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NBA Finals 2020: LeBron James? Anthony Davis? Jimmy Butler? Who wins Finals MVP?

LeBron James? Anthony Davis? Jimmy Butler? Who will be named NBA Finals MVP and receive the Bill Russell trophy.


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At this stage of the NBA Finals, talk starts to turn towards the player most deserving of the Finals MVP award. Frivolous though it may be to some, the annual trophy adds intrigue and discussion to a stage of the competition when the outcome seems inevitable.

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That is not to say there is not any fight left in the Miami Heat. This is one of the best structured and hardest working rosters to be down 3-1 in the championship round’s history, and fully healthy, they might have brought an even tougher fight to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But whether it has been the Heat’s injuries, the elite talent and coaching of the team in purple and gold, the divine presence of Kobe Bryant giving his old team new life, or the fact that LeBron James knows how to handle this point of the season better than anyone else still playing professional basketball, it is hard to imagine the Lakers losing three straight games to miss out on lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

So, when the series concludes, who will be holding the Bill Russell Finals MVP award? Let’s examine the three leading candidates.

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Jimmy Butler

As far fetched as it might seem, there is precedent for the Finals MVP to be from the non-winning team. In 1969, the Los Angeles Lakers missed out on the championship in heartbreaking fashion, losing to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series for the ages.

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Laker guard Jerry West scored 53 in the opening game and averaged 37.9 points in the series. His team-mate Wilt Chamberlain managed 25 rebounds per game, while their opponents boasted Bill Russell, who averaged 21 rebounds, and John Havlicek, who averaged 28 points.

In Game 7, the Lakers mounted a massive comeback in the fourth quarter, out-scoring Boston 30-17 in the final frame. But the Celtics held on and the Lakers lost by just two points, despite 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists from West, who played every second of the game to earn Finals MVP honours.

Unless Miami overcome the odds to force a Game 7, it is unlikely anyone on the Heat will be walking away with an individual trophy.

But if they do, it will be presented to the only player who has put together West-like lines. In the one win they have managed so far, Jimmy Butler recorded 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. No Goran Dragic, a limited Bam Adebayo and reduced production from Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro makes Butler the only candidate.

Anthony Davis

In his first year with the Lakers, and in the first Finals appearance of his career, Anthony Davis put his stamp on the series and made people question exactly who the Most Valuable Player was on this team. In Game 1, his 34 points and nine rebounds registered the highest plus-minus (how much the team out-scored their opponent with that player on the court) of the game with +23.

Davis followed that up with 32 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes in Game 2. But it was not just the numbers, it was the way he went about getting them. His performance had shades of Tim Duncan, hints of Hakeem Olajuwon, and it looked like the potential that Davis showed while toiling away on the New Orleans Pelicans during the first few years of his career was blossoming.

Game 3 began with the Heat’s only true center sidelined. Bam Adebayo’s injured shoulder and neck made it impossible for him to play, and it seemed like the type of game in which nobody would be able to step in and slow down one of the most dangerous bigs in the NBA.

But a mix of Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, and sprinkles of Jae Crowder restricted Davis to just nine total shots after he picked up three fouls in the first half and a fourth halfway through the third quarter. He managed just 15 points and five rebounds, and then followed it up with 22 and nine in Game 4.

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Davis had the chance to reach new heights, but being great means being able to perform in the most difficult circumstances. The key thing to remember, however, is that he is still just 27 and only just entering his prime – this might not be the last time we see him in a position to win a Finals MVP.

LeBron James

Nobody has won three Finals MVP awards on three different teams. Nobody.

Some will try to criticise LeBron James’ location movement throughout his career as a way to knock his Greatest Of All Time status, whereas Michael Jordan spent his entire career (if you ignore his 2002 comeback with the Washington Wizards) with the Chicago Bulls.

But every person who features in that debate needs to forge their own path – not everybody can win six Finals MVPs and six championships, just as players will not win 11 championships in 13 seasons in the way Bill Russell did.

The game has changed. Free agency has made the potential of one player winning three Finals MVP awards on three different teams more likely – Kawhi Leonard might have done it this year as well had the LA Clippers reached the pinnacle – but you still have to be great to achieve it, and boast the longevity and varied skill set to adapt to your team and changes in the game.

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James is averaging 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in this year’s Finals. After he stropped off the court at the end of the Lakers’ Game 3 loss, the next contest saw James shoot 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from three and go to the free throw line 12 times while scoring 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He dominated when his team slipped. He set the tone to ensure a tough victory in a game that could have gone either way.

Who will win?

James has more experience than anyone in Finals games at this stage.

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It is not unheard of that the Finals MVP does not go to the best player on the team (shout out to Kawhi Leonard in 2014), or even the best player in the series (looking at you in 2015, Andre Iguodala), but unless James collapses in the next few games and Davis steps up in a big way to drag the Lakers over the finish line, history will be made: James will be the first player ever to win three Finals MVPs on three different teams and climb another step up the ladder in the Greatest Of All Time discussion.

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