Before tearing up this article for being clickbait, please read it. It’s true that James year in and year out is an MVP candidate and one of the greatest to ever play the game. However, sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is a team sport and sometimes the definition of “valuable” varies. How is James Harden widely considered the MVP when LeBron is considered the best basketball player in the world? The answer is that voters are searching for new faces of the league that provide as much or more value to their team than the current faces of the league.
James Harden gets most of his shots at the free throw line as he’s shot about 1000 more attempts than anyone in the last little while. This is why he’s only averaging 1.72 points per made shot this season.
LeBron gets most of his shots on layups and highlight real dunks which are great but 2 points is only a little better than the 1 point shots at the free throw line. This is why LeBron averages only a slightly better 1.81 points per made shot in the regular season.
Now let’s look at the Police Officer himself, the king of dad jokes, the guy with a fadeaway almost as far back as his receding hairline, Joe Ingles! Despite looking like Toby Flenderson from The Office, Joe has shown the shots he does take are of higher value in the modern NBA than LeBron and James Harden. Due to his mastery of the corner 3 point shot as well as any other area beyond the arc, the Australian guard got 2.34 points per make this season. That’s more than the top 2 MVP candidates!
Does a more valuable shot translate to being a more valuable player? Some may argue but that’s the way the modern NBA is heading. Stephen Curry hit a record number of threes en route to back to back MVP seasons with the latter one being the first unanimous vote.
Some people say that defense wins championships. Joe Ingles was one of the top 20 players in the league in defensive win shares. He is a scrappy player who hustles despite average athletic ability. LeBron is athletically gifted but definitely has gone on cruise control throughout the season to preserve energy. His below average defensive rating has been a common talk show discussion by LeBron haters like Skip Bayless.
Ingles hits free throws at a way better clip than LeBron and three points shots better than most players in the NBA. The one thing LeBron does better than everyone is get to the rim and make easy shots but he often settles for outside shots when he is tired.
The bottom line is basketball is a team sport. Steve Kerr pointed this out in a recent Playoff game. Kevin Durant was trying to win the game by himself but Kerr told them that when Jordan tried to do it himself, his coach Phil Jackson told him to start the game by trusting the open man. Everyone was focusing on Michael Jordan and John Paxton was wide open. This helped MJ become successful. MJ would learn to trust in other sharp shooters such as that very same Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
The Lakers wouldn’t have been successful without “Big Shot Bob” Robert Harry. The Jazz didn’t make the NBA Finals until sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek joined the team. Even LeBron himself didn’t win an NBA title without a big tying shot in an elimination game in the 2013 NBA Finals. Other snipers like James Jones, Mike Miller, Kyle Korver and Kevin Love have given LeBron a lot of help beyond the arc.
In the 90s the stigma was that it was risky to “live and die by the three”. By combining the mastery of Quin Snyder’s offensive scheme with his marksmanship that would win most “Around-The-World” competitions, Joe Ingles is making a better living than “Chicago Fire” ever predicted. He’s more than a cop. He polices the perimeter while Gobert is a secret service agent inside the paint.
LeBron James is better than Joe Ingles but he already had high expectations as The Chosen One since high school. Joe Ingles is better at exceeding expectations as he was undrafted in the NBA draft. Now he is a starter on a playoff contending team. Hey, anything is possible when one puts the team over their personal exploits.