A few days back I got cranky and had a little vent about the MVP and how it’s threatening to lose credibility. With that out of my system I felt relieved, and a lot clearer about who really are the most deserving players to be mentioned in MVP discussions. Having compiled by top 11, I present to you the first part of my look at the MVP race. Yes there’s 20 games left to play, which is precisely why I’ve included a little tidbit on exactly what each player needs to do over the remaining weeks to bolster their chances of grasping the silverware.

#11. Manu Ginobili
Not someone you hear thrown around in MVP conversations but he should be. It’s not often a 6th Man of the Year candidate becomes an MVP candidate midway through the season, but the guy is so easily having the best season of his career that it’s forcing people to think he might be the reason the Spurs stubbornly remain atop of the West, rather than Timmy Robot. Unfortunately for Manu it’s a case of recent impressions lasting; he started the year in solid fashion but didn’t really get going till February. It was his 5-game streak of averaging 34ppg, shooting 64% from the field while leading the Spurs to several incredible wins that got everyone’s attention. But he’s going to need more than one hot month to convince me he’s the MVP, especially when he’s playing on a team that consists of a two-time MVP and a Finals MVP. Which brings me to my next point. If the Spurs make the Finals, can you see anyone stealing the Finals MVP off Ginobili this time? He was stiff enough not to win it back in ’05 against Detroit. This time there would be no stopping him. Oh yeah, and how often does a legitimate MVP candidate NOT make the All-Star game?

For Ginobili to win MVP… There would need to be a game where Tim Duncan and Tony Parker both break down crying because they are losing by 24 points midway through the fourth quarter, at which point Manu would come over and whack them across the head, tell them to HTFU, while leading the Spurs to an impossible victory. Chuck Norris would then come on court to congratulate the Spurs and embrace Manu in celebration, at which point Manu would grab him by the throat, snap his leg off and roundhouse kick Chuck Norris in the face with his own leg. Manu would then get voted for every All-Star game, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, 6th Man and Coach of the Year award for the next 25 years.

#10. Paul Pierce
I unashamedly admit that PP was my pre-season tip for MVP, and he hasn’t been that far off the pace. There was no genius in predicting that KG would reinvigorate his career, and while Pierce’s individual numbers have dipped from previous seasons he’s still proved he can carry this team when he needs to. And if you do want to talk numbers, he’s only one of five guys in this league averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Two of the other guys are serious MVP candidates (Kobe and Lebron), one probably would be if he didn’t play alongside Tim Duncan (Manu) and the other guy happens to excel at producing decent numbers while being the opposite of an MVP (Vince Carter). If KG had stayed out longer with injury and the Celts kept beating everyone, PP would be getting a lot more MVP hype. But as it is KG came back and the Celtics started looking scary again so we all remembered who wears the pants in that ball club.

For Pierce to win MVP…
KG would have to get injured again and the Celts would need to end up with 67-69 wins. That would give them the 3rd or 4th best regular season record ever, and while I don’t believe in defining the MVP by games won, it would mount a serious case for choosing the Truth as this year’s MVP. He has also been incredibly durable this year while KG and Allen have missed several games.

#9. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk was never and will never be a top MVP candidate this season, and you know what? He doesn’t want to be. A few years back while my sister was looking after a baby duck for a high school science project I learnt about something call “imprinting”. I believe it’s what happens when a newborn animal associates the first thing it sees as being its mother figure. In nature, for the most part, this is its mother. But for my sister’s high school science project, I was apparently the duck’s mother. It would quack itself crazy unless I was right next to it, and I had to wait for it to fall asleep before the household was quiet again. The analogy here is quite obvious. The duck was Dirk Nowitzki, the object of its affection was the MVP trophy, and the thought associated with it was “Oh fuck we collapsed in the playoffs”. Dirk now hates MVP trophies and whenever he sees the award in his house he poos himself in fear, like an actual duck.

Apart from the imprinting effect, there is little other reason why Dirk should be considered for this year’s MVP. The Mavs have been shaky in a heated Western Conference and if it wasn’t for the Nuggets recent disappearing act (aka “giving up 239 points over two games”) they would be in serious risk of falling out of the playoff race. This doesn’t surprise me. I predicted at the start of this season that the Mavs would struggle. Everyone seemed to be convinced that they would bounce back from last year’s adversity with a stellar regular season, but everyone forgot that this is what happened last season!

