Tuesday, April 11, 2006

And The Winner Is ...

Now that we are bearing down on the end of the NBA regular season, it is probably time to pick my MVP. The only probem is that I'm still not exactly sure who that should be. A month ago, I was still convinced that Nash was the guy. The way he pulled together a new group in Phoenix and kept that team elite was remarkable. Plus, his numbers were up across the board. However, while the MVP isn't all about individual stats, you still have to perform all the way through. As discussed in an earlier post, Nash and the Suns went through an extended slump that may have hurt his chances. At the very least, it made this race WIDE open coming down the stretch.

You might also recall a post on this blog that detailed the makeup of every MVP from the past 25 years, in terms of team winning percentage. Of the past 25 winners, 24 of them came from either the first or second best team in the NBA. The lone exception, Michael Jordan in 1987-88, came from a Bulls team that finished third in the East and seventh overall. Of course, you could argue that was one of the top five greatest individual seasons in NBA history (I smell a future post!). Are we really on the brink of seeing #2 out of the last 26 years?

Coming into the season, there was a 4% chance that a team from outside the top two would produce an MVP, but unless the Mavericks can vault past San Antonio in the final week and a half, it looks like it might happen. Tim Duncan has been down this year, Tony Parker isn't quite MVP worthy, and Chauncey Billups needed a record-breaking season from his Pistons to break out of an ensemble cast and win the award. So if Detroit and San Antonio finish 1-2 in the NBA, we are probably going to see a major break from tradition.

Here are the top candidates, complete with where their teams rank in the standings (Conference/Overall).

1. LeBron James (4/7)
2. Steve Nash (3/4)
3. Dwayne Wade (2/5)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (2/3)
5. Kobe Bryant (8/12)

You can basically just toss Kobe out, because that would be too far out of character for voters, and in a year with so many viable candidates from top teams, you just can't make a case that THIS is the season where we need to pull an MVP up from a 41-37 team.

That leaves the other four and that is where it gets tough. All have stats that work in their favor, all have intangible qualities, all are part of success stories. The Suns are the most unlikely elite team. The Cavs are finishing the strongest. The Mavs have been the best of this group and have done it with only Dirk as an All-Star and amid a plethora of injuries. The Heat are steady and Wade is now clearly their best player and arguably the best player in the NBA. How do you sort this out?

For me, it comes down to consistency. There is only one player on this list that hasn't had even a minor slump this year. Only one player that is about to become the fourth player (along with Big O, MJ, and West) to EVER go 30-7-6 in a season. Of this group, LeBron is playing the most minutes and has the best efficiency numbers. He has put the "clutch" problem to bed for good with a series of game-winning passes and shots (and now Elias is reporting that he is by far the best shooter in the NBA in the final two minutes of close games). Plus, his team is on fire down the stretch. If they pass New Jersey for third in the East (currently a half-game back), they would finish third in the conference and seventh overall ... the same place in the standings enjoyed by Jordan's Bulls 18 years ago. I kind of like the symmetry in that.

On top of all that, LBJ had that classic game on Final Four Saturday when he outdueled Wade, posted a 47-12-10 triple double, and took over the most exciting regular season game of the season. It is moments like that tend put the finishing touches on an MVP resume.

With my sincerest apologies to Wade, Nash, and Dirk, I have to take The King on this one.

LeBron James is my choice for MVP.


Adam Hoff said...

I can't believe I just jinxed LeBron into a sprained ankle. That one's on me.

Craig said...

Shouldn't a change a thing. LeBron seems to be head and shoulders above the other candidates. Good post, you said it well.

Anonymous said...

Kenny Smith took Shawn Marion as MVP tonight and Simmons took Kobe. They don't even make your top four. Your thoughts?

Adam Hoff said...

Kenny Smith is a good analyst and seems like a nice guy, but picking Marion as the MVP is absurd. He has a really hard time manufacturing his own shot, which instantly puts him behind LeBron, Wade, Dirk, Kobe, and a host of others.

As for Simmons, it is weird that he picked Kobe, because he seems to have a good handle on NBA history (although sometimes he steals that information from my emails). He should know that the MVP has never come close to being awarded to a guy from a 7th place team. For all Kobe's talent and intensity, he really doesn't make the players around him better at all. I just think in a year with so many viable candidates (particularly LeBron, Nash, Wade, and Dirk), it is impossible to pick a player from a team that far down in the standings. Is this really the year where 40 years of history go out the window and we give the MVP to the guy who scored the most points? Come on.