Kevon Stewart explains why LeBron James should not be the 2020 NBA MVP and looks at the more deserving candidates for the King’s Crown.
If you’ve tuned into any basketball program on ESPN or on any other lovely, unbiased, sports outlets. You may have noticed the constant incessant petitioning for LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers to win the MVP award for the 2020 NBA season. This narrative has been pushed throughout sports media and amongst so many basketball writers. Personally, I believe this stance is utterly ridiculous and indicative of the blatant favoritism that has been ubiquitous ever since LeBron entered the league. I’m certain I will receive a great deal of grief and “You’re a LeBron hater” comments on my social media after this, but I couldn’t care less about that. Because men lie, women lie, but the numbers don’t lie. In this article I will provide my contention for the “LeBron for MVP” narrative and provide multiple alternative selections that are just as if not more deserving.
Let’s first start with the argument often made by the LeBron fanboys found all over televised sports media. Such as Shannon Sharpe, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Wright, or Stephen A. Smith. Their rationalization goes something like this.
“LeBron is in his 17th NBA season and he’s leading the league in assists with 10.5 per game. He’s also putting up a respectable 25.5 points per game and not to mention he’s pulling down 8 rebounds per game as well. There’s no question that at his age and with the Lakers currently having the best record in the Western Conference he’s undoubtedly the league’s MVP.”
This is the most common debate I’ve seen. Without a doubt these numbers are incredibly impressive. It is truly an enormous feat to have this type of production at LeBron’s age. No doubt, these statistics would be MVP worthy in any other era, but in 2020, they wouldn’t even qualify him for 3rd place in this year’s MVP race.
The easiest way to annihilate LeBron’s case is to simply point out that LeBron isn’t even the MVP of his own team. Anthony Davis, the superstar forward playing his first season for the Lakers currently leads the team in 16 different statistical categories. Averaging 26.6 points per game, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.4 blocks per game.
So let’s dive a little deeper shall we? Anthony Davis is beating LeBron in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, free throw percentage, field goal percentage, defensive and offensive win shares, true shooting percentage, and he’s just been a better player than him all season. The most damning fact of all is that the previous year without AD, the Lakers didn’t even win enough games to make the playoffs. Then subsequently after obtaining Anthony Davis the Lakers went from a team that couldn’t make the playoffs to a team that won the most games in the western conference. That sounds pretty valuable to me.
I would be remised if I didn’t mention that in the 2019 season, LeBron missed a grand total of 27 games due to injury and load management. In fact before his injury the Lakers were on pace to make the playoffs. However I’m less indulgent of this defense *cough* excuse *cough* than others are. This is due to the fact that while they were five games behind the 8th seed, LeBron arrogantly got on social media and defiantly bragged about activating “PLAYOFF MODE”. The Lakers had numerous opportunities to make the cut. Believe it or not, the Lakers’ remaining schedule was the easiest in the division. I watched as the media hopped on the bandwagon and sung his praises as if the Lakers had already clinched their spot in the playoffs thus securing his inevitable MVP trophy that year. Unfortunately, to the LakerNation’s dismay they went on a losing streak and missed out on the playoffs. Thus leading to his young teammates being blamed for the losses and traded.
This ultimately led to the Lakers acquiring Anthony Davis and the rest is history. So regardless if Anthony Davis is leading the team in a bulk of prominent statistical categories, led the team to a far better record than the previous year, and also making a case to be the defensive player of the year as well. A large portion of the NBA media would have you believe LeBron is far more deserving. Let’s set his teammates aside for a moment and look at other players in the league who are having legendary seasons in their own rights.
I’ll now go over 3 other potential MVP candidates who have more of a claim for MVP than the “King” does. Each of these players have all accomplished miraculous feats over the course of this NBA season that may never be seen or done again.
#1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
He has not simply just led his team to the best record in the entire NBA, but the Greek Freak is also the defending league MVP from last year. He’s currently averaging legendary statistics getting it done on both ends of the court. He’s averaging 29.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. Before the NBA was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic and resumed in the bubble. He was on pace to have the best PER(Player Efficiency Rating) in NBA history. Including the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlin and many other NBA hall of famers. With his small market team, the Milwaukee Bucks, on pace to win 70 games this season it’s easy to see why he should be the front runner for the MVP award. This is without mentioning how he’s also the favorite for the defensive player of the year award as well. His defensive win shares are constantly overlooked. His on ball defensive prowess and rim protection is responsible for getting the Bucks easy buckets in transition. May the good Lord have mercy on your soul if you’re caught in between him and the rim when he’s attacking at full speed with reckless abandon. His devastating loss in the playoffs last season has only propelled him to improve his all around game. Now he has done exactly that. Although his critics will continue to harp on his perimeter shooting there’s no denying he still has untapped potential, but he’s already been validated as a top 3 player in the league.
