J.R. Smith: ‘We all know who the real MVP is’

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The MVP award has come down to a two-man race as the regular season draws to a close, and it’s essentially an impossible choice.

There are extremely solid arguments to be made for handing it to James Harden or Stephen Curry, and no reasonable person could be upset with either of them winning it based on the incredible performances each has put together over the bulk of the season.

But there are politics where the award is concerned, and we’ve seen voter fatigue surface when the same player’s name continues to come up in the discussion. That may be part of the reason why J.R. Smith believes that no matter who wins it this year, LeBron James remains the league’s most valuable.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

“Who? The real MVP?” Smith said … “There’s a lot of speculation about who should get the award, but we all know who the real MVP is.” …

“In actuality, if you really wanted to, you could give it to him every year,” Smith said of James, who won the award four times in his first 11 seasons in the league. “I mean, the numbers, what he does for teams. You see one year removed from a team like Miami — and they probably won’t even make the playoffs — to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since he left and then, all of the sudden, we’re a 52-win team. So, I don’t think you can do that with anybody else that’s in our league right now.

“Not to knock anything from the other two guys [Stephen Curry and James Harden]. They’re having great years, career years for both of them, but if you want to be realistic about it, you could give it to him every time.”

James’ value to a franchise is almost immeasurable; it’s why a Cavaliers beat writer is going to vote for LeBron, despite the questions of home cooking that his choice will inevitably bring.

But the award almost always goes to the best player on one of the league’s top few teams, and one that’s put up a number of transcendent performances in the very same season. Harden and Curry both qualify this year, just as Kevin Durant did a season ago.

Smith isn’t wrong. But being actually the most valuable is not what the award is about.