In a year when the Most Valuable Player race appears wide open, LeBron James sees no reason why a new candidate can’t emerge: His own teammate.

While James is a trendy pick to win his fifth MVP award, James said he believes Kyrie Irving is ready to enter the conversation.

“Why not?” asked James, who famously predicted last season that Irving could have MVP awards in his future. “His ability to lead a team and his ability to score and get guys involved, we’re going to continue to improve as a team, we’re going to be right up there with the league leaders in wins, so why not?

“I think the sky’s the limit for the kid. He’s only [24] years old … He hasn’t even gotten to his prime yet.”

It’s only three games, but Irving is embracing coach Tyronn Lue’s instruction from last season to stop worrying about assist totals and just attack the basket. He is averaging 25 points through the three games and shooting 46 percent overall, including 50 percent from the 3-point line.

Irving spent last season rehabbing a knee injury and then trying to play his way back into shape. His numbers suffered as a result, but all that has changed this season. Irving is healthy now after winning gold for Team USA over the summer and is thriving.