Stats: 28.8 pts (3), 8.0 ast (6—career-high), 7.0 reb, 1.3 stl, 38.0 mins (11), 50.1 FG percent (career-high), 37.0 three-pt percentage (career-high), 78.4 FT percentage (career-high), 252 FTA (T-4)
There's no player in basketball I would want on my team more than LeBron James (even after the way I praised Kobe in the previous slide). He's impossible to match up against, a prolific scorer, a phenomenal passer, a tenacious defender...you name it, he's got it. I don't need to spend this section telling you how good he is; if you've ever watched him play, you know.
But there two main reasons why I wouldn't give him the MVP so far this season.
First is his fourth quarter play. This should be more of a knock on the Cavs coaching staff than LeBron, but it still reflects on him.
Watch the Cavs for the first three quarters in any game. They move the ball beautifully. They set each other up for open jump shots, back door cuts, and clear paths to the hoop. And James is the catalyst.
But in the fourth quarter (this year it's been worse than ever), all of that stops. Mo, Parker, Moon & Gibson stand at the three-point line. Shaq, Z, and Hickson camp in the middle (Varejao is the only one that moves with a purpose). Everyone stares at LeBron and waits for him to go 1-on-5. And he obliges.
And again, this isn't all his fault. He needs help from his coaches and teammates. But still, he'll stand around for 20 seconds before making his move with four on the shot clock. He'll settle for jump shots against smaller defenders instead of taking them to the post. He throws his body around when he does drive to the hoop, looking for bailout fouls. It's not aesthetically pleasing basketball.
Second, and this is more nitpicking from a basketball perfectionist, but the Cavs just don't seem to be having as much fun this year. Last year they seemingly had the perfect balance between good-natured fun (especially before games) and focusing on the court (let's face it, they beat up on most teams).
This year, they just seem tightly wound; I can't quite put my finger on it, but their overall body language suggests that they're not having much fun (and they're not playing that great as well). Again, this isn't all on LeBron. But as the leader of this team, it reflects back on him.
Bottom line: I think LeBron James is the best player in the NBA and I hold him to much higher standards than every other player (aside from Kobe). He hasn't quite fulfilled them yet, so I couldn't in good conscious give him the MVP.
I hope in four months I'm singing a different tune.