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Warriors on brink of NBA title, need one more win over Cavaliers
5:34 | NBA
Warriors on brink of NBA title, need one more win over Cavaliers
SI Staff
Tuesday June 16th, 2015

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.

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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.

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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.   ​

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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.

The title is “Most Valuable Player,” not “Most Valuable Player On The Winning Team,” and anybody watching this series understands James has been far more valuable than Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala or anybody else on Golden State’s roster. He scores, he rebounds, he passes, he defends, and without him, this isn’t even a playoff-worthy roster right now, let alone one that could compete with the league’s best team.
 

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​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.

 
Americans should let go of this idea that the MVP always comes from a winning team. When Germany won the World Cup last year, the Golden Ball for best player went to Argentina’s Lionel Messi ahead of Germany’s Thomas Muller, even though Germany won the Cup. This happens more often than not in the World Cup. FIFA gets it right, even if they paid me $100,000 to write this.
 
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Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

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?

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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). 

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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%. 

 
I also give James bonus points for the fact that he's doing all of this with such a limited roster, after so many crucial injuries, and, most importantly, against an exceptional Warriors team. Golden State's +10.1 point differential this season is historically great, and the Warriors could very well finish the season with a 67-15 record in the regular season and a 16-5 mark in the playoffs. That's true excellence that only comes together though great chemistry, great talent, and great luck, and yet James managed to orchestrate two victories in the Finals against this juggernaut almost single-handedly. 
 
If Stephen Curry had been more consistent throughout the Finals, I could see making an argument in his favor, but his struggles in Games 2 and 3, particularly, make me inclined to give James the Bill Russell Trophy, even if Curry and company bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to the Bay Area.
 

Rob Mahoney: LeBron James

As much as I respect the cases of both Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry, LeBron has them beat in volume, consistency, and responsibility. The very idea that a superstar could carry the weight that James has is astounding. He is the only player on his team that can run an NBA-level offense, much less a Finals-worthy offense. He is the only player on his team capable of maintaining a regular mismatch and exploiting it. He is the one player on his team who can go from offense to defense without exposing some considerable liability.
 
In these Finals, James has made the Cavs competitive while working alongside an overmatched backup point guard turned starter, a shaky wing rotation, and pair of inconsistent bigs who can’t seem to play well at the same time. Cavs coach David Blatt deserves plenty of credit for taking those same raw materials and forging a worthy team defense, but it’s James that maximizes his teammates’ value while anchoring their contributions with his own.

Gallery: Sports Illustrated's 100 best NBA Finals photos over the years

 

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