LeBron James....



Still the league’s Most Valuable Player. The public opinion on LeBron James has changed ever since that fateful day on July 8th, 2010 when he announced to the world that he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Whether we care to admit it or not, it was quite a coup by Team LeBron. The Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans will never forgive him for the show that he put on prior to choosing to sign with the Miami Heat and we can all understand why; however most people I know watched The Decision and were left completely confused and yet intrigued by the idea that the two time league MVP was headed to South Beach.

The basketball message boards were flooded with comments detailing how James had essentially now become a sidekick and the Cleveland Cavaliers fans went as far as to chant the name of Scottie Pippen in reference to just that when the Heat visited the Quicken Loans arena in early December. But all the talk and criticism of anything related to LeBron seems to have made the world forget one thing: he is still the best player in the NBA.

Although the Heat have not completely figured out how to play on offense, James has slowly figured out how to subjugate his game to allow stars like Bosh and Wade to get their points within the scheme of their offense. The Heat’s new #6 goes from facilitator to scorer whenever he sees appropriate and finds ways to keep the defense off balance with his shift in aggressiveness during games.

The teammates, the uniform, the coaching staff and the fans might be different, but the player is the same. Have a look at his career averages:

PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
27.7
7.0
7.0
1.7
47.5

Now compare those to what LeBron James has done when playing in nationally televised games with the world watching:

Opponent
RESULT
PTS
FGM
REBS
ASS
STL
at Boston
L
31
10-21
4
3
1
vs. Orlando
W
15
6-13
6
7
0
vs. Utah
L
20
5-18
11
14
0
vs. Boston
W
35
9-21
10
9
3
vs. Phoenix
W
20
9-15
8
9
3
at Orlando
L
25
9-18
6
4
1
at Dallas
L
23
5-19
8
4
1
at Cleveland
W
38
15-25
5
8
1
at Utah
W
33
12-20
7
9
0
at Golden State
W
25
10-18
7
9
1
at New York
W
32
14-23
11
10
1
vs. Dallas
L
19
6-17
10
7
0
at Phoenix
W
36
13-22
6
4
3
at Los Angeles
W
27
8-14
11
10
4
TOTAL

379
131-264
110
107
19
AVERAGES

27.1
9.4-18.9
7.9
7.6
1.4

His performances in these spotlight games (record of 9-4 in those games by the way) are right on par (49.6% field goal shooting in these games) with what he has done throughout his career. But then again, basketball is not just about putting up numbers. Let’s be honest, Andrea Bargnani is accumulating stats in Toronto, but does that make him one of the best that the league has to offer? Not exactly.

As a result, we need to devise a way to measure the King’s contributions to winning basketball games. And right on cue, I present to you Win Shares. It is a formula that calculates how a player’s output directly impacts the team’s ability to get wins. If you require more in depth information on it, click here. If you do not feel like clicking on it, let me simplify it all for you: the more win shares a player gets; the more impact he has on helping his team get wins. So just who rounds up our top five in win shares so far this season?

Rank
Player
WS
1
Chris Paul
6.2
2
LeBron James
5.8
3
Pau Gasol
5.4
4
Al Horford
5.0
5
Deron Williams
4.9

At first glance the list might surprise some but after giving it some careful thought; it makes total sense. A player that brings several things to the table without taking a lot off of it will have a big impact on whether or not his team wins or loses. Let me put it this way: if you had to steal something from a vault Inside Man style, you would surround yourself with smart people that would get you in the best possible position to complete your heist without deviating from the plan.

And wouldn’t you know it, the five players listed above do a great job of maximizing their opportunities. They all average a relatively low amount of shot attempts (less than 20 per game), shoot a high percentage, score in the teens, get a fair share of either rebounds and/or assists and get you some steals and blocks.

Miami's 3 Unit.
Chris Paul leads the way with 6.2 win shares while LeBron James comes in second with 5.8. And it would be tough to argue that any other player is more valuable to their team than CP3 given the drop off of talent on the Hornets roster once you look passed Paul; whereas James still has Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to lean on.

Mind you, we might need just a bit more to measure a player’s value to his team other than just win shares. Consequently, allow me to use the now fairly commonly used player efficiency ratings (PER) by ESPN’s John Hollinger. If you wish to have a detailed description of just what PER entails, click here. If you prefer to short version, it helps measure a player’s per minute productivity on the court. Therefore, it is easier to compare J.R. “my name is Earl” Smith’s production (24.1 minutes per game) to Jason Richardson (32.0 minutes per game).  Now with that said, let’s have a look at the players leading the league in player efficiency ratings:

Rank
Player
PER
1
Chris Paul
26.4
2
LeBron James
25.7
3
Kobe Bryant
24.6
4
Dirk Nowitzki
24.5
5
Dwight Howard
24.5

Chris Paul once again gets the top spot and rightfully so if you have ever watched the Hornets play. The former Demon Deacon conducts his team’s offense masterfully as he gets the right players to put up shots and also contributes with his scoring (19.1 PPG). Also, he does an incredible job of pressuring his opponents with his league leading 2.7 steals per game. So why would I go with LeBron James right now over Chris Paul? Simply put, history.

Maurice Podoloff Trophy
Players enjoying great statistical seasons as well as team success are usually the ones rewarded with the Maurice Podoloff trophy. Let’s take a stroll through memory lane and have a look at the league MVP’s from the past two decades:

Season
MVP
Team Record of MVP
2009-10
L. James
61-21
2008-09
L. James
66-16
2007-08
K. Bryant
57-25
2006-07
D. Nowitzki
67-15
2005-06
S. Nash
54-28
2004-05
S. Nash
62-20
2003-04
K. Garnett
58-24
2002-03
T. Duncan
60-22
2001-02
T. Duncan
58-24
2000-01
A. Iverson
56-26
1999-00
S. O'Neal
67-15
1998-99*
K. Malone
37-13
1997-98
M. Jordan
62-20
1996-97
K. Malone
64-18
1995-96
M. Jordan
72-10
1994-95
D. Robinson
62-20
1993-94
H. Olajuwon
58-24
1992-93
C. Barkley
62-20
1991-92
M. Jordan
67-15
1990-91
M. Jordan
61-21
*lockout season
The thing that stands out (besides the names of current or future Hall of Fame caliber players) is the team records. Looking back at the past 20 NBA seasons, the league MVP’s teams have averaged 60 wins (excluding lock out season). Which begs the question: how do the Heat and Hornets fare in this department? If the New Orleans Hornets maintain their winning percentage for the remainder of the season; they project to win 49 games. The Heat on the other hand project to win 59.

Consequently, I can make the bold statement that LeBron James will be the three time league MVP by season’s end….today. However, I reserve the right to change my mind considering that you know, there’s still another four months worth of basketball left in the season. So LBJ gets the nod today, but don’t ask me tomorrow though….


Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at Shyne@Sbgorillas.com. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.

1 Comments:

Rachel said...

Happy new year, and a successful 2011 to everyone!

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