NBA MVP Race: Cavs’ LeBron James Overlooked Candidate [Opinion]

The NBA MVP award race for much of this season has seemingly been narrowed down to between Oklahoma City Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets’ James Harden due to their astronomical individual performances.

Westbrook is about to wrap up one of the greatest individual campaigns joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as one of just two players to average a triple-double for an entire season as he leads the league with 31.7 points along with 10.4 assists and 10.7 rebounds. He has also just surpassed Robertson’s NBA record by notching his 42nd triple-double of the season.

Meanwhile, Harden has caught just as much attention with his production averaging 29.2 points with a league-best 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds. He has also recorded 20 triple-doubles with an NBA-best 62 double-doubles. This includes a regular-season record of 28 games with at least 30 points and 10 assists while leading the Rockets to one of the top records in the league.

Although both Westbrook and Harden deserve this large amount of national recognition and praise, it has in many ways devalued the stellar season that Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James has put together in his 14th year in the league. James is averaging 26.9 points on 54.8 percent shooting from the field along with career highs with 8.7 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game.

LeBron James has taken a backseat in the MVP talk.
[Image by AP Photo/Jae C. Hong]

LeBron James is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average at least 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.0 assists while shooting 54 percent or better from the field in a single season. In fact, LeBron James is the only player in the league with at least 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 50 percent shooting from the field this year.

LeBron James has posted 41 double-doubles along with a career-best 12 triple-doubles. James also recorded at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists 54 times this season while shooting over 50 percent from the field in 54 games.

LeBron James has been beyond a reliable source of scoring consistency this season for the Cavaliers, notching at least 10 points in every game while recording 20 or more points 60 times and 22 games with least 30 points. This has helped LeBron James move past Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second all-time with 791 consecutive games scoring at least 10 points.

In any other season that doesn’t include standout season performances from Westbrook and Harden, LeBron James elevated front and center as the front-runner to win another regular-season MVP award. However, these numbers from James have been diminished because of what seems like nightly triple-doubles efforts from the other two serious candidates for the award.

LeBron James is having arguably his best season and will likely fall short for the prestigious award.
[Image by AP Photo/Tony Dejak]

On top of that, what also doesn’t help LeBron James’ case is that this level of production has become expected at this stage of his career. This blatantly puts aside the fact that in James’ 14th season he is averaging career highs in both assists and rebounds, which hasn’t been accomplished before by any player in that year of their career in NBA history. In many ways, LeBron James’ own reputation and lofty expectations are playing against him in the MVP conversation.

Many will also look to discredit the fact that Cavaliers are zeroing on yet another first place finish in the Eastern Conference because of the level of competition, but it’s still another telling mark of LeBron James’ impact on his team and their level of success with him on the court.

It has become easy to get fixated on the uniqueness of averaging a triple-double for an entire season with what feels like video-game type numbers becoming the norm, but it ‘s simply hard to put aside the fact that the best player in the NBA is having the best individual campaign of LeBron James’ illustrious career. Simply put, LeBron James is putting the finishing touches on yet another MVP-worthy season that will likely be left as a footnote for the 2016-17 MVP race.

[Featured Image by Lynne Sladky/AP Images]