Lakers’ J.R. Smith: LeBron James ‘could win MVP every single year’

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LeBron James winning his fourth NBA title — and being the Finals MVP with three different franchises — has sparked another round of discussion of LeBron’s legacy (and his case to be the G.O.A.T.).

Part of that legacy is he is a four-time NBA MVP — and that number could be higher. J.R. Smith made that case when he went on the  “All Things Covered” podcast from CBS Sports this week.

“For so long, so many people have been counting on his downfall. Even if you think about the accolades, he could win MVP every single year. But when they go up there to talk about the conversations, he’s always the third guy. It’s either Giannis or James. Or Russ or James. Or this or that person. And ‘oh you could always throw LeBron in there, look at his numbers.’ People get so bored with seeing greatness. It’s disrespectful to an extent. How can you say he’s the best player in the world [every year] and not give this man MVP? I’ve never understood that. He can go to any team and make a championship run.”

Four times LeBron finished second in the MVP voting — including this year to Giannis Antetokounmpo — and three times he finished third in the voting.

LeBron isn’t the first elite NBA player to feel shorted in MVPs, Michael Jordan did as well, and there is a long line of superstars who feel they should have won more. Often the issue (as it was this year) is that the award is based on the regular-season (the votes are due before the postseason starts) but what is seared into our minds is playoff performance. LeBron has thrived in the playoffs.

Smith and LeBron go way back, all the way to AAU ball. Smith has won two titles with LeBron, this season and in 2016 in Cleveland. When asked, Smith said he thought this Lakers’ team was better.

“I think the size that the Lakers have, we just didn’t have in Cleveland. In Cleveland, we were more grittier, we played a little harder, we were much nastier defensively. But the size with this Lakers team with [Anthony Davis] and Dwight [Howard], and being able to change the lineups with Markieff [Morris], we just weren’t that versatile [in Cleveland]. We could play multiple different ways in L.A., but in Cleveland, we only had to play one way… I think the Lakers team was just too big.”

A lot of teams found the Lakers’ size hard to deal with, particularly the Trail Blazers, Rockets, Nuggets, and Heat. It’s fair to say the Cavaliers would have as well.