Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An MVP Performance

Now there's an MVP
I'll be the first to admit that I doubted the validity of a member of the Suns winning the MVP Award. Despite those 62 wins and all of the exciting basketball, it seemed too hard to pinpoint any one person as being responsible for the success. Now I have to change course. After watching Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals last night, it became obvious that Phoenix may indeed possess the most valuable player in the league. A force so dominant that he creates mismatches on every possession, causes coaches to lose sleep, and makes the game as easy as can be for his teammates. My apologies, city of Phoenix!

It takes a lot for me to admit when I'm wrong, but 40 points and 16 boards will do it. When you see a guy come out the day after the MVP is announced and absolutely dominate the game on both ends of the floor - getting to the line, dunking in traffic, hitting a myriad of 15-footers, jumping over teammates to block shots, and snaring every rebound in sight - you know you are seeing something special. You are seeing a team's franchise player prove to the world why he's the MVP of the league.

Oh wait ... that was Amare Stoudemire, not Steve Nash. My bad.


Anonymous said...

Dude, let it go. You are Nash Hater #1.

Mike P. said...

What do you think about the argument being forwarded that Amare, not Nash, would be the most Suns player most likely to be poached by an opposing GM (for just next year)? Makes sense to me.

Jeff Dritz said...

Not sure what you're asking, Mike. Do you mean that Amare might be taken by another team? No way Phoenix would let that happen, he's the future of that franchise. The Suns player most likely to end up somewhere else next year is Joe Johnson, who's quietly begun to break out, and is a free agent. Cleveland would do well to sign him to hit 3s from Lebron dishes, and cover 2/3s.

Mike P. said...

No, sorry, that wasn't very clear. I was referring to the argument forwarded by some Nash Bashers (in regard to the MVP race) that you could argue he's not in fact the MVP of his own team. The reasoning was that if you asked every GM in the league which Suns player they would take for next season - and next year only - the vast majority would take Amare over Nash. I just wondered what you guys thought about that. Would you take Amare or Steve?

By the way, you guys really love Joe Johnson over there at What If Sports. Do you think maybe you are overrating him a little?

Adam Hoff said...

I feel you. I read the same argument somewhere and I think it is pretty valid. It goes to the point I was (sarcastically) making with this post. There are myriad reasons why Nash should not have won the MVP award - the fact that his teammate, Stoudemire, is viewed as a more valuable player is just one of them.

As for Joe Johnson, you are absolutely right that we love him over here. He's one of the most underrated players in the game: versatiile, athletic, tough, and deadly accurate from behind the arc. My man is going to get paid this summer.

Jeff Dritz said...

Ah, I follow you, Mike. I think pretty much all GMs would take Amare over Nash. A strong big man who runs the court as well as Amare and is versatile enough to hit jumpers is at a much higher premium than a point guard who runs a good offense but doesn't play much D.

As for Johnson, I don't think he gets enough credit for his D. He covers top 2/3s, and does a solid job. In fact, most of the Suns regulars are pretty strong 1-on-1 defenders (Johnson, Marion, Amare, and Q). I think the reason they give up so many points is two-, perhaps three-fold. First, they run so much on offense and score so quickly that opposing teams simply have more possessions, with more chances to score. Second, Nash disappears sometimes on D. And finally, for some reason that I can't figure out, their team D scheme isn't that great. But hey, when you're winning that many games, this isn't really much of a problem. If it's not broken, why fix it, right?

Adam Hoff said...

So, the Mavs' "key to victory" has been elusive up to this point. I was convinced that they needed to go small and run pick and rolls with Terry and Dirk all game long, ala Bibby and Webber back in 2002. However, Dallas may have just stumbled onto an even better sollution: play Marquis Daniels at point guard. You hate to put Terry on the bench, but if he's not going to drill every 18-footer (the way he did last round and the way Bibby did in '02), then the pick and roll might not work. However, posting up Nash WILL work. With Daniels in the game, he can join Finley, Stackhouse, Howard, and Dirk, creating an offense featuring five lanky, athletic players. Who is Nash going to guard? No matter which player he tries to defend, you can just post him, draw double-teams and start getting easy baskets. The only way to beat Phoenix is to expose Nash's defensive shortcomings. Daniels might be the answer.

Adam Hoff said...

A few other random thoughts while watching this Mavs-Suns game:

- Finley has clearly been given access to a time machine.

- I know I've mentioned this about 4,000 times, but what were the Nuggets thinking last summer? If anyone watched their first round series with the Spurs, they were missing only one piece: a shooting guard that can hit threes and rebound. Who does that sound like? Well, Quentin Richardson comes to mind. And who was a free agent last year that wound up signing for the relative bargain price of 6 years, 36 million? That too would be Q. Why didn't the Nuggets sign him? There should be an investigation into this.

- Josh Howard is a poor man's Shawn Marion. Doesn't need any plays run for him, is lightening fast off the floor, has great instincts, hits the boards, doesn't make mistakes, and is a surprisingly adept shooter. Which leads me to wonder: where was he down the stretch?

