Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James leads current MVP frontrunners

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 30: LeBron James /

The Cleveland Cavaliers are riding an 11-game winning streak as LeBron James bolsters his MVP candidacy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are on a roll. After a much-maligned 5-7 start, LeBron James and Co. seem to be finding their groove. Amid an 11-game winning streak, James has been incredible — on both ends of the floor.

James playing this type of defense in November signifies his desire to win another MVP. The king is well on his way.

Before discussing his competition, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the greatness of No. 23. Keep in mind, this is his 15th season in the NBA.

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Just look at the season per game averages James is producing, compared to some of the best seasons of his career (all statistics through Dec. 2 courtesy of, unless otherwise noted):

  • Points (28.3) — highest since 2009-2010
  • FGM (11.0) — most since 2005-2006
  • FGA (18.9) — most since 2009-2010
  • 3P FGM (2.0) — highest of career
  • 3P FG% (41.3) — highest of career
  • FG% (58.4) — highest of career
  • Assists (8.7) — tied with 2016-2017 as highest of career
  • Blocks (1.2) — highest of career

In addition, last Friday James was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the 35th time of his illustrious career — the most in NBA history. During the team’s 11-game winning streak, James’ stat line exhibits his increased effort on the defensive end.

By averaging 1.3 steals and 1.2 swats per contest, questions of “coasting” through the regular season have subsided. At the moment, it seems three clear-cut MVP candidates exist.

The race includes James, James Harden, and flat-earth Kyrie Irving. Harden and the Houston Rockets lead the west, while Irving and the Boston Celtics pace the east. Both have had incredible seasons, thus far.

It pains me to admit it, but Irving is playing at an elite level in Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens’ offense. Harden continues to dazzle offensively, and the Rockets’ success proves his value.

So, how do the three candidates stack up statistically?

LeBron James37.
James Harden36.
Kyrie Irving31.623.

If names were removed, and the same table was shown, James would win the MVP crown hands down. But this pesky thing called voter fatigue exists, and James is forced to compete with his own past production.

Quite simply, he’s held to a different standard — that’s precisely why his career high numbers are so significant.

While the traditional statistics provide a peek into James’ current dominance, advanced stats cement his elite standing. Compared to the numbers of Harden and Irving — well, there really isn’t a comparison:

LeBron James31.3042.763.566.330.320.4
James Harden30.4248.155.862.635.819.2
Kyrie Irving25.0630.054.659.230.416.0

* glossary here

*PER (according to ESPN)- “Player Efficiency Rating is the overall rating of a player’s per-minute statistical production. The league average is 15.00 every season.”

While Irving remains in the discussion, it’s evident this is a two-man race. James’ incredible efficiency is what separates him from “The Beard.”

LeBron trails Harden by 5.5 percentage points in usage — yet his PIE (player impact estimate) is a full 1.2 percentage points ahead of Harden. The discrepancy symbolizes the effort James is putting forth this regular season.

In other words, he doesn’t need the ball in his hands constantly to take over a basketball game. But Harden does.

Now, what’s the scariest part of the LeBron James we’re seeing right now? The always entertaining Channing Frye gave his thoughts on the King’s effort:

It seems every year a plethora of Cavaliers-biased blogs scream about LeBron’s MVP status. While he could be the MVP every year, he’s literally outdoing his past self this season.

If this level of play from James continues, and he doesn’t win MVP, the award will become meaningless.

Next: Should the Cavs trade for DeAndre Jordan?

James is the most polarizing athlete on the planet, and the greatest basketball player ever. Like most greats, his full body of work isn’t fully appreciated by all NBA fans — but hopefully, the NBA MVP voters will make the right decision at season’s end.