Over the weekend, LeBron faced the Bucks on Friday night and the Clippers on Sunday afternoon. It was a big two-game stretch for the Lakers because before this weekend, LeBron was 0-3 against those teams so far this year. The Lakers still led the West but had yet been able to prove they could beat the other teams atop the NBA standings. Lakers fans were able to wake up this morning with big grins on their faces after their team defeated both opponents. Once LeBron beat two of his biggest threats standing in the way of his possible fourth NBA title -- fans, experts, and teammates alike were ready to crown him the MVP of the season.
LeBron is 35 years old and is playing in his 17th season. He’s won the MVP four times already. Excluding his rookie season and last year, he finished in the top six of votes received every year for the award. There is no doubting the man’s talent and abilities. But I’m not here to talk about the man who could win the MVP this year; I’m here to talk about the man who should win the MVP this year. With all due respect to LeBron, the MVP should go to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
All season long it’s been a two-man race between Giannis and LeBron for MVP, and I’m still failing to understand why. There isn’t much to consider if you still need convinced. Simply look at what each player is doing this year, the team each guy plays for, and the season LeBron had last year.
Giannis is averaging 30, 14, and 6 with a league-leading PER and the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. LeBron is averaging 26, 10, and 8 and has the 7th-best PER. While LeBron isn’t putting up as many points as he’s done in the past, he’s creating points by averaging 10+ assists for the first time in his career. But overall, Giannis’ contribution to his team is far more significant. If everything remains constant, Giannis could finish with the fifth-best single season PER. If his play improves at all, Giannis would pass LeBron’s 08-09 season for the fourth-best single season PER. His PER is not only an indication of his elite level of play, but also of how much he needs to contribute to keep his team relevant.
Surrounding LeBron on the Lakers is fellow All-NBA First Teamer Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, and a slew of others. Surrounding Giannis is Khris Middleton… and others. Giannis at one point had the Bucks on pace for a 70-win season (it’s still mathematically possible but unlikely.) While the Lakers aren’t far behind in the overall standings, LeBron has a lot of friends to help their team remain in the upper echelon.
With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for the second stint in Cleveland, and now Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. LeBron doesn’t necessarily rely on his superstar teammates, but he certainly likes to have them around him just in case he can’t get the job done on his own. Last year, LeBron was the sole superstar on the Lakers. He played in the fewest games in a season of his career and his team not only failed to reach the Finals, but missed the playoffs entirely. Sure he was 34 and in his 16th season, but when has LeBron ever been a man to make excuses?
So I ask you, please take a second to appreciate everything Giannis is doing for the Bucks this year. He could become the 12th player to win back-to-back MVPs -- and even more impressive, the third player ever to win the MVP and DPOY in the same season. In a league filled with super teams, Giannis is in sole control of the best team in the NBA and should overwhelmingly be crowned this year’s most valuable player.
Jacob Recht is a producer for ESPN Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @jakeyrecht
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)