- Speaking of Marion, he just threw up the quietest 23 point/15 rebound/6 block performance I've ever seen. Plus, he looks exactly like Uchena from the Amazing Race. It's uncanny.

- Poor Joe Johnson. My man landed right on his dome from about six feet off the ground. He looked like Jake LaMotta after his sixth bout with Sugar Ray Robinson (the St. Valentine's Day Massacre).

- Despite the fact that he missed some big shots down the stretch, I have to comment on that fact that Amare Stoudemire has absolutely incredible body control. I know Nash helps him out by making great passes, but a lot of those dimes would never be converted by any other player. Amare often catches balls near his knees, at full speed, and is able to finish with ease ... all while avoiding a charging foul. He's a marvel. Again though, rough finish tonight.

- By the way, I still don't see the MVP when I look at Steve Nash. Tonight he took more shots than anyone else on the team and only hit on 40% of his attempts. Plus, Terry finally realized who was guarding him and lit Nash up on the other end. He hit a big shot late in the game, but I'm sorry, this guy is just not the MVP of the league. It's not possible. (Why can't I let this go?)

- Finally, what in the world was Phoenix thinking putting Q on Dirk? Did they think the aura of a shooting guard would conjure up the tough D played by T-Mac in the first round? Shawn Marion was put on this earth to guard Dirk on that play. What year is this?

Jeff Dritz said...

Comments on Adam's comments:

The Nuggets thought that Voshon Lenard was going to be their answer at shooting guard, but he went down on opening night (man, was he fat at the All-Star break, by the way. Looked like he ate Earl Boykins). I'd guess that they didn't want to spend the necessary amount of money to sign Q because they spent so much for K-Mart and plan to have to spend a lot in the next few years on 'Melo, Nene, and Andre Miller. They probably thought they could get by with a cheap 2, but they certainly couldn't get by without a 2 altogether.

Josh Howard is much more of a thug than Shawn Marion. When he looks right into the camera, I worry he's going to reach through the TV and punch me in the face.

I need to show some love for Steve Nash. While I don't think he should've been MVP, I don't know if there's another player out there with better court vision. He knows where every player is on the court at all times, and makes every possible open pass (and a lot of passes that aren't really open). He's also pretty consistent, never seems to have a horrible game. This is a product of his ability to rack up assists, even when his shot isn't falling (like last night). He's definitely a teammate most players would love to have. Now if only someone could teach him how to defend.

Finally, I didn't like the flagrant foul call on Jerry Stackhouse for his foul on Joe Johnson. Johnson went down hard not because of the foul, but because his feet were not under him due to his grabbing of the rim. I know the refs can't see the replays the way we did, but they initially didn't call it flagrant, then got together and changed their minds. I think this was a home team call, and the refs were influenced by the crowd's reaction.

Adam Hoff said...

I really don't know what to make of Steve Nash's performance last night in Game 4. On one hand, he scored 48 points on 20-for-28 shooting and earned heaps of praise from the TNT crew. At one point he was 7-for-13, meaning that he finished 13-for-15 on a dizzying array of jumpers, leaners, and scoop shots in the lane.

On the other hand, we know that Dallas was letting him score - they admitted as much after the game - and that they shut down his playmaking game. Nash finished with a brutal nine turnovers to go with only five assists. The Mavs were doubling Amare and forcing Nash to go elsewhere. Often, elsewhere meant two points, but it also led to nine lost possessions.

So, the question is whether Nash had an amazing performance, a costly performance, or a mixed bag. Any thoughts? I'm leaning toward mixed bag, knowing that if Iverson went for 48 and 5 assists with nine turnovers, he'd be catching hell for it and being blamed for this team's loss and ridiculed for not getting his teammates involved.

Adam Hoff said...

Rather than post something new about the Suns-Mavs, I figured I'd just continue this thread and hope everyone finds it.

The Suns are being given almost no chance to win this series, despite being tied 2-2 and having two more home games. Because the Mavs shut down Amare last game, Phoenix is being written off. Why? Is there a rule that keeps the Suns from making adjustments? Do people really believe that Dallas will shoot 56% again. Throw in the fact that Q-Jackson-Marion are bound to shoot better from three and I like Phoenix's chances.

That said, I think the Suns need to make one key adjustment in tonight's game. They need to quit forcing the ball to Amare on the block. Dallas has clearly solved the screen-and-roll and they are doubling Stoudemire everywhere he goes. So what the Suns need to do is put Q down on the block and keep Amare at the free throw line. If no help comes, Richardson can overpower his opponent. If the Mavs drop help, Amare can read the D and either hit a 15-footer or slash down the middle. They really miss Joe Johnson in the halfcourt, but posting Q would give them at least a little variety to go with the pick-and-roll.

Prediction: Suns by 11.

Chris, Phoenix said...

Hey, good call on the Suns victory. But don't you think its time to FINALLY admit that you were wrong about Nash. If he's not the MVP, there's no such thing. Need proof? 34. 13. And 12.

