LeBron James has not played a basketball game in over a month, missing the last 15 games and counting. He likely won’t return to the lineup for the Lakers for another two weeks. With all that in mind, it’s not that surprising that he’s mostly fallen out of consideration for the MVP award. Before his injury, he had at the very least previously been on track to be in the hunt for the award until the final days of the season, with a real chance to take it home for a fifth time.
But according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN’s straw poll of MVP voters, all the missed time may have cost James not just a chance to win the MVP, but a spot on the ballot at all:
James, meanwhile, went from getting more than half of the first-place votes in the last straw poll to getting none this time. He was left off nearly two-thirds of the ballots entirely, garnering just 37 total votes and 105 points. He was just ahead of Chris Paul, who had two first-place votes and 98 total points, with Kawhi Leonard (80 points, including one first-place vote) in eighth, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (28 points) in ninth and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (26 points) in 10th.
For the more visually inclined, James’ latest straw poll tally would see him finish sixth, off of the final ballot:
Nikola Jokic way out ahead in ESPN's MVP straw poll. He was the only player who received a vote from all 101 media members that participated https://t.co/0U0f6ackJt— Owen Llewellyn Henry Jean Phillips (@owenlhjphillips) April 15, 2021
cc @TimBontemps pic.twitter.com/QiIexQTkEx
This mirrors the latest result in our weekly Reacts polls as well, where 89% of NBA fans said that health should help determine who wins the MVP at the end of the season:
This is obviously all unfortunate for James, who obviously could not control having his leg taken out from under him by Solomon Hill, but this is just how the MVP discussion goes every year. Health does play a part in the conversation, and Jokic has managed to stay healthy all year. It is what it is.
And hey, if James is as motivated to show he’s still the best player in the world as he was last year after finishing second in MVP voting, he may have a shot at a second-straight Finals MVP. If the regular season version is out of the question, a fifth ring would be a hell of a consolation prize.