The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP.
But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run.
LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN
“No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.”
“Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on both sides of the floor. I’ve been healthy.
Curry won 2015 MVP while playing 32.7 minutes per game, the fewest by any MVP. He played 34.2 minutes per game last season, third-fewest by an MVP – ahead of just himself and 1978 Bill Walton, who played 33.3 minutes per game.
To contrast, LeBron has set career lows the last two seasons with 36.1 and 35.6 minutes per game. So, LeBron could get a reduced workload and still play more than Curry did.
But Curry, to some degree is an anomaly. He often sat late in games with his Warriors on the right side of blowouts. The Cavs aren’t good enough regularly rest LeBron as much in those situations.
It’s not that voters care directly about minutes. But the less LeBron plays, the lower his per-game averages will be and the less Cleveland will win. Those factors matter significantly.
LeBron can overcome that. He’s darned good, and there could be a push to reward him after the last two Finals have shown he’s still better than Curry when it matters most.
Playing fewer minutes per game won’t eliminate LeBron from the MVP race, not even close. But it will – and should – hurt his case. After all, MVP should reward the player who does the most to help his team win. MVP-caliber players don’t significantly help while sitting on the bench.