LeBron James is currently having one of the best months of his 14-year NBA career at the age of 32, and with Kevin Love out for the next six weeks, it seems likely that LeBron's statlines will only get more and more ridiculous as he carries the Cavaliers through the month of March.
Has LeBron's recent dominant play elevated him back into the NBA MVP discussion, though? On Thursday's episode of Undisputed, Cris Carter and Nick Wright debated James' candidacy.
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Cris Carter: LeBron is in the conversation, but he's not ahead of Westbrook or Harden
"[He’s] not at the top of the list because what we’ve seen from a historic [perspective] - what’s coming out of Houston in James Harden, we haven’t seen this in a long, long time, if ever. Russell Westbrook, what he’s doing in OKC, and what they have done since October.
Not February, not January, they have played at a level where the conversation for the most part will be dominated by one of these two. Your question is should he be put at the top of the list? No. This should get him on the list, because he’s the best player in the world.
And this is mostly his own fault, because he’s been so good for such a long period of time that when he starts the season [in October and November] scoring 23, shooting 49.8 percent, 36 percent from three, eight rebounds, nine assists. You would think ‘wow it seems like LeBron’s started really slow.’
Because in the month of February, he’s 27 points, 63 percent from the field, 60 percent from three-point range, six rebounds, 10 assists. It’s one of the best months that he’s ever had."
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Cris Carter: LeBron James is having an Aaron Rodgers-like season
"So he should be included in the conversation. We have 26, 28 games left after the All-Star break. So yes, he should be in the conversation, but we just witnessed Aaron Rodgers have the greatest half of a season, or three-quarters of a season, that we’ve ever seen. He was considered for the MVP. He’s considered to be the best talent.
Tom Brady, great season, missed the first four games. He was considered [for] MVP. But I think the more important people… Gregg Popovich every year could be coach of the year. Does he get it? No!
Michael Jordan could have got it every year. Bill Belichick, should he get it every year? He could get it every year, but they don’t.
And you have these seasons like Russ is having and like Harden is having where they deserve most of the attention. But the way LeBron has played in February - because January the team was average. They were 7-8. It doesn’t exclude him from being in the group, but how he has come on in the month of February, yes he should be included."
Mark D. SmithMark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Wright: LeBron is the most consistent player in the league
"We sit here today as the All-Star break approaches in about 12 hours, and the conversation surrounding the All-Star game is going to be about whether or not LeBron James is the MVP.
You’re right, it cannot just be that LeBron in February put together maybe the best month of his first-ballot Hall of Fame, one of the two greatest ever career. It has to be about the full season, I agree. And the thing is, throughout the season, [LeBron’s] been the most consistent, best player in the league.
If you want to just look at bad games, games where a star player scores around 20 or less, bunch of turnovers, low shooting percentage. On the season, Durant’s got four of them, Harden and Russ have five and six of them.
LeBron’s had two bad games all year long."
Ken BlazeKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Wright: The Cavaliers are awful without LeBron James on the court
"If you want to talk about the impact on his team… Kawhi Leonard, when he’s on the court, the Spurs are 1.2 points better per 100 possessions than when he’s off the court. James Harden, when he’s on the court, the Rockets are 5.5 points better than when he’s off the court.
LeBron James, when he’s on the court compared to off, 12.2 points better. When he’s off the court, his team is terrible. They get outscored per 100 possessions.
And I want to add a little historical context to this discussion. I love Russ. I think he should be the shining example we show youth athletes about how you compete, what type of teammate you are. But since 1983, every single MVP - as long as there’s been an 82-game season - has come from a 50-win team. The Thunder are not going to win 50 games."
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Nick Wright: Individual stats aren't the determining factor
"Now people might say ‘well what about if he averages a triple-double?’ The last time, the only time, someone’s averaged a triple-double, was the 1962 season. I’m going to give you some lines from that year.
Elgin Baylor gave you 38 and 19. He finished fourth in the MVP.
Oscar Robertson gave you the triple-double. 31, 13, 11. He finished third in the MVP. That’s the Russ.
Wilt Chamberlain gave you 50 and 25. That’s the James Harden. He finished second in the MVP.
You know who won the MVP that year? Bill Russell. 19 points, 24 rebounds. Why did he win it? Because that’s when the players voted, and everyone said he has the biggest impacton winning. It’s not about the individual numbers. There were 85 votes, he got 51 of the first-place votes even though a dude averaged 50 and 25!"
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Nick Wright: LeBron has more of an impact on winning than any other player
Amber Theoharis: "Isn’t that always the debate, though, with an MVP. Is it the best player with the best numbers, or do you really have to account for the value to the team?"
Nick Wright: "Thankfully, this year, it’s the same guy! That’s the thing. Maybe a few weeks ago it wasn’t. But with the strong stretch in February, with the fact that his team right now - they’re 39 and 13 when LeBron plays, 0-3 when he doesn’t.
The answer to all of these… who is having the most efficient, overall best season? It’s LeBron. Who has the biggest impact on winning? It’s LeBron. Who is the universally accepted best basketball player alive? It’s LeBron."