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LeBron James: Ending the MVP Debate

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LeBron James: Ending the MVP Debate

All season I have been tracking LeBron James' quest for the MVP Award, and it's been an impressive ride. 

The Cavs started out the season shaky, splitting their first four games. Then, on Nov. 5, Bron took over against the Bulls, notching 41 points including 15-16 on free throws. He proceeded to hit 41 in two of his next three games and won the Player of the Month Award in November.

Some were not as eager to crown King James. With Chris Paul starting off the year with seven-straight double-doubles there was room for debate.

After Andrew Bynum went down with injury, Kobe Bryant has elevated his game to the heights of his MVP season and the debates continued. 

Dwyane Wade is finishing strong and Dwight Howard has been consistently dominant, giving Florida two great candidates.

The final tally may not be the landslide victory for James that I predicted midway through the season, but looking at the collective evidence, LeBron James has placed himself a step above the rest.

We Play To Win the Games

Although it’s an individual award, doling out the MVP trophy weighs heavily on your ability to win games. Most MVPs' teams win more than 70 percent of their games.  Winning above 60 percent of your games is a must.
 
Of our five candidates, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard, Only Bryant, James, and Howard sit above .700. Paul is at .625 and Wade is fighting for the playoffs at .527.

This alone could eliminate Wade but because he is playing out of his mind, let's leave him in for now.

Why are wins so important in crowning the MVP?

In the right situation, any elite basketball talent can average 30 points per game. The more your team relies on you, the better your stats will look.

I have created the Player Importance Index (PII) to give you a better understanding of how individual statistics are associated to winning.  For the PII, I added the players points, rebounds, and assists, and divide it by the amount of games that player has lost during the season. 

As of Mar. 30 here is the PII for the leading MVP candidates:

   Player                     PII
LeBron James          243.6
Kobe Bryant              183.0
Dwight Howard        143.6
Chris Paul                  97.0
Dwyane Wade           88.5

Facing Adversity

The sign of a true champion is how they play when the chips are down. Wade is the only MVP candidate who can claim that they didn't have much to work with at the beginning of the season. Throughout the year all of our candidates have incurred injuries to themselves and their squads.

Cavs center, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, missed all but one game in the month of January.  James was called upon to play post, and he averaged 9.6 rebounds per game and recorded three triple-doubles in the month. 

Ilgauskas wasn't the only injured Cav, Delonte West and Ben Wallace have also missed significant time and 'Bron has been ready to replace their assists, rebounds, and defensive hustle. 

The Hornets are the only team as injured as the Cavs. David West, Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler and Paul have all missed time. Chandler and Stojakovic's absences have really hindered Paul because Stojakovic is a great kick-out option, and Chandler is one of the league's best at finishing the 'oop.

Paul hasn't been called upon to replace either player, but he has continued to produce when they are out.

The Lakers lost Andrew Bynum, again, this year and Kobe stepped his game up, again.  In February, Bryant increased his scoring to 31.3 points per game, but Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have seen the bigger statistical increase overall. 

There was a six and a half game span where Dwight Howard didn't have a starting-quality point guard to play with. Howard didn't seem to notice, posting great numbers, and the Magic quickly replaced Jameer Nelson with Rafer Alston.

Playing with the Heat fully intact is adversity enough for Dwyane Wade; as the team's only significant injuries were to Shawn Marion, who they traded away and upgraded with Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon.

Ability to Dominate

We have all seen the raw averages for our candidates.  Wade's numbers are off the chart. Howard is having one of the best seasons for a center since he was born. Bryant brings consistent, controlled production. Chris Paul is magic with the ball. And LeBron is in a rare air at 28, seven, and seven.

Earlier I presented you with the PII to put each player’s stats into focus. All of our candidates are very good defenders and they all post good-to-great defensive statistics.

In the 2005-06 season, Kobe Bryant was as unstoppable as any player we've seen in a long time. No team could hold him to single digits, and he broke the 40-point mark 27 times. His team was 18-9 in those games, winning 66 percent of them. 

The Lakers only won 55 percent of their 82 games that year and Steve Nash won the MVP (Suns won 66 percent of games) despite Bryant's statistical dominance.

If you are able to dominate the game on a consistent basis and win those games, you will put yourself in a great position to win the MVP.

Here is how the top five candidates' teams have fared when they have scored 40 points or recorded a triple-double. Total double-doubles as of Mar. 30 are also included:

    Player             40-PTS   Triple-Double   Double-Doubles
LeBron James       8-1                 7-0                      26
Dwyane Wade        8-4                0-0                      19
Kobe Bryant           2-2                1-1                      06
Chris Paul              0-0                 6-0                      44
Dwight Howard     1-0                 1-0                      54

Verdict

It's clear that LeBron James will be this season's MVP.

For me, it goes LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul, in that order.

For all of you Wade fans out there, he has had one heck of a season statistically and the Heat would be in the cellar without him. But an MVP should be playing for home court advantage in March and April, not a playoff spot.

LeBron James is king. Crown him. 

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