got one, Dirk. Spread the love, man.)

THE SCORING BAR: 66

Want to be the MVP? Go get buckets. Every MVP averaged at least 14.5 points per game in the season prior to winning the top hardware. (It's been real, Draymond Green. DPOY is all yours, though.)

THE PER THRESHOLD: 39

To be the MVP, you can't just score; you have to be all-around productive. Every MVP in the modern era (since 1979-80) put up a PER of at least 18.5 in the season prior. (Adios, Klay Thompson.)

THE STAR FACTOR: 20

Turns out, your résumé matters ... and that includes job title. Every MVP winner had been an All-Star at least once within his previous two seasons. And in the past 15 years, no true center has been named MVP. (Sorry, Boogie.)

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

Meet the Chosen 20. Now, it gets super-competitive. The final candidates must meet nine historical trends that that were reached by at least 75 percent of MVP winners. Only the strongest survive ...

TOP DRAFT PICKS ONLY

If teams weren't high on you coming into the league, chances are you won't be an MVP. Every MVP in the modern era has been drafted No. 15 or higher. Good news for Giannis. Bad news for Butler.

TOP-4 FINISHERS PREFERRED

92 percent of MVPs finished in the top four in MVP voting at some point prior to winning MVP outright. (LeBron has finished in the top four 11 times -- by far the most of any active player.) The King remains the King.

TOP DOG OR UNDERDOG

Preseason expectations matter -- 91 percent of MVPs since 2006-07 played for teams projected to finish first or worse than fifth by Vegas sportsbooks. Be the favorite or a sleeper. But not in between.

WINNERS WITHIN

Individual advanced stats are key; 84 percent of MVPs registered an average of at least 0.20 WS/48 in the season prior to winning the MVP. The Brow's candidacy gets a close shave.

RAISING THAT PER THRESHOLD

Numbers don't lie. Players who deliver at least a 24.0 PER in the season prior to winning account for 82 percent of all MVPs. That's a full nine points higher than the league-average PER.

VOTER FATIGUE IS REAL

Sorry, Russ. Voters get bored. A whopping 79 percent of MVPs didn't win it the year before. The only to do so (in the modern era): LeBron, Steph, Nash, Tim, Moses, Bird, Jordan and Magic.

BUT TOP-4 SURE HELPS

Winning MVP outright the previous season isn't paramount, but 79 percent of MVPs finished in the top four the year before. Chances are the MVP will be in this final four.

THE PRIME OF THEIR LIVES

79 percent of MVPs were between the ages of 24 and 30, meaning most of these guys are still prime candidates. Giannis would be the third-youngest MVP. LeBron would be tied for the third-oldest MVP.

CAN'T SPLIT THE VOTE

The cost of super-teaming it: 76 percent of MVPs didn't have a teammate who finished in the top four in MVP voting in the previous five seasons. Case in point: Russ over KD last season.

THE CASE FOR KAWHI

Kawhi Leonard checks off more boxes than any other candidate. He is in the prime of his career, is ridiculously productive, and isn't splitting the vote. Yes, he's nursing a quad injury, but it's not as if LeBron and Russ have been healthy this preseason, either. It's Kawhi's time.