Monday, January 07, 2008

MVP So Far

I wasn't planning on writing about the MVP race, considering it is January, and I'm not a fan of aping other people's columns, but so many readers have been emailing me about Marc Stein's "First Trimester" report and awards that it probably warrants a response.

The irony is that because Stein named Kevin Garnett and Stephen Jackson as his East and West MVPs, most people thought I would be excited by his choice and tend to agree with him, due to the fact that I was among the first to jump on the Boston-as-title-contender bandwagon after the KG trade (and, therefore, one would assume, am now leading the charge that KG is the most valuable athlete in the world) and because I tend to give Captain Jack a lot of love on this site.

Alas, if it were up to me, neither would be the MVP of the first third of the season. Not because they aren't valuable - both KG and "Crazy Glue" are incredibly valuable - but because they rank behind guys who are simply playing too well to deny.

In the East, the only choice for MVP right now is LeBron James. Yes, KG has transformed the Celtics, but while he's the man on defense, Paul Pierce seems to be the guy making it all happen on the offensive end. Oh, and Ray Allen is spotting up dropping threes. The credit must be spread around. And while Dwight Howard has been a monster for the Magic, he still has too many holes in his game to be the MVP. Meanwhile, LeBron has led a truly dreadful Cavs team back to .500, is averaging over 7 boards, nearly 8 dimes, and almost 2 steals a game, all while leading the league in scoring by a pretty wide margin at 29.2 a game. On top of that, he's become King of Clutch and a dominant fourth quarter player, erasing the one doubt about his game that was lingering as recently as last March. Team success and intangible impact counts for a great deal, but you can't just remove individual dominance from the equation. You just can't.

Here's my top five from the East:
1. LeBron James - See above.
2. Kevin Garnett - Don't get me wrong, he's still a frothing beast that has the C's on pace for a record season.
3. Dwight Howard - Headed for 20 and 15 per and is still getting better. Look out below.
4. Caron Butler - Has quietly taken over in Washington with Arenas out. You'd be hard pressed to find a guy that plays harder night in and night out.
5. Chauncey Billups - Such a mismatch that he makes the Pistons an automatic title threat.

As for Crazy Glue (so named because Stephen Jackson is both totally crazy and absolutely the glue of the Warriors), I don't even see how you can give him the MVP of the Warriors when Baron is playing the way he is. Again, I love Jackson, and he deserves the credit for being the X-Factor of Golden State. But he's not the MVP. Come on.

Here's my top five from the West:
1. Chris Paul - This actually isn't even close and to be honest, I would have a hard time choosing between Paul and LeBron for the league MVP. He's going for 21/10/4 with threes and great percentages and has more steals per game (3) than turnovers (2.6). That's just crazy. Oh, and he has the Hornets threatening for the best record in the West. Case closed.
2. Steve Nash - Always.
3. Allen Iverson - Is quietly having one of his best seasons ever and is keeping Denver on top of the Northwest Division (which is suddenly shaping up to be a bloodbath with Portland on the rise and Utah falling off a bit).
4. Tim Duncan - See Nash, Steve.
5. Baron Davis - Apologies to Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, and Carlos Boozer (the West is LOADED with MVP candidates this year), but the Baron has maintained his level from last year's playoffs and is one of the truly unstoppable players in the NBA.

Okay, now I'm on record with my choices and don't have to respond to each email. Feels good.

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