In an NBA season where the MVP race has been dominating the national media discussions, it’s amazing that LeBron James is not really in the conversation. NBA.com currently has James ranked fourth in their MVP rankings behind Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard. Those three players are deserving of all the credit they have been receiving.
Russell Westbrook is having a historic season, in which he has broken Oscar Robertson’s longstanding record for triple-doubles in a season. He has made the Oklahoma City Thunder relevant after the loss of star forward Kevin Durant. Westbrook is averaging 31.9 points, 10.4 assists, and 10.7 rebounds per game. The Thunder are currently sixth in the Western Conference after many thought they would struggle to make the playoffs, and that is directly correlated to Westbrook’s dominance.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 10, 2017
James Harden has taken the Houston Rockets to new heights this year. After a disappointing 41-41 season last year, the Rockets have made a huge turnaround by securing the number three seed in the Western Confernce. Harden is averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game. Harden has improved his game tremendously this season. He has become a better play maker and is making everyone around him better. The Rockets made history this year by making the most threes in a season for an NBA team. Harden was integral in making that happen. He also made some history of his own.
James Harden becomes the 1st player in NBA history to score and assist on 2,000 points each in a season. pic.twitter.com/TEA79XRB40
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 29, 2017
The always steady Kawhi Leonard is having another excellent season. He is averaging 25.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.6% from the field. He has led the Spurs to another 60+ win season and the number two seed in the Western Conference.
The Spurs have won 60 games in back-to-back seasons for first time in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/tSHYfYBOvt
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 5, 2017
Westbrook, Leonard, and Harden all make strong cases for MVP, but they still fall short to “King James”.
The MVP award is always difficult when choosing a winner because there is no specific criteria. It is generally given to the player who has the most eye-popping numbers. That is why Westbrook and Harden are the front-runners in this year’s MVP race.
The MVP should not be based on just stats though. It should be given to the best player in the league, and that is LeBron James.
Contrary to popular belief, LeBron is having one of the best seasons that he has ever had. He is averaging a career high in both assists (8.7) and rebounds (8.6) this season. He is averaging almost 27 points in his 14th season in the league. No one else in NBA history has averaged this many points, rebounds, and assists 14 years into their career.
He is still logging heavy minutes, averaging 37.6 minutes per game (2nd in the league) and he is eighth in total minutes played, despite taking some games off to rest. Despite injuries to keys players like Kevin Love and JR Smith, and the Cavs sluggish month of March, LeBron’s team is still in the drivers seat to be the number two seed in the Eastern Conference.
It’s unfortunate that the media likes to penalize greatness. If you ask most media members who they think the best player in basketball is, most will say LeBron because the standard for him is so much higher — any numbers he puts up that aren’t superhuman are viewed as underachieving. If Kawhi Leonard were putting up the same numbers and had the same field goal percentage, he would be the MVP.
LeBron is poised to make his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance. The man is a walking dynasty. Any team he has joined (or re-joined) becomes an immediate championship contender. Can we say that for the other candidates for MVP? All three candidates are not favored to make it to the NBA Finals, and the front-runner (Westbrook) will likely not make it out of the first round.
Value is much deeper than the numbers you put up in a box score. Do he make others around him better? Can he lead a team defensively? Do other stars want to play with him? Will he sacrifice stats to compete for championships? Westbrook, Leonard, and Harden have some of those qualities but only one player on this planet have them all — that is LeBron James. You know it and I know it — LeBron is the MVP every year.