8:40 AM ETKevin PeltonESPN Staff Writer Close Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE systemIt’s now been 5½ years since LeBron James last won MVP, though he’s generally been regarded as the league’s best player since then. To help address this discrepancy, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols has proposed on The Jump a second award that isn’t limited only to value during the regular season — increasingly different from the value that players provide during the playoffs because of a greater emphasis on keeping stars fresh and healthy for the postseason.Although it hasn’t resulted in any actual hardware for James, such an award exists: the Golden Basketball, which I’ve given since 2014 to the best player in the previous calendar year, along the lines of global soccer’s Ballon d’Or. Lo and behold, James won three times in the first four years because of his excellence in the playoffs. (Stephen Curry, in 2015, when the Golden State Warriors won their first title and started the following season undefeated, was the lone player to interrupt James’ dominance.)Does James win again for 2018? Let’s run through the top players of the calendar year.