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MVP Prediction #2: LeBron James

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The MVP has been rightfully the most debated award over time and in the last few years those debates have revved up. Players like Westbrook, Harden, Curry, Durant, and Leonard have all hit their primes at virtually the same time (and now Antetokounmpo), and it has made the MVP such a difficult award to hand out. Yet, it should not be. Think about the best players in the league right now and cross-reference that list with who I left out of the discussion so far. LeBron! I did not leave him out because I do not think he is the MVP or has a chance of winning it this year; it is just the opposite. I think LeBron James needs to be at the top of the MVP discussion every year, and for the most part it is not really close.

LeBron has won the MVP award four times in his career (2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013). This past season was the first time that LeBron had not been in the top 3 in MVP voting since 2007-08. Unless you hate LeBron with all your might or somehow do not know who he is, then you know that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA today, and possibly of all time.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why was LeBron not in the top 3 in voting if he is the best player ever?”. This is a completely valid question that has a very simple answer. The MVP award is not the MVP award anymore. Wait, huh? How does that make sense? Let me break it down for you. MVP stands for “Most Valuable Player.” It literally means the player in the NBA who is the most valuable to their team. Over the last few years, the award has been watered down by popularity and “hot takes”. It started in 2010-11 with Derrick Rose and it has continued through Westbrook last season. In this span, the MVP award has become “the player who stands out the most award”. In 2011, Derrick Rose had his best season in the NBA and people were taken aback by it. The 2014 MVP race was the closest to having the actual MVP in this span with Kevin Durant taking home the award. KD had his best statistical season in 2013-14, so they gave it to him. In 2015 and 2016, Stephen Curry won the award, but again this award was handed to him by everyone being completely mesmerized at his shooting ability. 2015 was a year that Curry definitely should not have won it, and in 2016 he made 402 threes, which is definitely impressive, but his team won 73 games. That is an indication that Curry’s surrounding cast could have done just as well with the average NBA point guard.

This past year, LeBron averaged 26.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 8.7 APG and nobody talked about it. Everyone was too focused on the triple double machines, Westbrook and Harden. It is not like they had way better stats than LeBron, they were just doing it in higher volumes. High volumes that are easily reachable when you have Westbrook’s (42%) and Harden’s (34%) usage rate compared to LeBron’s (29.7%). LeBron would have averaged 37 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 12.4 APG and shot 12% better from the field with the same usage that Westbrook had last season.

So why am I telling you all of this information? Well, it all ties in with my point that LeBron will return to the top of the MVP race again, where he belongs, in 2017-18. With Kyrie Irving requesting a trade from the Cavaliers and subsequently getting traded to the Celtics, LeBron will have to carry the bulk of the offense. The Cavaliers still have a tremendously talented roster, which I believe will provide much more competition for Golden State than last year’s squad, but they do not really have a guy that can lead the offense. Isaiah Thomas proved last year that he can do it, but he will be out of the lineup until around the All-Star Break, and without him, Kevin Love is the next best option.

LeBron has always been a must-watch player, but be sure to watch him this season, especially in the first half of the year, as he is set up to have an extremely impressive statistical year once again. With the way the MVP has been awarded over the last few seasons and LeBron’s sheer talent, don’t be surprised if The King walks away with his 5th MVP Award.

About Aaron Morse

UW-La Crosse Class of 2019 | Majoring in Sports Journalism. Minoring in Sports Broadcasting and Coaching | You can follow me on Twitter @FlyinHawaiian36

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