Yesterday, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg made the case, while he knows James Harden will win the MVP award, that the award lacks meaning because it isn’t going to LeBron James every season. He believes Harden will only win it because it is his turn.
Has James been snubbed? In 2011, he had a strong case to be the recipient as opposed to Derrick Rose. But besides that, he’s deserved the award the number of years he has won it, four.
As far as whose “turn” it is, it’s Harden’s, but that is not why he is going to be the MVP. Harden has been far and away the best player in the league this season with some of the most phenomenal individual performances in recent memory.
James last won the award in 2012-13 and has not deserved it since. The best stat to represent a player’s overall performance is PER. In each of the seasons since, James has ranked behind the MVP winner. In some cases, there has been a significant gap.
Greenberg’s opinion is a narrative that many believe when it comes to James — and it is completely false. Yes, over the past decade combining the regular and postseasons, he’s has been the best player in the NBA in aggregate, but that has nothing to do with the award given to the best in a given season.
James has been great nearly every regular season, but there has been at least one player greater than him since the time he won the award four out of five seasons.
Greenberg believes that James has a case over Harden because he plays on a bad team that “might be the worse team in the league” without him. Again, not a valid case. A player should not win an award because they make a bad team good (are they even good?).
Harden has been better than LeBron James this season, meaning if they switched places, he would also make Cleveland a respectable team (if you want to call them good right now). As would Anthony Davis who is also having a better year than James.
There was once a time when James was unfairly criticized by many, but over the years, he has actually been vastly overprotected.
Tuesday night, when discussing another exceptional performance by Harden in the fourth quarter, the broadcast team made the case James should win MVP because of his value to the league overall. Here is the problem: again, that has nothing to do with the award.
There is no official criteria for the award, but what the award can be best understood as is a combination of individual numbers and team wins. Which, of course, this year screams Harden. This is barring a clear separation of individual performance as seen last year with Russell Westbrook unprecedentedly averaging a triple-double. That is not what has been occurring with James.
LeBron James does not deserve the MVP this year, or last year, or the three seasons before that, or the seasons before he won the award. At this point, many of the excuses for him to win the award are manufactured and inaccurate.