Adam Hoff said...

I will never concede that Nash was the deserving winner of the MVP award, for one simple reason: he wasn’t. He has been terrific in the Dallas series; bringing more offense to the table, hitting the glass, and playing more minutes. He's played hard and done everything in his power to win games. I tip my cap to him and celebrate the way he’s playing the game.

However, he's still not the most valuable player in the NBA. He can't be, because he's a liability on the defensive end - and in case you hadn't noticed, defense is half the game. Beyond that basic problem, here are a couple of other significant reasons why he should not have won:

- Iverson was more valuable. In fact, I changed my vote from Shaq to AI after he carried the Sixers into the playoffs and finished with one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history.

- Shaq was more valuable. Just look at it this way: He single-handedly allowed the Suns to win at least 6-7 more games by going to Miami. Seriously. When Shaq left the West, he gave Phoenix at least two wins over the Lakers, and 4-5 wins over other teams that no longer featured a big time center (to counter Shaq) in the West. And that doesn’t even count all the wins they were able to rack up by having their best five players on the floor at all times. O'Neal's absence in the West is one of the primary reasons Phoenix was able to roll the dice and go small. If Shaq is still on the Lakers, the Suns have Jake Voskul at center (or worse, they have Dampier instead of Q) and they are a 50-win team. Oh yeah, and Shaq also led his new team to the best record in the East while his old team dropped into the lottery. Plus, Nash's old team is better without him (and the Suns turnaround was a group effort; Amare got healthy, Johnson got better, Marion changed positions, and Q came on board – I still contend that Nash benefited from being on the Suns even more than the Suns benefited from having Nash.)

- You can't get sucked in by one playoff series. First of all, the Mavs are letting Nash shoot wide open 12-footers whenever he wants, so don't get carried away by the stats. Second, even when he was just a rebound away from a triple-double midway through the third quarter, the Suns were down six and showing no signs of surging past the Mavs. Then, Amare started going crazy. He ran the floor, gabbed every rebound, and made some of the most acrobatic moves ever performed by a 6'10" individual. He scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the game's final 17 minutes. A grand total of one basket came off a Nash assist. As Amare goes, so go the Suns – he’s their most “valuable” player. Third, as good and tough as Nash has been over the past two games, the Suns are actually outscoring the Mavs 20-8 when he's on the bench. A small sample to be sure, and probably just a coincidence, but before you use Games 4 and 5 as the ultimate argument for Nash as the MVP, think about those numbers for a minute.

- This last part isn't so much a reason, but a pair of observations. 1) Jason Kidd was equally deserving of the MVP award in 2002, and for all the same reasons. Yet he finished second. Why? Supposedly Tim Duncan was just too good that year to give it to a point guard. So to award it to Nash this year is a slap in the face to Iverson, who had a year that was just as impressive as Duncan's. Giving Nash the award is akin to saying "there were no true MVP's this year." Which is pure crap. 2) Shaq and Nash now have the same number of MVP awards. While I don't want to see this turned into the Oscars, where they dish out makeup awards left and right, this was the perfect opportunity to get Shaq a second trophy and ensure his legacy. He's the link in the chain of greatness. The torch was passed from Bird/Magic to Jordan to Shaw and now to LeBron. Shaq represents the post-Jordan NBA. He's been the dominant player, the biggest winner (has the chance to lead all three of his teams to the Finals), and one of the most likeable stars. Yet 50 years from now, people will be sitting around debating the all-time greats. And some moron will put Shaq at something like #39 all time and his excuse will read: "How dominant could he have been? He only won one MVP award." That will be an absolute shame.

Adam Hoff said...

Okay, so Nash is making me eat my words. I don't take back my unofficial MVP vote, but I am going to bring the "Steve Nash should never have received the MVP Award" propoganda machine to a grinding halt. My man averaged 39-9-9 over the final three games of the series and became the first player in NBA playoff history to average 30 points and 12 dimes a game over the course of a series. Wow. The 39-12-9 in Game Six was one of the best performances I've ever seen from a point guard, and he arguably had four of the 10 greatest single-game performances of his career in this one series. Not only does that say a whole about Steve Nash, but it sure says a lot about the Mavericks as well. Nice defense.

As well as Nash played, is it just me, or did Dirk's stock drop more than anyone else in the playoffs? Bibby was woeful, Rashard Lewis looks kind of like a wimp right now, Webber was a human anchor on the 76ers, and David Wesley was the most underrated horrible player in many years, but Dirk might take the cake. Yelling at teammates both on and off the court and then not backing it up, botching his defensive assignments over and over again, letting T-Mac shut him down in the Houston series, relying on Jason Terry to keep Dallas in big games, watching old pal Nash show him up over and over ... just not a good couple of weeks for the big German. He needs to go home and read the tales of the Red Baron (except for the part when he got shot down) over the offseason and come back strong in the fall. Someone get the people at "Extreme Makeover: Whining Euro Edition" on the horn.

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