Yea, ok, not the best time ever to talk about the MVP race. But, because I love these types of discussions, it’s always a good time to me. Before we begin, let me have the obligatory discussion on what the MVP actually is. Well, I don’t really know. I know it’s not necessarily the person with the best stats. If that was the case Kobe Bryant would have won the award in a land-slide a few seasons ago. It also isn’t the best player on the best team. If that was the case Kevin Garnett would have won the award in 2008. It’s also not just the guy whose team would suffer most if he left or the guy who’s surrounding cast experiences their best years while playing with this MVP candidate. No, it’s some sort combination of all of these things and each of us combine them differently. There is no particular method to my madness. I don’t put more weight on one area than another..knowingly. Anyway, without further ado…
1. Dwight Howard-C for the Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard is experiencing his best scoring season of his career this year. If you’ve watched him, you can clearly see his post-game has developed quite a bit. He now has a very solid left-handed hook shot. He has a face-up bank shot. He has a true, over the shoulder right-handed sky hook (as opposed to the baby hook). His development in this area is the sole reason the Magic remain a title contender. However, this year, more than any other, his defense stands out more. Why? Because the Magic have experience relatively 0 slippage on the defensive end after giving up a couple of really solid defenders (Gortat, Pietrus) and bringing in downright terrible defenders (Arenas, Hedo). The praise for this has to go somewhat to SVG, but mostly to Dwight Howard. There is absolutely no doubt he is the best defensive big man in the league and he is absolutely carrying the Magic on the defensive end every night. It is this reason I have him ranked number 1 in my all important mid-season MVP list.
- PER- 24.14, currently 6th.
- TRR-21.7, currently 5th.
- DEF-3.66, currently 2nd.
2. Rajon Rondo- PG for the Boston Celtics
Gonna catch heat for this, but I don’t care. The guy has made himself the undisputed best passer in the league. Here is a player who can’t shoot the ball, but is still unstoppable. His athletic ability makes people lay off of him in fear of getting beat off the dribble and allowing him to get to the rim (really good finisher at the rim). However, it is this laying-off that allows him to basically get wherever he wants on the court and have clear vision to make the spectacular passes. He is, in my opinion, the best player on one of the best teams in the league. Let’s not forget, he plays for a team that demands defensive excellence out of him, so not only does he have to run the show and drop dimes, but he has to be more than competent on the defensive end. He certainly is that, and then some.
- AR (assist rate)- 48.7, currently 1st in the league.
- APG- 13.4, currently first in the league.
3. Dirk Nowitzki- PF for the Dallas Mavericks
First and foremost, this is the best player on the best team. Currently, the Mavs are struggling without Dirk, but when he was healthy this team was beating everyone with one of the toughest schedules in the league up to that point. They had beaten Miami twice, Utah twice, OKC twice, Boston, San Antonio, and Orlando. Basically, all of the contenders except for L.A. (who they haven’t played) and Chicago (who they lost to). That’s impressive. Dirk himself is playing extremely well. He is shooting the lights out, having one of his best shooting seasons of his entire career. Also, we can see how much the Mavs struggle w/o him. They had a 3 game losing streak which has been followed up with a 2 games losing streaking. He fits the bill for the ever-so-important “His team struggles most without him.”
- PER- 24.9, currently 4th in the league
- TS%- 63.2, easily the highest number for any big time scorer in the league. The only players ahead of him are guys who take very few shots a game (besides Nene), like Shaq, or guys who are stand-still three point shooters, like James Jones or DeShawn Stevenson. As far primary scorers for their team, the next closest to this TS% number is Ray Allen at 62.3. Dirk’s TS really is quite astounding considering he is the only guy on his team who is averaging 20+ a game AND he is primarily an outside shooter. He isn’t getting a ton of easy buckets or wide-open looks from 3. Quite impressive.
I’ll stop at 3 before getting to drawn out here. Honorable mentions go to Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Paul. It’s really hard to separate Wade and James. Despite the notion that James is clearly the better player, they are almost statistical mirrors of each other, and unless we feel like giving out co-MVPs, it’s just to hard. Chris Paul, on the other hand, leads in the major advanced statistics. He has the highest PER in the league and the second highest adjusted win score, behind only Kevin Love. This is another reason LBJ and Wade don’t make the top 3. The last few years, LBJ has been the head and shoulders winner in the PER race, but not this year. His stats have slipped ever-so slightly, and considering he has a player that is on his statistical level on his team, it’s very difficult to imagine either he, or Wade, winning the MVP.