NBA

NBA Finals: Despite Davis' brilliance, Lakers star LeBron should be MVP

By Sports Desk October 08, 2020

In an unprecedented year, it is nice to know that some things remain the same – LeBron James is on the verge of making history.  

With his Los Angeles Lakers leading the NBA Finals 3-1 entering Friday's Game 5 against the Miami Heat, the 35-year-old forward appears likely to win his fourth championship, adding to an impossibly long list of career accomplishments.  

But James also has a chance to win another Finals MVP award, a distinction that could cement his legacy as one of the two best players in NBA history.  

James has won Finals MVP in each of his three title runs in 2012, 2013 and 2016, and is in a class with Magic Johnson Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal with three such awards.  

With a fourth Finals MVP, James would trail only Michael Jordan and his six. James would also become the first player to win Finals MVP honours with three different teams – perhaps a fitting distinction for the man who ushered a new era of player movement in 2010 when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami.  

But what of Anthony Davis, an All-NBA performer and perhaps James' best team-mate of his career?  

Davis is the Lakers' leading scorer this postseason with 28.2 points per game. He knocked down a three-pointer and blocked a Jimmy Butler layup in the last 40 seconds of Tuesday's 102-96 victory in Game 4.  

Davis has been incredible since joining from the New Orleans Pelicans, but James is still the most vital component in the Lakers' superpowered engine and the primary reason Los Angeles are on the cusp of winning their 17th NBA title and first since 2010.  

James has increased his scoring on the NBA's biggest stage, averaging 27.8 points in the Finals and scoring at least 25 in each game. Davis, on the other hand, scored 28.8 points per game in the Western Conference playoffs but is down to 25.8 per game in the Finals after 15- and 22-point performances in Games 3 and 4.  

James also has better numbers cleaning the glass than Davis in the Finals, averaging 11.0 rebounds per game to Davis' 9.3.  

But James' greatest attribute may be his ability to elevate his team-mates. The NBA's regular-season assist leader at 10.2 per game, James has recorded an assist on 51 of Davis' 189 made field goals this postseason.  

The Lakers' point differential per 100 possessions this postseason with James on the court is +10.5. Without James on the court in these playoffs, the Lakers have a -2.9 differential per 100 possessions – a net difference of 13.4.  

Davis is still very important with a net difference of 9.8 (+9.6 on the court; -0.2 off), but the Lakers are better equipped to play without him than James.  

And while there is plenty of objective evidence to support James' case to win Finals MVP, his story and career arc may also play a role in the eyes of the 11 beat writers and national media members who vote for the award.  

James is averaging 26.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the playoffs and is on the cusp of joining Larry Bird as the only players to win a championship while averaging at least 25-8-8 over the course of the playoffs.  

James is already the all-time postseason leader in points (7,423), minutes (10,729), field goals (2,643), free throws (1,730) and steals (441). On Friday, he will play in his 259th career playoff game, tying him with Derek Fisher for the most all-time.  

Despite playing at the end of his 17th NBA season, James has shown few signs of his production falling. His 512 points this postseason are the most ever by a player at least 35 years old. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only other player to even have 400 in a single playoff run at that age.  

Simply put, James is doing far more at an advanced age than any player in NBA history.  

The case for James does not diminish the enormous contributions of Davis, without whom the Lakers went 37-45 last season. But with one more win against the Heat – whether it comes in Friday's Game 5 or is delayed – James will likely be crowned Finals MVP, adding yet another feather to his already crowded cap.  

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