We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.
Will he do anything about it?
LeBron has cruised through two regular seasons since re-joining the Cavaliers – a sensible plan. Cleveland still won 53 and 57 games despite LeBron posting his fewest win shares since his rookie year. And relatively well-rested, he has been at his very best in the playoffs – especially at the end. The payoff: Two trips to the Finals and a championship.
But LeBron has also ceded MVP the last two years to Stephen Curry. Though LeBron might be pleased with the tradeoff, awards matter greatly when discussing a player’s legacy – and we know LeBron cares about his legacy.
There’s no way LeBron could boost his legacy more than winning a championship – topping a super-charged Warriors team that most have already anointed title winners. Michael Jordan never beat a team this good. That he never had the opportunity matters only so much.
But LeBron could also build his résumé through individual accomplishments.
Another MVP award would give LeBron five and tie Michael Jordan and Bill Russell at one behind leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Even just making All-NBA first team would tied LeBron for most All-NBA first-team appearances of all-time with Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone (11). LeBron’s first Defensive Player of the Year award would underline his supreme defensive ability.
The biggest question is whether he wants to chase these honors.
LeBron is so good, he could probably land on the All-NBA first team playing at less than full speed. After all, he did that the last two years.
Defensive Player of the Year falls on the other end of the spectrum. It would take so much effort to surpass Kawhi Leonard, LeBron probably won’t chase that this year.
MVP could be the happy medium. There’s no clear frontrunner. The last three winners, Curry and Durant, have teamed up and will take votes from each other. Though Curry deserved the last two MVPs, LeBron proved in the finals who’s the best player in the world when he puts his mind to it. That will earn LeBron the benefit of the doubt in MVP voting this season.
It won’t be enough, though. LeBron has to want it.