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Jayson Tatum says he would give LeBron James the MVP if the season ended today

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The Celtics forward has already had his fair share of battles against LeBron only three years into his career.

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The NBA suspension has provided plenty of down time to obsess about league minutiae. One topic that everyone loves to debate is NBA awards, and with over 75 percent of the league’s regular season complete, there is enough of a sample size to make reasonable conclusions.

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum made his picks in an interview with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report, and his MVP was a little surprising.

"I think I would give it to LeBron. They were the number one team, number one seed in the West, you know he was averaging 25 [points] and I think he was leading the league in assists, so at that age especially, for him to still be as good as he is, playing at such a high level, I think I would give it to him."

We have laid out our pitch for LeBron James’ MVP candidacy at Silver Screen & Roll, and many Lakers agree that James should win, including Jared Dudley, Anthony Davis, and Frank Vogel. But getting an endorsement from an opposing player, and a heated rival at that, carries more weight. It’s quite possible Tatum is still seething with the memory of James hitting a game-winner against the Celtics in February on a day that Tatum set a career-high with 41 points.

Nevertheless, Tatum’s argument isn’t particularly compelling. He seems to rely on the fact that James is performing this well late in his career, but the MVP award isn’t reserved for players ages 30 and up. The Bucks were also in first place in their conference, and first place overall in the league, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s statistical output dwarfs that of James, despite the Lakers star’s incredible season to date.

Tatum doesn’t even mention Antetokounmpo as someone he considered, and he also snubbed the Bucks forward for Defensive Player of the Year. Perhaps it’s more difficult for Tatum to acknowledge the greatness of a player within his own conference, one who eliminated him from the playoffs last season.

James was building up steam for his MVP case right as the season came to an abrupt stop. He had his best weekend of the year against Antetokounmpo’s Bucks and Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers before the suspension, and could have done enough during the rest of March and April to steal the award from Antetokounmpo, who had just suffered a knee injury against the Lakers.

As it stands, even with Tatum’s endorsement, it’s unlikely that James will take home the 2019-20 MVP. At least he can take solace in that he remains the players’ choice.