Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paul Fires Latest MVP Salvo

The most pertinent question at this time of year when it comes to the MVP race is not "how valuable" a player is (imagine that), but rather "have the voters already made up their minds?"

For some reason, almost without fail, the MVP award gets decided right about this time every year. This is when you get the big flurry of columns and arguments and Steven A. Smith sightings and once people start taking positions, well, good luck getting them to change their minds. At the exact time of year when NBA analysts should be expanding their minds in the interest of accuracy, they are instead narrowing their viewpoints in the interest of being right (or loudest).

Makes no sense.

For instance, if the good people who vote on this award have been paying attention for the past week, they would have to move Chris Paul up their ballots.

While Kobe was being tortured by Shane Battier (one of the best defensive efforts I've ever seen) and shooting his team out of a game in Houston and LeBron was taking and missing an ill-advised game-winner, Paul was doing the following:

- Destroying the Spurs (no seriously, DESTROYING them)

- Battling Chauncey Billups and keeping his team in a tough road game ... while playing on one leg

- Going for 37 and 13 on that same bum wheel while leading a stirring and critical fourth quarter comeback over the Bulls.

Right now Paul is the the most unstoppable penetrator in the game. He's the best ball handler. He's the most disruptive perimeter defender. He throws the best alley-oop. He's playing for the #2 team in the brutal West (tied with the Lakers). He's putting up the first 20/11 season in 15 years (he's on pace to be just the sixth player of all time to reach those numbers, joining Isiah, Magic, Big O, Tiny Archibald, and Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson). What else is there?

Unlike most fans and media members, I'm not making up my mind until the bitter end. Kobe could lead the Lakers on a big winning streak without Gasol and LeBron could throw up a series of 40-15-15 triple doubles.

But for now, Paul has vaulted into the lead.

My ballot as of today:

1. Chris Paul
2. Kobe Bryant
3. LeBron James

[Update - Since this is an NBA blog, I don't want to crowd the main page with my tourney picks. But I do want to get them on record, especially because I just know I will wind up tinkering in my various pools and screwing it up. So proceed to the comments for my tourney picks.)


El Bandito said...

There is no doubt that Paul should be a top candidate for MVP. I wouldn't argue the assertion that he is playing better than Kobe or LeBron and is in fact the best player on the planet. His problem is clearly not his game, its his profile.

In this media hyped world, you must have a name to get an award like this. It has to do with what these writers put in front of the eyes of their readers who are most certainly "casual fans", and may not even know that Chris Paul plays for the Hornets. People that want to hear about Kobe and LeBron... not about Chris (yeah exactly, which Chris???).

Until Paul raises his profile (in other words, gets the hell out of New Orleans), his accomplishments are always going to be diminished in the eyes of the casual fan.

I break this down to a 2 man race between Kobe and Paul. If I were on the panel, my vote would go to Paul. Adam has already dissected his tremendous stat line that places his performance this season among the Greatest NBA players of all time.

But realize exactly what he is doing for his team. The Hornets were in the lottery last year. They are on top of the West a year later, a position they have been in for the entire season. The Lakers on the other hand have surged with the arrival of Gasol.

Kobe has Bynum, a player who is coming into his own this season, Odom, a match-up nightmare, a superstar in the making in Gasol, and an emerging group of young role-players. But while Kobe has been his usual great self, its been Bynum stepping his game up and the acquisition of Gasol.

Paul on the other hand is surrounded by an entire team of question marks. How does a team with Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, Morris Peterson and David West find themselves at the top of the West? These guys were all cast-offs before this. It really is mind-blowing when you take a minute to think about it.

To me, Paul is CLEARLY the MVP. Too bad Kobe is going to win it. Better luck next year Paul and good luck getting out of New Orleans!

Adam Hoff said...

Tourney picks - I didn't get a chance to watch much college hoops this year so I'm going to (mostly) get out of my own way when making my picks. This year I created a matrix that will make my picks for me. How did I arrive at the list? That is a secret that I may or may not choose to charge people for, err, share, if this goes well. Anyway, here we go (overall matrix rank in second parenthesis):

Round of 32:
(1) North Carolina (#3) over (8) Indiana (#19)
(4) Washington State (#24) over (5) Notre Dame (#25)
(3) Louisville (#20) over (11) St. Josephs (#45)
(2) Tennessee (#10) over (7) Butler (#21)
(1) Kansas (#1) over (9) Kent State (#32)
(4) Clemson (#26) over (5) Vanderbilt (#44)
(3) Wisconsin (#7) over (11) Kansas State (#27)
(10) Davidson (#4) over (2) Georgetown (#14)
(1) Memphis (#2) over (9) Mississippi State (#33)
(5) Michigan State (#29) over (4) Pittsburgh (#31)
(6) Marquette (#16) over (3) Stanford (#23)
(2) Texas (#11) over (10) St. Mary's (#17)
(1) UCLA (#5) over (8) BYU (#18)
(12) Western Kentucky (#15) over (4) UConn (#13)
(3) Xavier (#6) over (6) Purdue (#38)
(7) West Virginia (#7) over (2) Duke (#9)

Sweet 16
(1) North Carolina (#3) over (4) Washington State (#24)
(2) Tennessee (#10) over (3) Louisville (#20)
(1) Kansas (#1) over (4) Clemson (#26)
(10) Davidson (#4) over (3) Wisconsin (#7)
(1) Memphis (#2) over (5) Michigan State (#29)
(2) Texas (#11) over (3) Stanford (#23)
(1) UCLA (#5) over (12) Western Kentucky (#15)
(3) Xavier (#6) over (7) West Virginia (#7)

Elite Eight
(1) North Carolina (#3) over (2) Tennessee (#10)
(1) Kansas (#1) over (10) Davidson (#4)
(1) Memphis (#2) over (2) Texas (#11)
(1) UCLA (#5) over (3) Xavier

Final Four
(1) Kansas (#1) over (1) North Carolina (#3)
(1) Memphis (#2) over (1) UCLA (#5)

(1) Kansas (#1) over (1) Memphis (#2)

I know, I know. I picked all four top seeds, which is both boring and also unlikely. But other than Davidson (who had the misfortune of being in the same bracket as the best team), no other school comes all that close to matching up with the top five teams. Xavier and West Virginia will beat each other up in the regional semis and are quite a few pegs down from UCLA to start with, so it is hard to see someone topping the Bruins in the West. Kansas has the easiest road to the Elite Eight, but then gets the hardest regional final opponent in Davidson, who I have as the fourth best team. UNC and Memphis are both quite a bit better than the second best teams in their regions - Tennessee and Texas, respectively.

So four top seeds it is. It's time to trust science.

(But there's no way in HELL I'm picking all top seeds in my office pool!)