With Game 5 potentially being the last game of the 2020 NBA Finals, it's time to talk Finals MVP.
Heading into Game 5, there are three leading candidates to be crowned this season's Finals MVP: LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Los Angeles Lakers and Jimmy Butler on the Miami Heat.
Butler's odds are slim right now - this is your reminder that Jerry West is the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP on a losing team and it happened 51 years ago - but he's played well enough to deserve mention.
So who's in the driver's seat for Finals MVP? Let's take a closer look at the case for James, Davis and Butler.
The case for LeBron James
Finals MVP odds: -1000
Nobody is averaging more points (27.8) and rebounds (11.0) than James in the 2020 NBA Finals. He's also averaging 8.5 assists per game, putting him behind only Butler (10.0) for the most in the series.
James has yet to record a triple-double, but he's come close in all four games.
In Game 1, James posted 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. In Game 2, 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. In Game 3, 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. In Game 4, 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Unlike Davis, who dealt with foul trouble and was limited to 15 points in Game 3, James has made a tremendous impact offensively in each and every game of the series.
James has been scoring efficiently as well, shooting 54.1 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from 3-point range and 71.9 percent from the free throw line. It's made all the more impressive by the bulk of his scoring being self-manufactured against a Heat team that has several like-sized defenders in Butler, Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. According to NBA.com, 25 of the 40 shots James has made so far have been unassisted. Davis has been much more reliant on his teammates, with only 13 of the 40 shots he has made being unassisted.
MORE: The Finals turns LeBron into a bully
The only thing James has struggled with lately is turnovers. After turning the ball over only twice in the first two games of the series, he combined for 14 in the last two games. Five of those turnovers came in the first half of Game 4, but James more than made up for it with a masterful second half that saw him record 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists while turning the ball over only once.
It fueled the Lakers to victory, putting them one win away from championship No. 17.
LJ's 2nd half lifts LA to 3-1 lead! 💪@KingJames (28 PTS, 12 REB, 8 AST) drops 20 in the 2nd half as the @Lakers win Game 4 and go up 3-1!- NBA (@NBA) October 7, 2020
Game 5: Friday - 9:00pm/et, ABC pic.twitter.com/WwZ2x9lhDF
According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, there have only been five times in NBA history where a player has won a championship while leading their team in scoring, rebounds and assists. James has already done it three times (2012, 2013, 2016), whereas Magic Johnson (1987) and Tim Duncan (2003) each did it once. Each time, it resulted in a Finals MVP.
That bodes well for James as he looks to become the first player ever to win Finals MVP with three different teams.
The case for Anthony Davis
Finals MVP odds: +600
The Finals MVP was Davis' to lose two games into the Finals.
Davis was the best player on the court in Game 1 with 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists. James had a big game as well, but it was Davis who set the tone with an explosive first half that helped the Lakers build a double-digit lead that carried them to victory.
Davis approached history with his performance, tying Elgin Baylor for the third-most points ever scored by a Laker in their Finals debut.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points in the Lakers Game 1 win over the Heat.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 1, 2020
That's tied for the 3rd-most points scored in a NBA Finals debut in Lakers franchise history, behind only Shaquille O'Neal (43 in 2000) and George Mikan (42 in 1949).
Elgin Baylor also had 34 points in 1959. pic.twitter.com/TyB87IEDdo
Davis was just as good in Game 2. He finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds, doing so on 15-for-20 shooting from the field. He was at his most dominant in the third quarter when he scored 15 points and grabbed four offensive rebounds. With Bam Adebayo sidelined with a neck injury, Davis used his size to punish the Heat in their 2-3 zone that gave the Boston Celtics so much trouble in the Eastern Conference Finals.
MORE: LeBron and Davis are cheat codes to Miami's zone
Davis struggled in Game 3, but he bounced back in a big way in Game 4. He did a little bit of everything, scoring 22 points, grabbing nine rebounds, dishing out four assists and blocking four shots. He also played a leading role in Butler having his lowest-scoring game of the series. Davis went from guarding Crowder and Kelly Olynyk in the first three games of the series to taking on the assignment of guarding Butler in Game 4. With Davis marking him, nothing came easy for Butler. (More on that here).
Put it all together and Davis is averaging 25.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 blocks on 60.6 percent shooting from the field, 54.5 percent shooting from 3-point range and 100.0 percent shooting from the free throw line in the Finals. Other than Game 3 when he dealt with foul trouble, the Heat have had no answer for him.
To boot, the Lakers have outscored the Heat by 24 points in the 152 minutes Davis has been on the court. For comparison, the Lakers have outscored the Heat by 11 points in the 153 minutes James has been on the court.
The Lakers have even survived the minutes Davis has been on the court without James in the Finals (+11 in 37 minutes), which wasn't the case in the regular season.
The case for Jimmy Butler
Finals MVP odds: +2300
Again, the odds of Butler being Finals MVP should the Lakers win Game 5 are slim to none, but he still deserves mention.
Since Game 1, Butler has been putting up LeBron-like numbers to the tune of 29.0 points, 11.7 assists and 9.7 rebounds per game. He kept Game 2 closer than it should've been considering the Heat were without Adebayo and Goran Dragic, putting up 25 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. He then had a historic 40-point triple-double in Game 3 that helped the Heat win their first game of the series.
After Jimmy Butler's 40 PTS, 11 REB, 13 AST in the @MiamiHEAT Game 3 W, look back at his best plays in Orlando thus far! #HEATTwitter pic.twitter.com/vrbFtGqD8a- NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2020
Davis was able to contain him in Game 4, but Butler still came an assist shy of recording his second straight triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The on/off numbers tell all you need to know: Miami is averaging 113.6 points per 100 possessions with Butler on the court, an impressive figure considering how short-handed it has been. With him on the bench, that number plummets to 94.0.
The Heat still have a negative net rating with Butler on the court, but they go from being competitive (-2.8) to being blown out of the water (-20.8) when he takes a seat on the bench.
Small sample size? Sure. But Butler is the reason this series has been more competitive than many expected it to be when Adebayo and Dragic went down with injuries in Game 1. If the Heat can extend the series, Butler's Finals MVP case will only grow.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.