Friday, February 24, 2012

Top-10 MVP Candidates at the All-Star Break

With the league's premier ballers playing in this weekend's All-Star Game, it feels like a good time to begin thinking about MVP candidates.  While there is no clear-cut frontrunner, a few players have risen above the pack.

Derrick Rose was a deserving MVP last year.  
My definition of the MVP, which I thought about last year, is...

"An NBA MVP needs to have the perfect blend of being a great player, having a great supporting cast that allows the player to flourish by allowing him to carry the maximum possible weight for the team, have that supporting cast give enough help to maximize the results of his efforts (and have those results look good relative to the league's other teams), and not have a similarly talented base, or Constant, on his team.  It's incredibly difficult to win titles this way.  MVP winners usually aren't on title teams. It takes one hell of a blend to accomplish that dish."

So let's be clear: An MVP isn't necessarily the best player (LeBron James), the best story (Jeremy Lin), or the guy on the best team (James or Kevin Durant).

For now, my rankings are as follows:

1.)  Kevin Durant-  He's the Constant on the West's best.  OKC has the second-best offense in the league, which is based on a perimeter-oriented attack led by KD, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.  The Bearded One and RW handle a lot of the playmaking duties, but without Durant's scoring, OKC's offense would be incredibly predictable, as they wouldn't be able to start an attack inside the 3-point line.  Durant is also the team's best defensive rebounder with a 20.6 rebound rate.    

2.)  LeBron James-  He is the best player in the league, and he's on the best team in the league.  The only reason why I can't put him above Durant right now is because he is flanked by an all-star backcourt player AND an all-star frontcourt player.  Dwyane Wade might not be having his best statistical season, but he's still proven to be an offensive anchor.  Wade's missed games do give me pause, however, as LBJ was incredibly valuable with Wade out.  It's very close between James and Durant.

3.)  Kobe Bryant-  He just keeps plugging away.  The Laker perimeter squad sans Bryant is arguably the worst perimeter corps in the league.  Bryant needs to carry such an offensive load, from bringing the ball up to spreading the floor to creating shots for himself/others to volume scoring.  Without him, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would never even see the ball (ironic, isn't it?).

4.)  Chris Paul-  CP3 is after the Mamba mainly because his team has such depth at the point guard position.  I mean they lost Paul's backup to injury, and they still have Mo Williams coming in to spell him.  Still, Paul is playing like the best PG in the league.

5.)  Dwight Howard-  Dwight is a weak candidate right now.  Aside from the turmoil he is partially responsible for in Orlando, it seems he has also regressed in the scoring department (less volume and less efficiency compared to last year) and on D.  Howard usually has the Magic in the top five on D, but Orlando is closer to the league average this year.

Parker and Westbrook are having monster seasons.
6.)  Tony Parker-  San Antonio is first in their division and boasts a stellar SRS rating of 5.01, good for sixth in the league.  Parker has catalyzed S.A.'s offense without backcourt mate Manu Ginobili, an impressive feat in my book.

7.)  Russell Westbrook-  In the past, Westbrook has been Rondo-lite in his ability to hurt his team's offense as much as he helped his team's offense.  But the alpha-athlete of the NBA has the Thunder rolling at a frenetic pace and is playing better than ever.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him climb in the rankings.  

8.)  Derrick Rose-  Barring additional injuries, the other alpha-athlete will likely leapfrog the two point guards in front of him.  He has missed some time this year, and his team has done all right without him.  Personally, I do still think that over the long haul, Chicago would be incredibly screwed without Rose since he probably has the greatest offensive load of any perimeter player except maybe Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker.

9.)  Dwyane Wade-  He lands at number nine simply because of injury, decreased minutes, and the fact that he plays with somebody who plays his role (perimeter offensive attacker/creator) better than he does.  Still, Wade is arguably the second-best player in the league, and he's on the best team in the NBA.

10.)  Dirk Nowitzki-  After a sluggish start, Dirk seems back on track.  Despite Dallas having a lot of depth, Dirk is still by far the only player on the team who can be called an anchor.  Despite Tyson Chandler's departure, Nowitzki has his team in a solid position out West.

On the outside:

Blake Griffin - He's arguably the best PF in the league.  Plus he did this.  

Jeremy Lin-  I love Lin, but he isn't on my list yet because he hasn't been playing major minutes for that long.

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