At this point in the NBA Finals, it should be obvious: LeBron James is the MVP. Steph Curry was the best player during the regular season but a locked-in LeBron James is still the most dominant force in the NBA. The Cavs have an uphill climb to win their first title but even if they come up short (but count a LeBron-led team out at your peril) LeBron should be declared the MVP. He should have been MVP last year and he should be even more so this year. Last year is said and done but let’s build the argument for this year:
- LeBron has the most or is tied for the most in each of the following categories: Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, and Minutes.
- The only major statistical category he is not leading in is points. He is in second place and has ONE point fewer than the current series leader (Kyrie Irving).
- LeBron has had some great games but more importantly, he hasn’t had any terrible games. One could make the argument that Game 2 was a bad game for LeBron but he was still an assist away from a triple-double and I would definitely not call it a “no-show.”
- Without Draymond Green, the Warriors still put themselves in a position to win game 5. Steph Curry has looked very mortal. Klay has been inconsistent on the offensive end. The Warriors have guys that are “more valuable” than the rest of the team but their slogan, “Strength in Numbers” shows in their play – the flow of the game dictates who is going to have the best game based off of the opportunities given.
- On the flip side, could you imagine what would happen if LeBron weren’t there to create for his teammates? Even when he’s shooting poorly at the rim, it creates offensive boards for Tristan Thompson. When he’s making his shot, it forces help defense to rotate and allows him to find other players for open looks and drives. Kyrie had an amazing game 5, but if LeBron doesn’t go into that game in attack mode, Cleveland would be going home for the summer.
- You may disagree with LeBron’s decisions based off of his size, strength, and talent, but he always makes the right basketball play. Guys will say that he should shoot over the double team when he attacks but the smart play is to move the ball around. How many players in the NBA have the kind of focus necessary to always make the right play? Not usually, not almost all the time, but all-the-damn-time. Under pressure, in the air, through double teams – LeBron is the best decision maker in the NBA.
- LeBron covers up many of the liabilities that his teams have on defense. Watch LeBron off the ball. When Golden State catches one of the Cavs defenders in the wrong positions due to a momentary lapse in focus, you’ll often see LeBron coming in for a rim contest, a weakside block, or a steal because he sniffs out the action and turns an easy bucket against most teams into solid defensive stop due to his intelligence and athleticism.
LeBron has been the best player in the series and it has not been close. Andre Iguodola’s defense has been “successful” and the man is still putting up this ridiculous stat line: 28 pts / 12 rebs / 8 asts / 2.4 stls / 2 blks – you’ve got to give the man the MVP trophy. This is no knock on the Warriors, he’s just that good.
Should the Cavs be unable to mount a legendary comeback against a historically great team, LeBron should still be recognized as the MVP of the series. He should have been recognized last year. Much has been said about LeBron’s record in the Finals but not enough is said about the fact that he has been getting his team to the biggest stage in the NBA EVERY GODDAMN YEAR since he hit his prime. The fact that he has lost to superior teams does not make him a worse player, it’s a testament to his ability to sustain such a high level of basketball excellence. You could easily argue that he was the best player in the 2014 and 2015 Finals. How much different would the LeBron legacy look if his Finals record was 2-4 but he had 4 Finals MVP trophies?
With the Draymond Green suspension and the lack of a dominating player from the Dubs in this Finals, I think it’s quite possible that James could win the MVP even if the Warriors win the Finals. It would be the right decision. However, if that’s not the case, here’s my argument for who I think should win the MVP if they select someone from the Warriors: Steph Curry.
This is a vote for the overall effect that Curry has on the Warriors and I thought he deserved it more than Andre last year (but not as much as LeBron deserved it). This year it’s less obvious but here’s the argument for Curry:
- The Warriors offense does not happen without him. Even when he’s not scoring, the Dubs get looks because the defense is constantly scrambling to make sure he has no air space. When he comes off a pick and roll and gets trapped, he creates 4-on-3 circumstances that quite often, end in an assist and points for other players on his team. But that doesn’t happen if he’s not the biggest threat on the court.
- A lot of teams create offense from defense. This team creates defense from offense. More so than anyone else on Golden State, Steph Curry’s shotmaking demoralizes opponents and having to cover him sucks the energy from opposing players. When he makes shots, it allows the Dubs’ defense to get set and ready. His ability to go on quick offensive runs also allows the rest of the team quick breaks on offense to dedicate their efforts to defense.
- Again, if you watch Curry when he’s not handling the ball, he is running his defenders ragged. His stamina is insane when you consider the amount of grabs, bumps, and distance he has to run through during every game. Not only is it physically draining for an opponent to deal with this, but it puts a lot of mental pressure on them to focus as well. One wrong decision, one inch of space, and that’s three points for the best shooter in the history of the league. That type of burden is no joke.
- When Curry is focused on defense, he creates deflections and steals that turn into easy transition opportunities. People forget he led the league in steals during the season and often times it’s these steals that spark his own personal mini runs that kill an opponent.
- Draymond may be the emotional leader for the team but everyone knows that Curry is the superstar. He could easily make the wrong decision and force the offense to run through him every possession but he buys into the game plan and allows Golden State to play the pass-happy offense that people have fallen in love with. When a team focuses only on him, it makes him look weak – but the Warriors get better looks because of his willingness to defer. It takes a confident player to put that type of trust in his coaches and teammates.
Unfortunately for Curry, he’s been much more of a defensive liability this year. Not so much on the ball but off it. Up until the Finals, Curry has actually been a pretty good defender because he doesn’t take plays off and always made the right decisions. If he gets beaten in iso, it’s usually after a good contest. For some reason or another, his focus has not been as consistent in the 2016 Finals.
At this point, I think Iguodola played himself out of the award in game 5. His inability to be offensively dominant means he has to be consistent every game – one bad one and it sticks out. Klay has been less consistent than Curry offensively and Draymond got himself suspended like an idiot. That could both hurt and Dray’s case depending on how you feel (proves he’s valuable or he’s so valuable he needs to not be so freaking dumb). If I was a gambling man, I’d probably bet on LeBron, then Green, then Curry if the Warriors win. But in reality, the obvious choice is LeBron regardless of who wins the series – let’s enjoy the greatness for as long as he can provide.