Los Angeles Lakers veteran Jared Dudley is in his 13th season in the NBA, a perspective that allows him to designate that his current teammate LeBron James is the best leader that he’s ever seen.
Dudley spoke with Michael Lee of The Athletic as part of a wide-ranging interview on different topics.
In Dudley’s view, the combination of James’ production and leadership capabilities makes him a better choice than the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo as this season’s most valuable player.
“Giannis has improved but LeBron is at such a high level. Of the mental aspect of the game. Of telling AD (Anthony Davis) where to be at,” Dudley said. “As a leader, because I’ve heard people that played with Kawhi and Giannis, and from a leadership standpoint, what this man does, on and off the court, is the best. I’ve played with guys like Nash, Chris Paul. There is no one that compares to LeBron’s leadership, on and off the floor. His demeanor, with what he does, to still be a guys’ guy, to do the team dinners, to hang out, to bringing the whole Lakers organization together. Who really deserves the MVP this season? Both deserve it. Do I think LeBron is a little bit more deserving? Yes. Do I think Giannis’ stats are better? Yes. But the MVP is not necessarily the best stats.”
James was averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game this season, compared to Antetokounmpo’s 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per contest.
Yet, James has shown the ability to play both in the paint and effectively serve as the Lakers point guard. That adaptability, coupled with his resume of three NBA titles and nine finals appearances, offers him a leadership stature that Antetokounmpo hasn’t quite reached.
In addition, James’ incredible recall of entire game sequences gives him the sort of basketball IQ that again currently puts him above his Milwaukee rival.
When NBA play was suspended on March 11, both the Lakers and Bucks held the best records in their respective conferences.
If and when play resumes, that could put the two teams on a collision course for the finals, which could help set up a titanic matchup between the two players.