MVP Case No. 5: LeBron “King” James

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LeBron James

Everyday this week, the society members have been making individual cases for the top players deserving MVP consideration. If you want to see the other cases click on the links below:

1.  Chris Paul done by Aram Cannuscio (@ACannus)

2. James Harden done by Martin Soaries (@marley_mcfly)

3.  Stephen Curry done by Chris St. Jean (@CSaint3)

4. Anthony Davis done by Alfonso De Falco (@FonzyDeFalco)

With our final MVP case study coinciding with the opening scenes of this NBA Playoff drama, it’s only right that we conclude with the argument as to why the best player on the planet should be the league’s Most Valuable Player for a fifth time. 

Under the Microscope:

2008-09: 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.2 AST, 1.7 STL, 1.1 BLK, .489 FG%, 81 Games Played (Cleveland 66-16 record)

2009-10: 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 AST, 1.6 STL, 1.0 BLK, .503 FG%, 76 Games Played (Cleveland 61-21 record)

2011-12: 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 AST, 1.9 STL, 0.8 BLK, .531 FG%, 62 Games Played* (Miami 46-20 record)

2012-13: 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.9 BLK, .565 FG%, 76 Games Played (Miami 66-16 record)

2014-15: 25.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.4 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.7 BLK, .536 FG%, 69 Games Played (Cleveland 53-29 record) 

-Won MVP in Bold Seasons

The critics will point out that LeBron missed 13 games (personal reasons) at a pivotal juncture of the early season, that’s absolutely fine. The 82-game grind of an NBA regular season humbles great players alike in remembering that pro basketball is a marathon and not a race. With that out of the way, let us get down to the nitty gritty. LeBron James’ 2014-15 season averages have been right in line with the ones he posted on the four previous occasions he hoisted the Maurice Podoloff MVP Trophy. His scoring and rebounding number took a slight dip this season, and with reason. The emergence of Kyrie Irving as a true closer has decreased the need for LeBron to be the focal point of the offense night in and out. When you’re battling for rebounds with Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Timofey Mozgov, it’s inevitable that your rebounding numbers wil take a hit as well. With that being said, the Cavaliers have steamrolled their competition post-LeBron’s early season sabbatical. The Cavaliers won 50 out of the 69 Games in which LeBron suited up, meanwhile going 3-10 in the games he did not. No player since Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson has displayed the sort of all around dominance that we’ve been privy to from King James. 

We all know the narrative, the Prodigal Son returns home. In all fairness, no other player could’ve handled this season as well as LeBron, given all of the distractions, criticisms, and change in general. It is also safe to say that no player in recent memory has been scrutinized to the degree that the King has. However, pressure makes diamonds.

 

 

To fully comprehend the magnitude of LeBron’s impact this season, we must break down the Cavaliers’ season into three Acts: The Initial Return, LeBron’s Sabbatical, and Post-Trade. The first two play out fairly similarly. Frustration, confusion, and uncertainty reminiscent of The Heatles’ struggles early on in their maiden voyage back in 2011. Act Three has been as beautifully written as any of Shakespeare’s beloved works. The Cavaliers have simply been the best team in the NBA not named the Golden State Warriors since the All-Star break. Some may point out Kyrie Irving’s outbursts, but lets be clear, Kyrie Irving has been able to do him in large part to the amount of attention LeBron James commands from opposing defenses. Having a teammate as selfless as LeBron has enabled Kyrie to go into full 2K mode without reprimand. Because of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (2 perennial All-Stars) have a legitimate chance at playing non-team USA basketball into the summer. The power of LeBron.

LeBron propelled the Miami Heat to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals Appearance with a 54-28 record. This year without LeBron saw the Heat finish 37-45 and out of the playoffs. Granted, Chris Bosh’s season-ending blood clot scare didn’t help matters, but it’s safe to say the Heat desperately would love to go back in time with LeBron wearing that no. 6 jersey. Cleveland’s 33-49 record during the 2013-14 season was their best in the post-LeBron era. A year later with the King back seated on his throne, the Cavs increased their record by 20 games. In a microcosm, LeBron’s MVP argument takes shape by viewing a tale of two cities. Early on in the season, and particularly on Christmas Day, some critics wouldn’t have been wrong to assume that LeBron was second-guessing his “Decision Part II.” Shipping Dion Waiters out of town and acquiring three former Knicks (Mozgov started his career there before being sent to Denver in the Melo Trade) helped replace the Bad Apple with healthier, more ripe ones. In addition to MVP, LeBron is the rare player who could honestly make a run at Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year votes. Albeit, a job well done by David Blatt and David Griffin, respectively, none of the aforementioned moves would happen without one LeBron Raymone James.

From The Akron Beach Journal’s Jason Lloyd’s (Cavaliers beat writer) elaboration on giving LeBron a First-Place MVP Vote:

Maybe I’m the only writer in the country who doesn’t get swept up in the Curry/Harden debate and votes LeBron No. 1. That’s fine. I’m ready for whatever scrutiny comes with it. I laid out a couple of weeks ago why I believe James is still the MVP of this league and I’m not wavering now.

He lifted an entire franchise and region with his return. He took a team going on its third coach in as many years, with the worst overall record the past four years, a dysfunctional locker room and a hands-on owner and (eventually) steadied it all. Not to mention Kyrie Irving’s development playing alongside him.

My vote for James has nothing to do with working for his hometown paper. No other player in the league could’ve convinced Kevin Love to agree to a trade to Cleveland. No other player in the league could’ve pulled the Cavs from where they were to where they are. He is truly the league’s most valuable player.

This year has been special in the fact that the six names highlighted by these cases all have valid arguments supporting their stake to the claim of being the Association’s MVP for 2014-15. Curry and Harden have been the most consistent, Russell has been the most dominant since the All-Star break, CP3 has gone about his business in a low-key manner, Anthony Davis’ Pelicans have no business being in the playoffs, and LeBron’s presence has been the most calming for his franchise. As teammate J.R. Smith so eloquently put it, the MVP Award could go to LBJ every year. Kevin Durant absolutely deserved to prevent LeBron from the MVP trifecta last year, while some still question the validity of D-Rose’s 2011 surprise. One thing’s for certain in both of those cases, as in all cases since his rookie year, LeBron James has been a fixture in the MVP vote every year of his career. That is completely insane. 

If my recount has pushed the needle in favor of LeBron James, The King should add a fifth MVP award that would put him level with Michael Jordan and just one MVP trophy short of the record six won by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The greatest Small Forward of all time continues to add on to his legacy and steadfastly leapfrog the names ahead of him in the pantheon of professional basketball. Court adjourned.

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