Editor’s note: Now that the Packers’ season is over, and I’ve got those sappy tribute posts out of the way, it’s time to talk basketball. I’ll be here with you down the stretch of the NBA season.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant. Debating the NBA MVP race is an easy question with no easy answer. All three are having stellar seasons with their teams off to better-than-expected starts, Miami excluded, with obviously still a whole lot of basketball to be played.
‘Melo, mostly minus Amare Stoudemire, has the Knicks off to a 25-13 start, good for second place in the Eastern Conference and only one game behind LeBron’s Heat. The Knicks are second in the East, again to Miami, in points per game at 101.5, and are surprisingly ahead of the Heat in points allowed per game, giving up 96.5 a night behind Mike Woodson’s defensive-heavy coaching style.
Anthony’s numbers? In 31 starts, he’s averaging 29.2 points per game, up from his career 24.9 average, and has higher shooting percentages across the board. The biggest difference is from behind the 3-point line, where Carmelo is stroking it at a 42% clip, 9 points above his career average.
What about Durant? Well, so much for missing James Harden … OK, let’s no jump that far ahead of ourselves, but his 29.3 ppg average is his highest since 2009-10. But my favorite stat line of Durant’s 40-game season thus far: he’s shooting 52% from the field, which is straight up silly for a perimeter player. And the Thunder are 32-8, holding the league’s best record through 40 games — also remarkable, given that they traded a franchise player just days before the season began.
But the MVP has to be LeBron James. I mean, statistics aside, the guy’s the best player on the planet. Sorry, Kobe. Sorry, KD. Sorry, ‘Melo. Nevermind that the Heat are a mediocre 10-9 away from home. Nevermind that James plays with two established superstars in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and a future Hall of Famer in Ray Allen. The dude can ball; there hasn’t been a more complete player in this game since Magic Johnson. Sorry, Michael. But LeBron’s the most talented player in the game, on both sides of the ball.
Back to his statistics, and they’re ridiculous. He’s averaging 26.3 points a night, which is actually down from his career average of 27.6. All his other numbers, though, are up. Rebounds? His 8.1 bests a career 7.2 average. Assists? His 7.0 barely edges a career 6.9 mark. Shooting? His 55% average from the field is absurd, ahead of his 48% career average, and he’s shooting the 3-ball, always a struggle for him, at a very respectable 40% clip.
On a championship team, James is the primary scorer, primary distributor, best defender, top rebounder and leading steals guy. The only major statistical category in which he doesn’t lead his team is blocks, where Bosh tallies 1.4 a night and James 0.92 (second-highest on the team). His PER, or player efficiency rating, of 30.3, which leads the league, is more than 7 points ahead of Wade, the team’s No. 2. Oh, and he plays the most minutes, 38.4.
No player in the NBA, or maybe even professional sports, is asked to do more for his team on any given night than LeBron James. And for this 3-time NBA MVP, that will probably translate into a fourth.
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