Lakers News: LeBron James cannot further strengthen his MVP case

Los Angeles Lakers News LeBron James (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers News LeBron James (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Los Angeles Lakers News: LeBron James’ MVP case is finished.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is one of the frontrunners for the MVP award this season. This would the fifth MVP award that LeBron wins in his career, tying him with Michael Jordan and Bill Russell for the second-most all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Right now, LeBron James’ main focus is that the Los Angeles Lakers thrive in the Orlando bubble and head into the playoffs with momentum. The Lakers are chasing championship number 17, which has a lot on the line legacy-wise for some of the members of the roster.

The eight seeding games before the playoffs won’t do anything in terms of the Lakers’ seeding, as it would take a monumental meltdown to lose the first seed to the Los Angeles Clippers, but they will still be important for gaining playoff momentum and to help Frank Vogel better understand his playoff rotations.

The eight seeding games won’t provide LeBron James an opportunity to improve his MVP odds, either. While the games will count towards the team’s regular-season records, they will not have any impact on the yearly awards.

NBA Insider Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported that the yearly awards would be voted on for play leading up to March 11. This means we can look at the numbers, as they stand right now to evaluate the MVP race.

Lakers News: LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo for the NBA MVP

This really is a two-horse race. There is not anyone else in the league that can realistically make the case for MVP other than LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Let’s look at the basic box-score figures for the two superstars.

  • LeBron James: 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, 49.8 FG%
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 29.6 points, 5.8 assists, 13.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 54.7 FG%

Both players are averaging a double-double this season with LeBron James leading the league in assists per game while Giannis leads all non-centers in rebounds per game with 13.7. James is no slouch in the rebounding department, either.

Giannis is averaging just under four more points per game than LeBron but benefits from not having a second superstar to split points with. However, even without Anthony Davis, LeBron likely would not be averaging just under 30 points a night. He has not averaged more than 28 points a game since the 2009-10 season.

But hey, LeBron is much more of a facilitator than Giannis.

In terms of offensive impact, despite Giannis scoring more per game, LeBron contributes to far more scoring than Giannis. Giannis has scored 1,690 points and generated 836 points off of assists (2,526 points total). LeBron has scored 1,544 points and generated 1,491 points off of assists (3,035 points total).

Giannis leads the league in usage rate with 37.4 percent; LeBron is at 31.6 percent.

The biggest difference between the two players is the defensive side of the ball. Despite the blocks and steals numbers being close, Giannis is a significantly better defender than LeBron James and is the frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Giannis leads all qualified players in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Rating.

Because of this, Giannis averages far more Win Shares per 48 minutes (.282) than LeBron (.218) and has a much higher Player Efficiency Rating (31.6 opposed to LeBron’s 26.0).

LeBron James’ biggest advantage is the narrative. NBA award voters, perhaps more than any other major sport, favor storylines when they vote for NBA awards. LeBron’s MVP storyline at the age of 35 might be more compelling than Giannis’ back-to-back MVP storyline.

That is why we saw Russell Westbrook win the award for averaging a triple-double on a mediocre playoff team but then finish fifth the following year, and 10th the year after that, despite also averaging a triple-double in both of those seasons.

Next. Role players that must step up. dark

Narrative matters and LeBron James has a better narrative on paper. But will it matter? That we do not yet know.