LeBron James finished second in the race for NBA Defensive Player of the Year, behind Marc Gasol. LeBron is not particularly pleased at this outcome. From
the Palm Beach Post, via Hoopshype:”I mean, I guard everybody on the floor. I don’t know if there’s one player in NBA history who’s guarded one through five (positions). It’s over with now, but that’s cool.”
He also said that “it sucks” about 20 times.
Only two players — Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon — have won MVP and DPOY in the same season, MJ in ’88 and The Dream in ’94. So it’s a very rare occurrence, even though you’d expect most MVPs to be quite good on both sides of the ball. (We’re ignoring Steve Nash’s back-to-back trophies here.) Honestly, LeBron should have been in serious consideration in each of the last five years, including 2012-13; he’ll mark his fifth straight first team All-defence selection when that team is announced.
LeBron finished No. 2 behind Dwight Howard in 2009, and has two fourth place finishes since, as well as an odd No. 9 finish in 2011. So he’s floated around consideration, but never been a favourite to win it. The question is if he scored 15 points per game and wasn’t a serial Player of the Month, would his defence get more attention? I certainly think so: very rarely is LeBron’s defence discussed specifically and removed from his overall incredible play. We acknowledge that he’s a great, versatile defender, and then we move on.
It’s also hard to ignore team performance. Memphis had the league’s No. 1 defence, with Gasol and Tony Allen getting huge chunks of credit. The Heat defence finished No. 9, and remains the team’s one acknowledged weakness. So there’s sort of a built-in justification against voting for LeBron there, no matter how great he is.
We’re at the point where it’s possible LeBron will never win DPOY, so he’s right to be angry that he’s not gotten more consideration for the award and public praise for his defensive effort. Maybe he can find Tim Duncan and commiserate: the two-time MVP has never won DPOY, either, despite battling with Kevin Garnett for best defensive big man throughout their tangled careers. (Garnett is one of three players, with MJ and Hakeem, to have both a DPOY and an MVP on his shelf. Ticket won his MVP in 2004 and DPOY in 2008.)
If we did the sensible thing and instituted an Offensive Player of the Year award, perhaps LeBron could swing for a grand slam in a future season … although envisioning LeBron beating Kevin Durant for any type of offensive award, given how the world feels about KD, is a stretch.
In conclusion: LeBron has a point, but he’s also about to have a fourth MVP, so I’m not too concerned that he is underated.
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This story was originally published by SB Nation.
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