Roundtable: Who's the Finals MVP?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Through five games, the 2015 NBA Finals have been nothing short of spectacular. But which player has been most deserving of being named Finals MVP?[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Stephen Curry[/url] has rediscovered his form after a slow start, and [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Andre Iguodala[/url] has stepped into a starting role to lead the Warriors' small-ball charge.[br /][br /]But it could be [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]LeBron James[/url], whose Cavaliers trail 3-2 heading into Tuesday's Game 6, in the driver's seat for the award despite Cleveland's series deficit. His numbers this series -- 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game -- make for an impressive rsum. And considering Cleveland is playing without stars[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Kyrie Irving[/url] and [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Kevin Love[/url], LeBron's case becomes even stronger.[br /][br /]So who's the favorite right now? We posed the question to our panel of NBA experts.[br /][br /][b]Who is the NBA Finals MVP?[/b][br /][b]J.A. Adande,[/b] LeBron James deserves the Bill Russell award regardless of the series outcome. The alternatives are to give it to a defender who is allowing his man to score 37 points a game (Andre Iguodala) or a shooter who missed 17 of 21 3-pointers in the first two games (Stephen Curry). LeBron has done the most to make his team a viable contender for the championship. That's how I define value on a basketball court. That's what LeBron has done. He could win two more games and render this question moot. But if he doesn't, his unprecedented production deserves an uncommon result.[br /][br /][b]Kevin Arnovitz,[/b] Even if you subscribe to the theory that the Finals MVP should come from the winner's roster, James is the overwhelming pick for the simple reason that he has been the most dominant player in a series that doesn't yet have a winner. But with a transcendent performance in a closeout Game 6 -- a shooting exhibition that truly seals the series for Golden State -- Curry would have a strong case. If he doesn't, even in a Warriors win, LeBron is a worthy choice, win or lose.[br /][Ads /][br /][b]Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Insider:[/b] If the series ends in six, then Curry is the MVP. For all the value LeBron has provided, if it adds up to only two wins, then you can't give him the award. Curry has more help, but he's still the Warriors' engine. But if the series goes to seven, then that game determines the honor.[br /][b]Amin Elhassan,[/b] Iguodala. For all the marveling we've done about LeBron (and he HAS been marvelous), I feel like we're not doing enough marveling about the guy who has put the Best Player on the Planet in handcuffs. For all his magnificence, LeBron has struggled against Iguodala specifically, shooting 35 percent from the field and taking shots from almost twice as far away from the bucket as he does against any other defender (16.3 feet vs. 8.9 feet). Even if you're one of those odd people who think "efficiency doesn't matter," the plus-minus tells the same story: LeBron is minus-46 when Iguodala is on the court, and plus-13 when he's off it. Iguodala has been able to do the unthinkable, shut down LeBron, all while shooting an efficient 55 percent from the field and dropping a well-rounded box score of his own. It's high time we recognize basketball excellence that comes in a form other than "who scored the most points."[br /][br /][b]Israel Gutierrez,[/b] It's impossible to be absolute on this. LeBron has made a mismatched series a closely contested one by being otherworldly. Curry's presence alone allowed the Warriors time to adjust in this series and avoid being buried in a 3-0 hole. And now he's playing great basketball. If the Warriors close with another double-digit margin of victory, it would be hard to justify giving it to LeBron. That means Curry, with another big night, is MVP. But if Game 6 is tight, or if the series goes seven, LeBron is MVP.[br /][br /]Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider:[/b]LeBron. This is what it looks like when the all-state star plays for the town's junior varsity team. Scores that he produces on his own or shots that he sets up yield an effective field goal percentage of about 50 percent while all non-LeBron shooters are closer to 30 percent. Throw in the ludicrous workload, rebounding and tempo control, and you have easily the most valuable player of the final round.[br /][br /]Baxter Holmes,[/b]Iguodala. He has guarded James better than any top-flight defender in recent memory (check the analytics) and sparked the small-ball resurgence that turned around the series, all while spending the season on the bench. And, yes, James has played on a once-in-a-lifetime level, but it makes sense for only the winning team to be able to hoist all the trophies in the end. So I've got to go with Iggy. Much respect.[br /][br /][b]Dave McMenamin,[/b] LeBron. His effect on the series game-to-game, from being able to enforce a Cavs-friendly pace on the free-wheeling Warriors to playing every position from point guard to center while racking up more numbers than Vince Vaughn's character in "Swingers" has been simply remarkable. However, all either Curry or Iguodala would need to do is have a big game in a championship-clinching win for a Golden State player to end up winning the Bill Russell trophy in the end.[br /][br /][b]Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider:[/b] LeBron. I'm not sure how often a player on the losing team should be MVP, but the answer is surely more than "never." And nobody has dominated a series in potential defeat as James has this year, which is [url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]evident statistically[/url] and by observation. Whether the Cavs win or lose, James is my choice.[br /][br /][b]Ramona Shelburne,[/b] LeBron. Barring an epic drop-the-mike performance from Curry or Iguodala in Games 6 or 7, I think you have to give it to The King. We would have all been home watching the "Game of Thrones" season finale on Sunday if not for LeBron's heroics in this series. He's the reason this is even a competitive series. He has controlled the pace and the play in these Finals. Everything the Warriors are doing is a reaction to him. It's actually quite astounding to watch.[br /][br /]Marc Stein,[/b]If the series ends in Game 6, barring something extraordinary from Curry or Iguodala that breaks the deadlock between them for Most Influential Warrior status, I'm definitely leaning LeBron. This is a series -- and a fun series -- pretty much because of him. How he's keeping [i]these[/i] Cavs in all these games defies description. I see Warriors coaches after games just shaking their heads at how much havoc LeBron is wreaking without his second- and third-most dangerous teammates and without his favorite all-time teammate in[url TARGET="_blank" HREF="" ]Anderson Varejao[/url]. No superstar has ever had to do this much in theFinals before. It's madness.[br /][br /][b]Ethan Sherwood Strauss,[/b] Stephen Curry if the Warriors win, LeBron James if the Cavs pull off the incredible. Curry and the double-teams he draws generated a tremendous amount of Golden State's offense. He's also scoring efficiently (59.1 percent true-shooting percentage) while opening up room for others. James has been doing everything because he [i]must[/i] do everything. He has been fantastic as a passer and defensive rebounder. At the same time, he's missing a lot of shots he usually makes (48.3 true shooting). It's hard to square a building sentiment that Andre Iguodala deserves Finals MVP for shutting down James, or that James deserves MVP even if his team loses.[br /][br /][b]David Thorpe, ESPN Insider:[/b] Curry or James. It's simple, really. The losing team can have the MVP only if the winners ease to four wins despite having no stellar play from an individual, I suppose. That is not the case here. Golden State's entire offense is based on Curry making the right play when he draws two defenders on ball screens, and when his "gravity" impact allows his teammates to enjoy four-on-four when he is off the ball. Oh, and he has made plenty of sparkling shots and big plays.[br/][br/][sectionHeader]Related Video[/sectionHeader][promoExternal HREF="" IMAGE="" TITLE="LeBron Finals MVP no matter what" DESCRIPTION="ESPN's J.A. Adande, Zach Lowe and Marc Stein discuss how LeBron James is the front-runner for Finals MVP even if the Warriors win the title." ][br /]