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NBA Awards: LeBron James is easily the MVP over James Harden

Think about the Celtics.

Danny Ainge, the praised Boston GM, stalled for years before making his move — before unloading his trove of cap space and draft picks for win-now pieces — partly because he was waiting out LeBron James.

Then Ainge signed Gordon Hayward and snatched Kyrie Irving from Cleveland, leaving a 33-year-old LeBron without his best teammate.

It seemed a sound strategy to dethrone LeBron, finally, after his seven straight Eastern Conference titles. But look at where we are today.

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LeBron James has earned what should be the fifth MVP award of his remarkable career.

(Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

James, the violator of Father Time, will play his 82nd game of the season against the Knicks Wednesday night, carrying a team of misfits to a top-4 seed.

Two of his former All-Star teammates, Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose, were absolute disasters this season. Dwyane Wade came and went. Kevin Love broke his hand and had a panic attack during a game. Coach Tyronn Lue took a leave of absence. Jose Calderon, the Knicks reject, is the starting point guard.

But there was LeBron, night in and night out, putting together arguably the best season of his Jordan-esque career. He holds averages of 27.7 points, 9.2 assists and 8.7 rebounds on 54 percent shooting. He leads the league in minutes and total points.

He is also my choice for MVP — yes, above James Harden (way above) — and still the assumed King of the Eastern Conference. The Celtics? They had a very nice season and anything can happen in the playoffs. But those big summer acquisitions are both injured — Irving because of knee surgery, and Hayward because of ankle surgery — and nobody would be surprised if they flame out in the opening two rounds.

James Harden is big reason why Houston has the NBA

James Harden is big reason why Houston has the NBA’s best record, but he’s not nearly as valuable as LeBron is to Cleveland.

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Maybe Ainge should’ve waited a little longer.

The argument for Harden over LeBron for MVP makes sense only because the Rockets own the league’s best record. But otherwise it’s not close.

Harden may have a better scoring average, but part of being the MVP is being available — and LeBron will finish with more minutes than Harden, more points, more assists, more rebounds, more blocks and a better field goal percentage.

He’s also a better defender.

Ben Simmons has helped lift Philly back to the playoffs during his stellar rookie season.

Ben Simmons has helped lift Philly back to the playoffs during his stellar rookie season.

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons (Sixers)

For much of this season I had Donovan Mitchell as the front runner, but Philly’s current run of 15 straight victories put Simmons over the top.

Coach of the Year: Dwane Casey (Raptors)

He led the Raptors to the best record in the Eastern Conference on the back of a dominant bench. Who comprises that reserve group? Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl. Not exactly household names, but Casey made it work.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Kawhi Leonard was out and Draymond Green was subpar this season, meaning we need a different DPOY for the first time since Joakim Noah (yes, that guy exiled from the Knicks) in 2014. Gobert is not the ideal candidate because he missed so many games, but he’s an inside force and rim protector unlike any other in today’s NBA.

Victor Oladipo.

Victor Oladipo.

(NBA Photos/NBAE/Getty Images)

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo (Pacers)

Put the ball in Oladipo’s hands and he’s a star. That was proven this season in Indiana, where Oladipo — freed from the shackles of playing alongside Russell Westbrook in OKC — became a two-way stud while leading the Pacers into the playoffs.

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams (Clippers)

He is the prototype for this award, a microwave scorer who averages over 22 points. It held that he’s also playing nearly 33 minutes per game. But as long as he’s coming off the bench, Williams is eligible for this award and should win it in a landslide.

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