#2. James Harden
Although the Houston Rockets are only in 4th place in the Western conference they are quietly racking up wins and are in the hunt to secure the 3rd seed. With their unprecedented small ball lineup, they have embraced the David vs Goliath concept wholeheartedly and it has proven to be successful thus far. Houston’s entire plan of attack is reliant on “The Beard”. Not to mention a laser focused ball dominant co-star in Russell Westbrook, Houston has shattered expectations and with James Harden’s extraordinary scoring and playmaking ability he’s been obliterating records on a weekly basis. He’s quite literally putting up video game stats. Averaging 34.4 points per game which surprisingly is approximately 2 points below what he averaged last year. On top of that he’s accounting for 7.4 assists and 6.4 rebounds as well. Using his craftiness to get to the free throw line a remarkable 12 times per game. Doing so as he frustrates his opposition and their coaches by getting players into foul trouble and disrupting rotations. His mastery of the step back 3 pointer has taken the league by storm and now many other star players are adding it to their arsenals. With a phenomenal true shooting percentage of 61.9%. It goes without saying that this season will be looked back on as one of his greatest offensive seasons of all time. What’s terrifying is that James Harden thinks he could be even better. Disregarding how much he’s improved as an on ball defender, he’s already established himself as a top MVP candidate once again this season. As he feels he was robbed of the award last year.
#3 Luka Doncic
Please keep in mind that when I list the following numbers that the kid is only 21 years old and this is only his second season in the NBA. Luka “the 21 year old sophomore” Doncic is currently averaging 28.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. I can’t stress enough how incredible these numbers are for someone who’s only played a total of 128 games to date. He’s already proven that he’s ready for prime time. Considering that older age is one of the sole factors our friends at ESPN and other sports news outlets have firmly put LeBron as a front runner for MVP. Young age should play a role when discussing Luka’s legitimate claim for the award as well. The more I watch him play the more I’m amazed at his competence on the court and how he approaches the game like a 10 year veteran. Luka’s advanced court vision and unselfishness is a barometer of a prodigy with a tremendous basketball IQ. His turnovers have been high this season at 4.3, but with time I’m certain he will be able to turn that around. We saw something similar with Ben Simmons, Rajon Rondo, and even LeBron. You can’t teach a player to have a high basketball IQ. Having such essentially grants you staying power in the league. Another aspect of his game that has been on display this season is his relentless pursuit of rebounds. Hustle is another skill that can’t be taught. There is no hesitation even when Luka is at a height disadvantage. He will go after a rebound regardless if he’s clearly outmatched or otherwise. Which brings me to what I think is his biggest argument that can be made as to why he is a potential MVP candidate. His killer mentality this season. Luka has not disappointed anytime his Mavericks teammates depended on him. Rather it be picking up his defensive assignment 94 feet or posting a triple double on top of hitting clutch shots down the stretch of a close game. With an effective field goal percentage of 53% he’s already established himself as a trustworthy closer in big game scenarios. I would like to see anyone dispute his numbers or his overall value to his team. Other than Kristaps Porzingis, Luka is the primary threat on a young Dallas team who wasn’t even projected to make the playoffs. I truly believe given these facts he has made case to be involved in this MVP race.
In summation lets go over all the potential MVP candidates and you can decide who your vote would go to. I would really love to see who my fellow NBA fans would pick as their undisputed MVP of this season. Or if you think I’ve snubbed your pick please let me know that as well. Numbers are objective, but our takes are always subjective. Choose wisely!
LeBron James 25.5/10.5/8
Anthony Davis 26.6/3.2/9.6
Giannis Antetokounmpo 29.9/5.8/13.8
James Harden 34.4/7.4/6.4
Luka Doncic 28.9/8.8/9.3
The MVP award is about more than who’s the best player it’s a reflection of dominance over the season as a whole. When we crown a player as MVP we are acknowledging that this individual’s absence would severely hurt the team’s chances of winning games. That their presence on the court carries with him an idiosyncratic capacity to which that player can use to bend the game to his will. Using such to lead his team to victory.
I still personally feel that the players I mentioned above, have just as much if not more of a claim to this award as LeBron James does. However, I’m always open to being wrong if someone provides evidence that respectfully refute my own data.
Be sure to let me know your thoughts do you agree? Do you disagree? Still think I’m a LeBron hater? Feel free to tell me your opinions. We will be discussing this more in depth on the Cappin with the Crew Podcast.
Thanks for reading.