SI.com will periodically panel its basketball experts during the 2015 NBA playoffs and ask them a pressing question about the league. Today's topic...who would be your NBA Finals MVP if the series ended before Game 6? The results suggest LeBron James should be the heavy frontrunner despite the Cavaliers trailing 3-2 to the Warriors. Only one player in history has won Finals MVP in a losing effort: Jerry West in 1969.
Lee Jenkins: LeBron James
If LeBron James doesn’t win MVP, that’s essentially an admission that a player on the losing team can’t win the award, which is fine, except then the name should probably be changed. But if a player on the losing team can win the award, then James is the obvious choice, because he has clearly been the most productive, most consistent and most crucial performer throughout this series. In cases when the race is at all close, the MVP should go to a player on the winning team, because the championship is more important than any stat. But in this case, the race is not close. Steph Curry has been incredible at times, average at others. You could argue James has put together the best individual Finals in NBA history. Honoring him, as the Warriors celebrate, would be highly awkward. But it would be richly deserved.
Chris Mannix: LeBron James
It takes unique circumstances to give the MVP award to a player on a losing team, but this is a unique situation. Even in defeat, James has been the most overwhelmingly dominant player. He has single-handedly dictated the pace of the game offensively and has spearheaded Cleveland's strong defensive effort. Disagree? OK, if not LeBron, than who? Andre Iguodala? Iguodala has had a solid series, but he hasn't been able to stop James from racking up triple double after triple double. Stephen Curry? Curry's 37-point outburst in Game 5 was his best game of a far from exceptional series. The fact is that Golden State has not had a standout player, which opens the door for James to make a new kind of history.
Michael Rosenberg: LeBron James
Cavs forward LeBron James is my first choice. My second choice is Cavs point guard LeBron James, and my third choice is Cavs center LeBron James. This is a very easy call, and it will likely remain an easy call even if the Warriors win Game 6 to wrap up the championship.
I understand that if this were close, we would lean toward a player on the winning team. It is not close. Curry had a great Game 5 but has not had a very good series. Iguodala is a complementary player. Meanwhile, James has had an all-time great Finals.
Chris Ballard: LeBron James
It's LeBron, and it's not even close right now. Curry and Iguodala are both worthy candidates in any other year but if we're trying to measure a player's "value", well, just look at the rare stretches in this series when James has sat, forcing the J.R. Smith Traveling All-Stars to muck about until David Blatt looks as if he might have an aneurysm. We've never seen a performance like this—at least not in my lifetime—where a team was so reliant on one player and he brought them this close to a title. To do it while providing the bulk of the rebounding and playmaking is all the more remarkable. The idea that an MVP must come from the best team is restricting. We don't use it when looking at regular season MVPs, so why now?
Ben Golliver: LeBron James
My whole case for James can be read right here. To boil it down, James's play in the 2015 Finals is easily the best of his career, topping his two previous Finals MVP performances, and it's been more impressive than the one previous precedent for a losing player winning MVP (Jerry West in 1969).
What's more, James enters Game 6 averaging 58.7 combined points/rebounds/assists, a mark that surpasses all 46 previous Finals MVP winners. In terms of value and importance, James is on another planet, having scored or assisted on a never-before-seen 66.5% of the Cavaliers' field goals in the Finals, while no previous Finals MVP has ever topped 57%.