The NBA’s MVP race has largely been focused on two names this season: Stephen Curry and James Harden.
On the outside looking in have been players like Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James.
James has won four MVPs over the course of his career, his last coming in 2013. This year, however, James’ numbers are down from his usual standards, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, at 52 wins, struggled the first two months of the season before coming together.
Following the Cavs’ Monday night win over the Detroit Pistons, in which LeBron dropped a triple-double, Cavs guard J.R. Smith explained why James should win MVP this season in an interview with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
It comes down to one reason: Every team LeBron goes to immediately starts winning, and every team LeBron leaves immediately starts losing.
Smith told ESPN:
“There’s a lot of speculation about who should get the award, but we all know who the real MVP is.”
“In actuality, if you really wanted to, you could give it to him every year. I mean, the numbers, what he does for teams. You see one year removed from a team like Miami — and they probably won’t even make the playoffs — to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since he left and then, all of the sudden, we’re a 52-win team. So, I don’t think you can do that with anybody else that’s in our league right now.”
Smith added he didn’t want to take away from the great years Curry and Harden are having, but said James has a case each year.
This season, James is averaging fewer points, rebounds, steals, and shooting a lower percentage from the field than his career averages. The Cavs, who will 52 or 53 games for the season, are also, statistically, the worst team James has played for since the 2007-08 season when the Cavs won 45 games.
Smith’s point remains, however. James’ basic stats are still unbelievable, and the slight drop in numbers is likely a function of having to adjust to new teammates rather than any sort of decline in his overall ability. The Heat look like a solid team on paper but have struggled mightily without James, while the Cavs, who also have a great roster, have gotten a lacklustre season out of Kevin Love but have still looked dominant since figuring out how to play together.
James’ presence practically guarantees a playoff appearance — he’s a walking 50 wins each season. While he won’t win MVP this year, it should be a testament to how good Curry and Harden have been rather than any sort of criticism of James.
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