And this year our panel is crowded with folks who think the Most Valuable Player race isn't as close as it once appeared.
Opponents might "Fear the Beard," but it appears the voters will be looking a little farther west, toward Wardell Stephen Curry II, when they actually vote for an MVP.
Here is the breakdown, based on 90 votes:
Golden State Warriors
Should win: 69 percent
Will win: 91 percent
Oklahoma City famously traded away James Harden, but did you know the Thunder also passed on Steph Curry? OKC held the third pick in the 2009 draft, and grabbed Harden instead of Curry. The thinking appeared to be that Curry wasn't a great fit with Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, as both would need the ball a lot, as did Kevin Durant, while Harden seemed more like a complementary player.
Harden was the choice then, but it looks like Curry will be the choice now -- in the MVP race.
Should win: 25 percent
Will win: 6 percent
Charles Barkley recently suggested everyone knew Harden was a superstar in the making when he was traded to Houston in 2012, but that's not entirely true. The stats suggested greatness for Harden, but he was a sixth man coming off a subpar Finals performance, and Barkley himself thought the Thunder had made a great trade.
The Rockets knew what they were doing, and now they have a silver medalist in the MVP race, says our panel -- a cornerstone guard who scores at efficiency rates rarely seen this side of Curry.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Should win: 2 percent
Will win: 3 percent
It ain't easy to win an MVP award with a defending MVP on your team, but Westbrook almost did it. Mr. Coast-to-Coast has personally willed the Thunder to the brink of the playoffs, where he would face off with, yes, Steph Curry. Well played, Russ.
Should win: 3 percent
Will win: 0 percent
When King James infamously said, "Not one, not two, not three ..." he could've been talking about MVP trophies, of which he now holds four. He might be the best player in the game, but our panel says, "Not five," at least not this year. It looks like LeBron will have to settle for being a top-five MVP choice for the 10th straight year.
Our panelists ranked the top three candidates for MVP. According to those votes, here are the other contenders -- three Western Conference stalwarts:
• Chris Paul, who received our remaining first-place vote, might end his career in the running for "best player to never win the MVP award."
• Anthony Davis received a lot of second- and third-place votes from our panel, and it seems the 22-year-old has some Podoloff trophies in his future.
• Kawhi Leonard has stealthily moved to second in the NBA in real plus-minus and is a prime reason the Spurs have the NBA quaking again.