Tuesday, April 17, 2012

LeBron James Was Always the MVP

All night last night Twitter and ESPN and every other sports network today was shouting that LeBron James had regained his status as the league MVP. I mean, forget the fact that LeBron has been the best player in the league from start to finish, it seemed to be a good thing that fans in general had decided LeBron was just simply more valuable than anyone in basketball, including Kevin Durant.

Unfortunately, the sudden change in the MVP debate wasn't because people woke up to just how unbelievable LeBron's season is. It's because he scored the final 17 points for the Heat last night and they came from behind without Dwyane Wade to beat the 95-96 Chicago Bulls** by 3 points, 101-98.

**By 95-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) I meant the 2012 New Jersey Nets, without star Deron Williams (22-40)

I've been hard on LeBron James since he foolishly made mistake after mistake in leaving Cleveland. But I've consistently been fair in arguing that LeBron is the best player in basketball and has been for some time. I even suggested people should forgive the guy.

But facts are facts: LeBron James has been the league's best player by every statistical measure. Whether you value the more traditional stats (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks) or the more advanced stats (Win Shares, PER, TS%, etc) LeBron is elite.

Traditional: He's averaging 27.1 points, 6.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 7.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game. 

Advanced: He's been worth a league best 13.6 wins so far this season (Chris Paul is second at 11.6), his WS/48 is a ridiculous .293 (Paul is again second, at .274), his PER rating is the second best of all-time behind MJ and his TS% this season is a very good .603 (In fairness, Durant's .611 is better here).

LeBron has been unbelievable this season.

Of course, because the media has become so knee-jerk, the second Durant outplayed LeBron James one day in the middle of the season he became the favorite for the MVP. Then, because LeBron James scores the final 17 points in a game to win it for the Heat, against a team they should have beaten easily nonetheless, he's again the MVP.

No. That shouldn't be how it works. Also, James shouldn't have had to "prove" he could finish close games, because a made three pointer to start the game is worth just as much as a made three pointer to end the game. James whole package of work* is pretty unheard of in not only today's NBA, but over the history of the game their are very few players who can do as much as James has so well.

*This refers to the regular season only. I repeat, the regular season only.

All I'm saying is not to jump to conclusions based on one game out of sixty-six. James has been the MVP since day one, and while I'm happy the media seems to again consider James the MVP, how they came to that conclusion is predictable and frustrating. But hopefully, if nothing else, they'll at least get the MVP right. It's LeBron's this year, don't let anyone convince you otherwise.