Monday, May 23, 2022

Lakers’ LeBron James won’t win MVP, but Frank Vogel also isn’t wrong to say he’s deserving of consideration

LeBron James is having a phenomenal season. Let’s not get that twisted. Too often our MVP conversations devolve into disparaging candidates over promoting those we deem most worthy. We fire bullets at all of them and see who comes out with the fewest holes. 

Even so, there aren’t many holes in LeBron’s resume. He’s leading the league in scoring at 30 points per night on 52-35-76 shooting splits. He’s averaging over eight rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block. 

Don’t even try to call those empty stats. If you want to shoot holes in LeBron’s Executive of the Year resume, have at it. Lobbying for Russell Westbrook was a horrible move. But give the guy his props for what he’s done on the court, at 37 years old no less. 

To circle back, does that mean LeBron deserves MVP consideration? Frank Vogel certainly believes so. 

“He is as deserving for MVP consideration as anybody in the league,” the Lakers coach said of James on Friday, via ESPN. “I know how the voting goes — the team with the best record or top couple of records usually gets most of those considerations, so the win-loss record definitely would probably hurt him.

“But you can’t tell me that anybody has played a better season than LeBron James has this year.”

Vogel is right about one thing: LeBron has no chance of winning based on how bad the Lakers have been this season. You just can’t give the MVP to a guy whose team is going to finish well below .500 when there are so many other awesome candidates. 

We’ll see if Vogel’s point about record holds water. To me, Nikola Jokic should be the MVP, but the Nuggets are hovering at the play-in line while Joel Embiid’s Sixers and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks are fighting for a No. 1 seed. (Never mind that Jokic’s Nuggets have just two fewer wins than the Sixers or Bucks).

That’s going to matter to a lot of voters in a really tight race where something has to settle a virtual tie, like 20 points on an SAT score between two equally deserving Harvard applicants. But again, we’re just talking about consideration here. That’s a fairly loose term, but let’s say that means a guy has the potential to finish in the top five of voting. 

LeBron surely has a case for that. Last year, Steph Curry finished third in MVP voting for winning the scoring title, which LeBron may well do, and leading a really bad Warriors to the play-in, exactly where LeBron is likely taking the Lakers. 

He shouldn’t win the award, and he’s not even going to close to doing so. Personally, I would be surprised if he finishes in the top five in voting, but that has everything to do with how great other guys have been while ultimately leading better teams. LeBron has been fantastic. Depending on how voters manipulate the stupid positional requirement, he’s going to finish either first- or second-team All-NBA. No player in the league could’ve done more more with this Lakers mess. 

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