LeBron is the NBA's Most Valuable Player From WhatIfSports.com image

LeBron James is the Most Valuable Player

LeBron's value affects the Cavs, Lakers
By Ryan Fowler, WhatIfSports.com Content Manager
May 6, 2010

This Close to a Title

LeBron James
LeBron's 2009-10 Stats
29.7 8.6 7.3

The back-to-back MVP meets back-to-back MRIs.

LeBron James' elbow is the hottest topic aside from a 17-year-old Phillies' fan craving his 15-seconds of fame only to learn the side effects of a Tasering the hard way. You're right dad, face planting into the turf of Citizens Bank Park was a once in a lifetime experience.

Eleven wins shy of his first NBA title and surrounded by the strongest supporting cast of his career, LeBron's lifetime opportunity is now. Cavs principal owner, Dan Gilbert, has proved to his franchise player that he's willing to spend the cash on playmakers. Then again, if Mo', Antawn and Shaq can't pull their weight, the "Chosen One's" elbow won't be the only extremity strained. Can we get a chiropractor in here?

LeBron joined an elite class of ten when hoisting his second MVP trophy in as many years, but still trails Kobe in rings by four.

Now we can sit here and argue who the better basketball player is until somebody flips a table and charges out of the room, but who is more valuable to his franchise rarely comes up in debate.

Using our NBA simulation engine, Whatifsports.com simulated the 2010 Lakers versus the Cavs 1001 times. The simulation took into account the entire statistical make-up of both teams.

Lakers vs Cavs - 1001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Los Angeles Lakers31.598.0Boxscore
Cleveland Cavaliers68.5104.5

No big surprises here. The Cavs swept the season 2-game series over the Lakers. Cleveland outscored Los Angeles six out of the eight quarters. However, Kobe did outscore LeBron 66 to 63 in the two contests.

Now if you are a believer of Meatloaf's philosophy that two out of three ain't bad, the Cavs are in great shape. Taking the rock star's way of thinking one step further, two out of three could mean four out of six. In a seven game series, four wins is a good thing. A shiny gold good thing.

The Cavs versus Lakers simulation will act as our baseline for the following "what-if" scenarios to truly break down the value of the two-time MVP.

In the following Dream Team simulations, Kobe has been traded to Cleveland for LeBron. Now because the two superstars play different positions, adjustments were made to the Cavs' and Lakers' depth charts and minutes adjusted for accuracy.

The goal of the simulation is to see if LeBron's departure and Kobe's arrival improved the Cavs' chances of winning against the Lakers or vice versa. Thus, learning which player is more valuable to their franchise.

LeBron's Lakers vs Kobe's Cavs - 1001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Kobe's Cavs 18.795.3Boxscore
@ LeBron's Lakers 81.3106.7

Scowl at the Moon

Kobe Bryant
Kobe's 2009-10 Stats
27.0 5.5 5.0

The defense rests. LeBron James is the NBA's more valuable player.

By adding him to the Los Angeles roster, the Lakers winning-percentage improved nearly 50-percent (49.8). These simulations also illustrate the obvious fact that Kobe is surrounded by a stronger supporting cast in LA. LeBron's winning percentage improved nearly 13-percent by moving out West.

With all that said, the conclusion that LeBron is the most valuable player in the NBA comes at a weird time. Though he scored 24 points, the Boston Celtics truly locked down LeBron in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Now, much has been made about the elbow injury being more serious than James is letting on, but I asked him following the Game 2 loss if the back-to-back MVP could be held down in back-to-back games.

"I think the MVP thing has nothing to do with it,"James said. "I think an (opponent's) game plan is always intact for me when I go on the basketball court. I have to be ready to read their defense."

James said he didn't think he was playing tentatively in Game 2 despite his elbow bothering him. He did manage to get to the line 15 times and says a tied series heading back to Boston isn't causing him to sweat just yet.

"There's no panic for me,"James said. "This is a long series. There's no panic button. I understand we might have to play with a little sense of urgency."

Thunder vs Cavs - 1001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Oklahoma City Thunder25.396.0Boxscore
Cleveland Cavaliers74.7103.7

NBA MVP Voting

Kevin Durant
MVP 1st Place Votes
James Durant Bryant
116 4 0

Now before my inbox is flooded with emails complaining that I didn't compare LeBron's value to the player who finished second in MVP first place votes, I'm on it.

Kevin Durant nipped LeBron for the scoring title by four-tenths of a point (30.1 ppg). The Oklahoma City Thunder's franchise player led his team into the playoffs for the first time and for a brief moment gave the Lakers a scare.

Like Kobe, Kevin's team fell in both meetings with the Cavs during the regular season. The Whatifsports.com simulation engines seem to follow the trend, with the Cavs winning at nearly a 75-percent clip over OKC.

Using Whatifsports.com's Dream Team feature, we then sent Durant to Cleveland and LeBron to Oklahoma City. The Thunder's chances of winning improved by nearly 40-percent with LeBron in the line-up. Again, it's not a shock and awe moment.

Durant's Cavs do have a better winning percentage than Kobe's Cavs only proving that the Thunder's supporting cast is not as strong as the Lakers. I know, I know them's fighting words. The debate of which team, between the Lakers and Thunder, has the most depth will be fun to watch evolve over the next several post-seasons. And a what-if scenario for another day.

Durant's Cavs vs LeBron's Thunder - 1001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Durant's Cavs 35.299.1Boxscore
@ LeBron's Thunder 64.8103.2

LeBron's value to the Cleveland market is unprecedented. If he elects to jump ship following the 2010 playoffs, the Cavs will disappear into medium market mediocrity for years to come. If James stays, Gilbert and the Cavs' fanbase can agree they owe the back-to-back MVP an IOU down the road.

Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com. Feel free to shoot him an email with any questions or comments.

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