I look at the title I created and I want to shoot myself—repeatedly.
After all, this is the same debate I’ve so furiously argued on the other side of throughout the entire course of the season, but I am man enough to admit when I have been proven wrong…..and I have been.
However, I’m going to set the record straight from the beginning, this is not some form of indication that LeBron James is Kobe Bryant’s superior. He isn’t, but after struggling with this issue for several weeks now I see why that should not prevent him from securing his first MVP award.
When discussing the MVP the question of who is "the best player in the league" is often implied.
If that player also happens to be on the best team, then it should be automatic that he receive the MVP award right? Unfortunately no, and this season LeBron James has been a testament this season as to why.
Many Cavaliers fans believe that LeBron’s superior stats are why he should receive the MVP. They are incorrect. Dwayne Wade has been the most statistically dominant force in the league on every end and every corner of the court this year. If stats were the final determinant than he should have won the MVP award weeks ago.
So why exactly is LeBron James this season’s MVP?
The Cavaliers claimed their 62nd victory over the San Antonio Spurs Sunday afternoon, yes 62nd, as in the number followed by 61.
Let’s pretend for a moment that we entered this NBA season from a parallel universe where almost everything remained the same, but neither Kobe Bryant nor LeBron James existed.
As you are reading this right now, the Lakers would be on pace to finish the regular season with at least 50 wins and would be battling for a third-sixth-seeded spot in the West.
Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom would anchor the longest, most physically imposing half-court game in the league. Trevor Ariza would be averaging anywhere from 13-16 ppg and Derek Fisher would average a few more assists and possibly an extra point or two.
The Lakers wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous a threat to win it all, but they would still be relatively high among the short list of teams that nobody wants to meet in the playoffs.
Their offense averages around a meager 90 ppg while their defense allows anywhere from 92-94. Their lack of offensive interior force allows teams to play them nose to nose at the perimeter with little if any consequence.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ already mind-numbing lack of interior aggression on either end of the floor now has the entire city of Cleveland clamoring for a true center.
Mo Williams is the only true offensive threat the Cavaliers have to offer, and teams immediately realize this. Mo Williams folds under the constant pressure of double teams shortly afterward. The best Cleveland can hope for is to take Boston to a maximum of 5 games in the first round where they will quickly be eliminated.
Now let’s come back to the real world.
Kobe and LeBron exist once again, but Kobe is still surrounded by playmakers (not to mention the most championship winning coach in the history of the game quarterbacking them) while most nights LeBron is probably busy trying to convince Beyonce to feature him in a duet remix of “Me, Myself and I”.
Let’s face it, LeBron James has the ball in his hands more than some point guards and that’s specifically because the Cavaliers don’t have an abundance of playmakers. When you look at the Lakers, however, even their reserve players can consistently distribute the basketball and that’s why only the Utah Jazz average a higher amount of assists per game.
In case you need further proof of the lack of playmakers wearing a Cleveland uniform, brace yourself.
The first game in LeBron James’ career in which he failed to record a single assist, also happened to be the same night that Cleveland suffered through its worst blowout loss of the season at the time, a 93-74 trouncing at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
Despite the similarity in the Lakers and Cavaliers’ record, and their seemingly indistinguishable production levels, one team is clearly a league above the other.
Remember that records don’t always indicate a team’s true caliber, in fact they rarely do. Many of you have probably forgotten, but the Lakers and Sixers were 57-25 each when they met in the Finals nearly a decade ago. The seven meetings between the teams that year (of which the Lakers won five) showed us just how closely they were matched, which really wasn't very closely at all.
In the event that both the Lakers and the Cavaliers meet again in the NBA Finals, don’t expect this postseason to be much different.
In case you need more proof of this, lets analyze the two times the Lakers and Cavaliers met this season. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, matched up with Kobe Bryant, LeBron wasn’t able to maintain his usual dominance and the rest of the Cavaliers were incapable of filling the void.
The Lakers cruised both times, the first behind Gasol’s and Bynum’s combined 36 points and the second behind Lamar Odom who played like a man possessed, racking up 28 points and a massive 17 rebounds.
The reason why LeBron James is the MVP is because when you look at the Cavaliers now it’s very easy to forget all of that.
It’s very easy to forget the fact that they are one of the most one-dimensional teams in the game (maybe the most one dimensional 60-win team in the game’s history).
Success just has that effect. The fact that the Cavaliers, who would otherwise be fighting just for a playoff spot, have enjoyed the tremendous level of success that they have is why LeBron James is the MVP.
The league must award LeBron’s effort and production (not that it would be robbery if Kobe were to win it).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stand dramatically over the edge of a cliff and contemplate whether I deserve forgiveness.