By Jack Beck ’18
“Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world.” That is a consensus statement in the National Basketball Association (NBA), where there is very little consensus on the trending issues.
Seeing that James is the best basketball player in the world, wouldn’t it make sense that everyone would view him as the league’s Most Valuable Player? This is not the case.
There are four MVP candidates being considered as the season comes to a close: Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. In most seasons, any of these four players would have a strong case for the MVP trophy. But this isn’t most seasons.
This season you have one of the greatest NBA players of all time, Lebron James, having arguably his greatest season ever, yet still isn’t considered the MVP. He is being completely overlooked for this trophy. And yet James truly deserves this accolade more than any player and more than any other year of his career.
Consider James Harden, who is shooting nearly 10 full percentage points worse from the field than James — 44.3 percent to James’ 53.8 percent. James is also shooting a better percentage from the 3-point line — 39.8 percent to Harden’s 36 percent.
Russell Westbrook has been wildly less efficient than James, shooting 41.9 percent compared to James’s 53.8 percent. To give that some context, there are 57 players in the league averaging at least 13 field goal attempts this season. James is first in field goal percentage, Westbrook is 54th — fourth from the bottom.
When considering the last MVP Candidate, Kawhi Leonard, there really shouldn’t be a conversation. Leonard is a tremendous basketball player, but he’s simply not better than James at anything on the offensive end of the floor. James averages 2.2 more rebounds per game and an enormous 5.4 more assists per game than Leonard. James is fourth in the league in assists per game, while Leonard tied for 54th.
The final argument one might make for James not winning MVP would be “value.” What would happen if you took “Player X” off of his team? Advance stats provide the answer.
If you are going off of the numbers above, Harden and Leonard are disqualified immediately.
James and Westbrook both have a much higher net impact, with Westbrook accounting for 14.1 points per 100 possessions and James at 15.1. What tilts this in James’ favor even further is that he’s the difference between an excellent team and a terrible team, while Westbrook is the difference between a pretty good team and a terrible team.
James makes the Cleveland Cavaliers arguably the best and most talented team in the entire league. Without him, they are barely in consideration to make the playoffs. The Oklahoma City Thunder on the other hand, are just a mediocre team even with Westbrook, currently sitting as the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
LeBron James is universally accepted as the best player in the world. Typically, the universally accepted best player on the best team among the MVP contenders would be named MVP.
This year, that doesn’t appear to be the case. People are doing all they possibly can to convince themselves the MVP is someone other than James. They can certainly try, but numbers and common sense say otherwise.