Hot Take Marathon: LeBron Will Win His 5th MVP
Is it really a hot take to say one of the greatest players of all-time will be the MVP?
Fans can argue that LeBron James is in the twilight of his career and after one serious injury we might finally see some sort of decline from the King. LeBron missed 27 games last season and instead of raising the Lakers back to relevance he was the anchor for a young Lakers team which reached as high as fourth in the Wild Wild West before tumbling into the lottery.
But that was more of the off-court stuff. We saw zero regression in James’ stat line toward the mean of the usual 34 year old NBA player. He still put up a 27-8-8, and when healthy, looked for all the world like the best player in the Association. What will he need to do to add a fifth trophy to his shelf and become -- just months shy of Karl Malone -- the second oldest MVP in NBA history?
It starts at the beginning of the season. Over the last four seasons, the King’s teams have a 44-13 record in November, his most winning month over the past two seasons. From their hot start to his injury on Christmas Day, the team was 17-9 and 10-3 at home.
LeBron shot over 50% from the floor and had six games over 30 points, including his incredible 51-point night in Miami. He shot well from three, topping out a 42% in November; it looked for all the world like ‘new jersey, same James’ for LeBron. He’ll need to come out firing again this year to remind the basketball world what he’s capable of, and get the narratives turned in his direction so he can front-run his way to awards night.
There are concerns about whether LeBron bounce back from this injury, but of course he can. LeBron legendarily invests in his body and fitness, and this coming season is the first one in a decade where he hasn’t played into late June as a Finals participant. After playing all 82 games in his final year in Cleveland, and leading them to the Finals, he played 104 games. In Cleveland, on average, he played 96 games a year! In his first, injury-shortened season with the Lakers, he played just 55 -- think LeBron won’t have some bounce in his step?
The MVP formula has usually entailed best player + best team = MVP. For as good as his teams were in Cleveland, the general consensus was that the Golden State Warriors were the class of the league, regardless of what James did. Now with a wide-open West, should James lead a talented Lakers squad to a 1-seed, his argument will be quite compelling.
The four-time MVP is already flourishing season after season in the assist category. Now, with a player as dominant in the paint as Anthony Davis down low, we could very well see a career high in the category. With LeBron’s shooting and range only improving, his scoring is sure to pop with bigger, better defenders needing to be present on Davis.
And after a year of thinking that LeBron should be surrounded by playmakers, the Lakers have gone back to surrounding him with shooters like Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso; his arsenal is complete. Look out not just for another MVP season but perhaps his finest yet.