Let's be honest. There are only two legitimate MVP candidates: LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. No other players have meant more to their teams' success than these two individual players and no two players are playing at a higher level.
For the first half of the season, Lebron James was clearly the MVP. He was playing at a high level statistically, improved his defense and had the Cavs sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Then the second half of the season came, Andrew Bynum once again got injured and Kobe Bryant took his game to an entirely different level once again.
The race between these two players is extremely close. LeBron has the statistical advantage and Kobe has the team success advantage. At the end of the day though, I give the edge to the reigning MVP.
If a player is going to win MVP, he has to take it from the reigning MVP. This year, Kobe's been better statistically and he's lead his Lakers to a better record so far at this point than he did in his MVP season.
Part of the problem is that we create premature expectations at the beginning of the season. The media prematurely pegged the Lakers to win 70 games without knowing if Andrew Bynum would be ready to dominate after coming back from a season ending injury.
Of course, Bynum was no where near his former self and as soon as he showed signs of becoming a dominant center again, he went down. Conversely, many underestimated the Cavs supporting cast.
All anyone ever hears is how LeBron has a poor supporting cast, but in reality it is a team that went to the finals. It is a team that took Boston to seven games in the playoffs last year. And it is a team that added Mo Williams. How then could the Cavs be predicted to be anything less than second in the Eastern Conference?
Sure, LeBron has been fantastic. Dominant even. But is his supporting cast that much better than the Lakers? Sure, Kobe Bryant has Pau Gasol, but part of Bryant's value is making Gasol a much better player than he ever was.
Gasol even won a player of the month award this season because of all the extra attention given to Bryant in the second half of the season.
And let's be honest. If you take Bryant off of the Lakers, the team looks eerily similar to the Gasol-led Memphis Grizzlies. How come when Bryant meshes and elevates the play of his teammates, everyone says he has so much help? But when Steve Nash does it, it is because he is a back-to-back MVP??
Truth be told, LeBron's Cavs have a collection of talent, experience, and depth that cannot be matched by the Lakers. The Lakers have Pau Gasol, but after that, the Cavs nearly run the table against the Lakers with the talent they have.
They have a guy who won the defensive player of the year award four times. Mo Williams is an all-star and is certainly better than Lamar Odom. Z has played at a higher level than Andrew Bynum. Most of the D-League is better than Luke Walton.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that the Lakers have the better offensive team and talent while the Cavs have the better defensive team and talent. Neither supporting casts are "better." The teams are just built for different purposes.
Having said all of that, why is Kobe the MVP? Simply because he's been a MVP in the most important games of the season. Kobe Bryant has led his team to wins over the Celtics twice this season and gaining home-court advantage in the playoffs just in case there is a tie in their record.
Kobe did the exact same thing against Lebron's Cavs this season.
LeBron by contrast has been mediocre at best in the most crucial games. He had two of his worst games of the season against the Lakers. And just this past Friday, he had another terrible game against a Garnett-less Celtics team.
The games against the Celtics and Lakers matter because homecourt advantage will likely determine the NBA Champion this season.
More than that, if LeBron plays his worst in the most crucial games of the season while Kobe plays his best during the most crucial games of the season, I fail to see how LeBron can still be considered more valuable to his team.
Then there's the fact that Lebron James has led his team to 48 wins in the East; while Kobe has led his team to 50 wins in the West. At the time of this writing, a team has to be at least .603 to get into the playoffs in the West.
That's right. Dallas in the eighth spot is 13 games above .500. In the East, you only have to have a .460 record to get into the playoffs. Chicago currently holds the eighth spot and they are five games BELOW .500. Clearly there is a huge disparity in the conference.
What does the conference disparity mean for the MVP race? It means, comparing Kobe's 50 wins to the Cavs 48 wins is not fair. If the Lakers had to play Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit and Miami night after night, they'd certainly have significantly more than 50 wins.
And does anyone really think that if the Cavs had to play the Spurs, Utah, Dallas, New Orleans four times a season they'd really be at 48 wins right now?
Simply put, Kobe is putting up comparable numbers to LeBron James while leading his team to the best record in the league, in a tougher conference while playing better in the most important games of the season. To me, that means the reigning MVP deserves to repeat.