If J.R. Smith was part of the NBA MVP voting panel, he’d write “LeBron James” on his ballot year in and year out.
Smith’s declaration of James being the “real MVP” made headlines after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Detroit Pistons, 109-97, on April 13.
James notched a triple-double in that win with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Smith was no slouch, either, with his 28 points on 8-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc, per ESPN.
Two days after Smith’s bold declaration, five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant defended LeBron on Twitter, saying he, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson relied on great teammates to win titles.
With Smith and even Bryant in James’ corner, we might just be witnessing LBJ earning his fifth MVP award.
Sorry, James Harden and Stephen Curry.
A headband-less James hasn’t been in the limelight as much as Harden, Curry and Russell Westbrook have been all season long. But if James raises his level of play in the playoffs and helps the Cavaliers win their first-ever NBA title, the 2015 MVP Award could soon be a foregone conclusion.
That being said, the once reviled “Whore of Akron” could be “King of Cleveland” sooner than later.
J.R. Smith On LeBron James Winning The MVP Award: ‘You Could Give It To Him Every Year’
In a postgame interview after Monday’s win over the Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers forward, four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion LeBron James discussed his team’s playoff readiness:
We gotta try to be great. Obviously, it doesn’t work out that way every night but we gotta try to be great every night.
We’ll know until Wednesday (if they’re playoff-ready). But I think we’re there. I think this is as close as we’ve been. We got one more game in the regular season on Wednesday and by this weekend, you know, it’s gonna be very exciting.
The Cavaliers certainly look like they’re a playoff-ready squad.
They have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games to boost their regular-season record to 52-29. They have beaten the opposition by an average of 12.7 points in those seven wins.
Gaining momentum heading into the postseason is crucial, and so far, James and Co. have certainly done that in impressive fashion.
After Cleveland beat Detroit on April 13, Cavaliers forward J.R. Smith made it clear to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that James is the “Real MVP”:
Who? The real MVP? There’s a lot of speculation about who should get the award, but we all know who the real MVP is.
In actuality, if you really wanted to, you could give it to him every year. I mean, the numbers, what he does for teams.
You see one year removed from a team like (the) Miami (Heat)—and they probably won’t even make the playoffs—to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since he left and then, all of a sudden, we’re a 52-win team.
So I don’t think you can do that with anybody else that’s in our league right now.
Not to knock anything from the two other guys [Stephen Curry and James Harden]. They’re having great years, career years for both of them, but if you want to be realistic about it, you could give it to him [James] every time.
The LeBron James effect has been pretty evident.
In his last five seasons during his first tenure in Cleveland, the Cavaliers averaged 54 wins and made it to at least the second round of the playoffs, per LandOfBasketball.com.
When James bolted for the Miami Heat five years ago, Cleveland averaged a paltry 24 wins a year and missed the postseason for four straight years.
In James’ four seasons in South Beach, the Heat averaged 56 wins and won two consecutive NBA titles, per LandOfBasketball.com.
Without James (and Chris Bosh, who suited up in just 44 games due to blood clots on one of his lungs), the Heat are just 36-45 through April 15 and will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Now, LBJ is on pace to lead Cleveland to the NBA Finals again. You can be sure he wants to make up for the NBA Finals sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.
J.R. Smith definitely knows what he’s talking about.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of April 15 and are courtesy of ESPN.com.