LeBron James Has Once Again Hijacked The MVP Discussion

This image is a derivative of LeBron James mural by Luke Harold (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

At the ripe old age of 36, and fresh off yet another championship-winning campaign, LeBron James is applying brushstrokes to yet another masterpiece of a season, achieving statistical milestones never reached by a player of his age previously. 

However perhaps an even most impressive aspect of his game today is how he's managed to seemingly reinvent himself as a sharpshooter from 3pt range, knocking down 39.4% of his long-range shots, adding even more layers of anxiety to petrified defences.

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Put simply, 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for a man in his 18th season is absurd, and has been more than enough to once again thrust himself into the very centre of MVP discussions. 

There’s no doubt that narrative plays a key part in how voters cast their MVP ballots, and for James to be performing at this level, and at this age, provides the media a strong angle to construct storylines to enrich James' candidacy.

What's equally clear is that James is once again shouldering a heavier load than most players could ever dream of carrying. While the 34.7 minutes he’s playing each night does represent a career low, he still sits 4thoverall in total minutes owing to the fact he's yet to miss a single game this season. 

With Anthony Davis sidelined for 5 games already this season, and even taking a backseat offensively at times to James (Davis is actually taking 2 less shots per game than James this season), what we're seeing from the 16-time all star is insane, refusing to take his foot off the accelerator, and adding even more layers to his already otherworldly resume. 

And it's these performances that have carried the Lakers to a scorching 20-6 start, and which has promoted the Stats Insider futures modelto install them as 24.6% favourites for yet another NBA crown.

While the Laker's defence is currently leading their charge, easily ranked first in the league surrendering just 104.5 points per 100 possessions, their offence hasn't been as breathtaking, ranked just 12th overall and requiring every ounce of James' contribution. 

With new recruits such as Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol still trying to find both their role and rhythm within Frank Vogel's offence, James has been more than eager to carry the load, contributing a team-high 7.9 assists per night, with 31.4% of the Laker's offence being run through his extremely capable hands. 

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A fifth MVP award this season would make LeBron the oldest player to win the NBA’s highest individual accomplishment in history, surpassing Michael Jordan and Karl Malone who both won it at 35. 

But the question is, can he do it? 

At this stage, he's up against some very strong competition, primarily in the form of Philadelphia's vastly improved Joel Embiid, whose taken the 76ers on his back this season and put them right in the frame for a serious championship bid

If the Nuggets can pull it together and have a strong season after spluttering out the gates, Nikola Jokic will also have a strong case, as too will the likes of Luka Donic, Kevin Durant and back-to-back champ Giannis Antetokounmp, all of whom continue to bedazzle the league on a night to night basis. 

From now until the end of the season, we can only speculate about which player will ultimately be crowned this year’s Most Valuable Player. However what we do know with absolute certainty is that LeBron James will be there when the whips are cracking, staking his claim as world's best as he always does. 

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Mitchell Turner

Sports are an all-year-round affair for Mitch as his basketball coaching takes up a weekly slot on a Saturday. Yet it's the Australian summer which most floats his boat, what with the tip-off to the NBA, test cricket and NFL playoffs all taking centre stage.

In between watching sports, Mitch is about to commence his 3rd year Bachelor of Arts at Monash University (majoring in Journalism and International Relations) and is currently undertaking an internship at Stats Insider.

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