The three finalists for the NBA MVP award race are James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kawhi Leonard. Those three received the most votes, we just don’t know the order yet. The winner is going to be announced June 26 at an awards ceremony in New York.
Notice who is not on that list? LeBron James.
The man who has dominated the postseason, and who averaged 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game through the regular season likely finished fourth. As you might imagine, LeBron’s teammates thought he was robbed. Here’s what they said, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com.
“I think it started with Shaq,” Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson said. “It started with Shaq where every year he was the most dominant guy. Every year, you had to game plan. Every year there were teams going and signing guys to million-dollar contracts to compete against them, and he was just dominant, winning three championships, and he only had, what, one MVP? It started then. And like they say, nobody roots for Goliath.”
“It’s almost like when Jordan was playing, he could have won it every year but they wanted to give it to somebody else,” J.R. Smith said. “But it’s fine. I mean, it’s just another chip on his shoulder, which helps us.”
“He’s driven by a totally different monster,” Smith said. “He’s not playing for Russ or James. Like he said earlier, he’s chasing a ghost. Right now, that’s the only thing that can literally compare to him. I think he’s just in a totally different space, and when he’s playing like he’s playing, not hesitating on his jumpers, transition 3s, pull-up 3s, pull-up jumpers not even with his feet set, he’s just got an extreme, extreme confidence. It’s almost like a supreme being type of level.”
LeBron himself largely shrugged at the vote. A ring and a Finals MVP would mean more to him then a fifth regular season award.
LeBron had a fantastic season and, when focused, is the best player in the game right now. He unquestionably had a phenomenal season, the thing is so did the other three.
However, LeBron led a team that went 12-15 after the All-Star break, seemed to take the month of March off on defense, and in the process lost the No. 1 seed. While Westbrook/Harden/Leonard were pushing themselves and their teams to close out the season, LeBron and the Cavs were cruising. In a tight race (even for an individual award) that made the difference. LeBron will finish fourth (fifth is wide open).
Bottom line, there were four candidates who had the numbers to win the award this year, you can make a case for any of them, but the way the Cavs — with LeBron as their unquestioned leader — finished the season hurt his chances. Both he and the Cavs flipped the switch in the postseason, but this remains a regular season award.