The NBA MVP award isn't like many other. It may be called the MVP in sports like baseball, but the leagues have completely different interpretations of how exactly their most prestigious individual award is given out.
In the NBA, the MVP isn't given out to a player with the best numbers, but rather how much of an impact the player had in his team's success. That's why Kobe Bryant didn't win it in in 2006 despite averaging 35 points per game, and why Dwyane Wade didn't win it in 2009 despite averaging 30 points per game in his first year back off an injury-plagued outing.
They didn't win because their individual achievements didn't translate to team success. Even though Bryant had scored 81 points in a game and averaged 35 points per, the 45 wins his Los Angeles Lakers had paled in comparison to that of MVP Steve Nash, who led his Phoenix Suns, who were playing without Amar'e Stoudemire, to 54 wins.
It's the same reason why Wade didn't win in 2009. Those 43 wins were enough to get the Miami Heat a No. 4 seed, but it wasn't enough for him to win the award when LeBron James was having just as good a season on a squad he led to 66 wins.
The MVP is handed out every year to the best player on the best team, so it would only be fitting that James takes home the award this year. With the pace he's been playing at early in the season and the quick 8-1 start for his Heat, James is quickly making a case as to why he should win his third MVP award in the past four seasons.
James would have become the first player since Larry Bird to win three consecutive MVPs had he won it last year. He finished third behind the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose and the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard.
James tossed out the idea of winning an MVP last year after proclaiming it would be impossible with Wade by his side. However, he's taking advantage of an injury-plagued season by Wade and is producing at a rate he hasn't seen since his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In eight games, James is averaging a league-leading 30 points per on 60 percent shooting with an equally impressive eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals per. Aside from the offensive onslaught that he's been putting on, James is also showcasing his usual stellar individual and team defense.
We'll speak of his offense first. It's already impressive that he's averaging 30 points per game on a team where he has two scorers capable of averaging at least 20 points per, but it's even more astounding that he's putting up those points per game on a field-goal percentage that only center's possess.
Who's to say the shooting percentage will significantly drop, either? He's been shooting 60 percent without Wade for the past two games he has played in. It's not just because he's on an amazingly hot streak. James is shooting and performing this well because of the new philosophy that has been instilled in him by the Heat organization.
James has averaged four three-pointers per game for his career. He has currently taken two in eight games, both of them being desperate. James is no longer willing to accept a 25-foot jumper as an aspect of his game. He is making a conscious effort to drive at will every single time the ball is in his hands.
As a result, James and the Heat are better. The ball doesn't stick at the top as much, they get to the free-throw line more, and it causes defenses to play on their heels since they always have to anticipate the prospect of a drive by the Heat small forward. With James playing so well, the Heat's offense is becoming the volatile and dangerous juggernaut that it would be, averaging 108 points per game.
The next closest team, the Denver Nuggets, is four points behind at 104. Only three other teams are averaging more than 100 points per, while six teams are averaging fewer than 90 points per.
Because the lockout wore on so long and training camp and preseason were cut short, players didn't have as much time to learn new offensive schemes or get properly conditioned. The lockout doesn't seem to have affected LeBron James too much. He's playing exactly how the Heat expected him to play when they picked him up last July. He's not relying on long-distance jumpers and is making an all-out effort to attack the lane.
If James is playing aggressive and with confidence, the Heat become the NBA's most dangerous team, and it's not even close.
Adding a post game has led to James and the Heat averaging such big numbers. Last year, the Heat's offense went stagnant too many times, which caused momentary lapses and offensive lulls. They were in the top 10 in points per game, but the offense wasn't nearly playing up to its potential. Even though the Heat were playing without Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, the offense still wasn't working as smoothly and fluently as it should have been.
The post game of James has been the key. It adds a completely new aspect to his game and forces defenders to focus on another dangerous trait of James' offensive repertoire. While many believed a few weeks' worth of training wouldn't cause too much of an impact in James' game, it's actually quite the contrary.
If you've been consistently viewing Heat games, you'd see that James has been playing excellent with his back to the basket. He's backing players down without charging, scoring on hook shots and facing up and hitting the mid-range jumper. Since he's been playing so well in the post, he's beginning to attract double-teams.
If we know anything about James, it's that he's been double-teamed his whole career. Those double-teams only mean that a player is freed up and James is, most likely, going to find that open man. James taking up attention in the post is another aspect of the Heat offense that's going to allow perimeter players and cutters to get freed up.
James has shown unbelievable improvement from last year. He's playing with confidence and is making the effort to be the best player he can be, as evidenced by the quick start. As long as he continues to drive at will and avoids settling into jumpers, James will continue to be near the top in scoring while shooting 55 percent or better.
There are only so many players that could challenge James for the MVP. Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant appear to be his biggest challengers as both players are putting up terrific stats on teams that stand at 8-2. However, they're going to have to be able to raise their stats while also helping their team keep pace.
If all three teams do finish at the top with similar records, James is still going to come away with the award because of how well-rounded he is. He'll finish the year averaging seven rebounds and seven assists per, while Rose will most likely average fewer than five rebounds per, and Durant will see his assists per pale in comparison to that of James.
The only reason why James wouldn't win the MVP is if he succumbs to a serious injury, the Heat go into some sort of catastrophic meltdown, or Dwyane Wade also happens to have an MVP-caliber season, which is highly unlikely with the way James has been performing.
Wade may be the player to look to in the clutch, but James is the one leading this team and facilitating the offense and defense for the majority of the contest. He's causing the majority of the turnovers with his speed and athleticism and is the one finishing on the fastbreak on most occasions.
However, Wade has been dealing with a nagging foot injury over the past week. Prior to then, he was playing extremely well with two games of 20 points or better. He's made up for the lack of his usual standard of play with two consecutive game-winners against Charlotte and Minnesota in the third and fourth game of the season.
If the season ended today, LeBron James would be walking away with the MVP. When the season ends, he'll be hoisting his third MVP trophy in the past four seasons. The improvement he has shown since last season, the better team basketball that he has been playing, his overall stats, and the Heat possibly leading the league in wins will all contribute to James taking home the prestigious award.
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