NBA – How Much Is LeBron James Threatening James Harden’s MVP Run?

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37 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. Another ridiculous performance by LeBron James. LeBron has now scored 30+ points in 5 of his last 6 games. Even in his 15th NBA season, LeBron is still elevating his game as the playoffs get closer. Not good for me since I’ll likely be going against him in my fantasy basketball championship over the next 2 weeks.

At the age of 33, LeBron is averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks. His 27.5 points are the most he’s averaged since 2009, he’s currently tied for the most rebounds per game of his career, and his 9.1 assists are the most he’s averaged in his career.

We all know LeBron James is going to put up great numbers every season, but this season may be more impressive because of the circumstances surrounding the Cavaliers. Since the departure of Kyrie Irving, things have not gone so well for the Cavs. Injuries, most notable to Kevin Love, a head coaching change, and a trade acquiring several new pieces are what the Cavs have dealt with. There may not have been a more challenging season for LeBron. Despite all the adversity, LeBron has the Cavaliers sitting 3rd in the Eastern Conference, perhaps playing basketball the right way at the right time.

The more LeBron puts up crazy stats and continues to show why he and his team will be threats in the playoffs, the more his name comes up in the MVP conversation. For most of the season, the front runner for MVP has been James Harden. After averaging 30.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists, it’s easy to see why. He’s been relatively unchallenged up to this point, but now LeBron James is a real threat to take over the top spot.

What Harden has going for him over LeBron James, is his teams record and playoff standing. Harden has the Rockets currently sitting at 59-14 as the number one seed in the Western Conference. When you look at that, it looks much better than the 44-29 record LeBron has his Cavaliers sitting at. However, record and playoff standing isn’t the only factor in the MVP voting.

LeBron James: 27.5 points, 55.0 FG%, 36.6 3-PT%, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, and 1.5 steals

James Harden: 30.9 points, 44.8 FG%, 36.9 3-PT%, 5.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, and 1.8 steals

Last season, Harden finished 2nd to Russell Westbrook in the MVP race because Westbrook averaged a triple-double, even though his team record and playoff standing were worse than Harden and the Rockets. If we look at the stats, to me it looks like LeBron might have the edge. Harden does average more points and steals than LeBron, but LeBron averages more rebounds and assists while having a much better field goal percentage and a 3-PT percentage that’s pretty much the same.

You also have to take into consideration who James Harden has on his team compared to LeBron. Harden has Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, both who are averaging more than 18 points a game. LeBron James only has one other play averaging 18 points or more (Kevin Love). When it comes to assists, Harden has Chris Paul, who is averaging 7.9. The next leading assist man on the Cavaliers is George Hill, who is averaging 2.9. Harden also has Clint Capela, who is having a career year, while LeBron James doesn’t really have anyone else.

If you ask me, I’d say LeBron James deserves to win the MVP award, but voters could look at LeBron’s career success and think Harden is more deserving. It’s become normal to everyone for LeBron to play this well, especially at this time of year. He’s already won 4 MVP awards throughout his career. You could look at LeBron’s stats and see that he’s been worthy of an MVP award every year of his career except maybe his rookie season. Because it’s a normal thing for LeBron, that may be a case against him.

LeBron and Harden are likely going to finish 1st and 2nd in the MVP race. Both players are worthy MVP’s, but it all depends on what the voters find to be most important. Last year they found stats to be more important than record. Will that be the case again? How much will they take adversity into consideration? Will having the best record in the NBA be the most important factor? We don’t know. What we do know, is LeBron James is a real threat to beating out James Harden for the MVP award. Whatever happens, it should be a tight race.

LeBron James and James Harden” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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