Do you know when the last time was that a team with the best regular season record finished the next year with the worst regular season record?
Before you strain yourself, here's the answer: It's never happened. But the 8-30 Cleveland Cavaliers are proving that anything's possible, in the worst way possible.
This is coming after they had the best record last year, at 61-21.
The biggest drop-off of all time belongs to the 96-97 San Antonio Spurs, who won 20 games after a 59 win season. Luckily for the Spurs, their tanking was rewarded with the first overall pick in 1997, used on Tim Duncan.
Cleveland will have to hope for similar luck in the draft, since Dan Gilbert has done basically all he can to scare away superstars.
As everyone knows, the main superstar he drove away was LeBron James. James finished his Cleveland career with the last two MVP awards. Hopefully, he gets a third consecutive.
There are two reasons why James will not win the MVP though, no matter how much he deserves it: The first is that the Miami Heat are stacked with star power; no matter what James does to deserve the award, he will not win it now that he has more talent around him.
The other reason he will not win it is because the voters traditionally get tired of voting for the same players. Players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and hell, even Steve Nash have fallen victim to this.
But even if James does not stand a chance of winning for unfair reasons, here's why he should win MVP.
To make it easier, I'm going to narrow down the field to players who have arguably been the most valuable player at their respective positions:
- Point guard: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams
- Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade
- Small forward: LeBron James
- Power forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Amar'e Stoudemire
- Center: Dwight Howard
Immediately, I'm going to eliminate Paul because the New Orleans Hornets are not contenders, but the rest are fair game that I must compare to James to disprove their cases.
Derrick Rose is on the verge of super-stardom and the Chicago Bulls are amongst the East's elite, despite injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. But James is averaging better numbers, despite being on a team where it is harder to accumulate stats.
It's arguable that the Cavaliers are struggling this year because the team was really made for James, but Deron Williams plays in a system that is made for him, in the pick-and-pop offense.
Williams has weapons, but the Jazz have never been a championship contender with Williams.
It's not his fault. He's just not on James's level.
Kobe Bryant has much more to brag about than James in terms of postseason success, but this is about the regular season MVP.
This regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers have been good, but they've struggled against elite opponents. Bryant is not a contender for MVP until he can lead his team to more such wins.
Dwayne Wade has been great this season. He's been an extremely valuable player throughout his career, even with downright awful surrounding talent.
But James gets the slight edge because of passing ability. No one on that team improves those around him better than James.
Dirk Nowitzki is great, but look at the Mavericks without him now. They're not very good, but at least they put up a good fight. The Cavaliers without James are downright awful.
Stoudemire is having an amazing season too. But I do not see him being good enough to give the Knicks a high seed.
Dwight Howard is the best at his position and has been for a few years, but he will never win MVP until he develops a complete offensive game (leading the league in technicals doesn't help much either).
But give him some credit for how well he's led the Orlando Magic with practically a new team.
It seemed nearly impossible for James to win MVP with the Heat and it still does. It was unimaginable how someone could win MVP after going to a better team.
They'd have to practically finish undefeated—actually, they practically have since November.
The Heat superstars did not have the preseason to prepare due to injuries, so November was the month for experimentation. After a month of being the NBA's punchline, the Heat have won 20 of 21 since the start of December.
LeBron's questions shouldn't be "What should I do?" It should be, "What more can I possibly do?"
In the regular season, there's not much more he can do to help the Heat. Everyone knew they'd be good, but not even most overexcited Heat fans thought they'd be this good this quickly.
James has been the best player on a nearly unbeatable team. What more can he do?
Not only did the Cavaliers lose James, but they lost Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaquille O'Neal and Delonte West, none of which were big losses.
Ilgauskas was the team's third best center, O'Neal was a liability and the Cavaliers didn't miss a beat in the 22 games West missed.
In terms of player losses, James is the only one that truly matters.
Also, there's an argument that the Cavaliers are horrible because they put all their marbles into building around James. This is partly true in the respect that they surrounded him with great shooters, but James didn't have many great shooters when he led the Cavaliers to the 2007 Finals.
In fact, since his junior year in the pros, he's been able to make the team very good no matter what.
Look at it this way: Since the Heat and Cavaliers faced off, the Heat have lost one game; the Cavaliers have won one game.
The main reason for this is obvious. James will not win MVP for the unfair reasons stated above, but he sure deserves it.
What more can he do?