The Mavs totally blew it in the ’06 Finals – nothing can hurt more than being up 2-0 in a Finals series, not even a first round loss to the Warriors. That was the motivation for their dominating 67-win season in 06-07. That was the adversity they responded to. Losing to the Warriors in last year’s playoffs was shocking yeah, but you never got the sense they were thinking “F—k you world! We are going to prove all you doubters wrong and come back and win 70 games next season!” No. It was more of a solemn “Well, we’ve learnt that the regular season counts for nothing. Next season, for us, it all starts in the playoffs”. So that’s why I think Dirk has been operating on cruise control for most of the season, with Kidd making it even easier to cruise. They could even be lucky enough to draw the Rockets in the first round, which I think works in the Mavs favor because they’ve got Howard/Stackhouse to throw at T-Mac, the Rockets are soft on the boards (like the Mavs are) and Jason Kidd gets to play against Rafer Alston. The Mavs might top last season’t effort, but Dirk won’t. Not that he cares.

For Dirk to win MVP… He would have to build a time machine and travel back to last March, break his own arm, and sit on the sidelines for two months while everyone collectively agreed he would be the outright MVP if he didn’t miss the last 20 games of the season. Fast forward one year and he is the fairytale MVP for 07-08. And for anyone that doesn’t believe Dirk could build a time machine, remember, he is German.

#8. Steve Nash
Nash was unlucky not to win the award last year which his best season ever, but apparently 61 wins was not enough for Stevie and the Suns. This goes back to my #1 problem – the only reason people picked Dirk over Nash last year was because of the Mavs winning record. Individually Dirk was no better and certainly no more valuable than Steve Nash, but it didn’t sit right with people voting for a guy who had six less wins than the other guy. That, and the fact he won it the previous two years. So there were two stupid unspoken rules that came into play here: the “MVP should go to the best player on the best team” rule and the “he’s already won enough individual accolades so we might as well share the wealth” rule. This year Nash’s case is thankfully clear as day. He is NOT the MVP because the Suns aren’t even in the top five teams in the league, and they have had some absolutely cataclysmic losses: the home loss to Philly, the thirty-point drubbing by the Pistons, two losses to Minnesota and a loss to *gulp* the Miami Heat. It also doesn’t help that he has been constantly outplayed by every other superstar point guard in the league: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Baron Davis and Chauncey Billups have all eaten Nash alive at some point this season. When you can’t even make a case to be a top 3 point guard in the league it’s difficult to make a case for MVP.

For Nash to win MVP… FBI investigators discover a secret document buried in David Stern’s backyard, dated May 2004 and signed by Larry Bird and David Stern himself, that stipulates only white men will be allowed to win the MVP award for the next five years. Upon being released to the media an NBA betting frenzy takes place which catapults Nash into odds-on favourite, makes Dirk poo himself, and places Brian Scalabrine at third-favourite causing Manu Ginobili to spontaneously combust.

#7. Dwight Howard
Dwight’s MVP stock has really dived since the Magic’s honeymoon phase ended sometime around December 2007. Their fast start surprised a few people and with the big off-season acquisition of Rashard Lewis seeming to pay immediate dividends, everybody rightly assumed that it was their anchor in the middle – big Dwight – that was holding it all together. It didn’t hurt that Dwight was averaging 24 and 15 while shooting a stellar 62% throughout November and the Magic finished that month with a 14-4 record. While Dwight’s numbers have only shrank slightly from that point, there’s a couple of reasons why his MVP stock has plummeted:

1) It became apparent that Dwight (aka Superman) is a freak of nature and the reason he has those 20-20 games is just as much to do with his freakish physical attributes than his ability to lead his team. In other words, he can have a 20-20 game in his sleep and not necessary play like a true MVP. Kind of like how Shaq used to make 40-20 games look so easy in the playoffs that it prompted everyone to ask “Why doesn’t he do this all season long?” The response: “Well he could… he just doesn’t want to”.

2) People don’t take the Orlando Magic seriously any more. If you’ve followed talk of the playoffs/finals lately you’d be forgiven for thinking it comes down to the Western Conference + Boston/Detroit. While Orlando’s .625 winning clip is impressive, it would actually put them ninth in the Western conference which is astounding. You think Lebron is going to have a hard enough time convincing MVP voters that a 48-50 win team in the East has an MVP-worthy leader? Dwight’s case is even tougher – he simply doesn’t take over games like Lebron does and command the same level of fear (the kind of fear that is responsible for me having Lebron James nightmares – yes I’m not kidding. I have a recurring dream thanks to his game 5 against the Pistons last year. No other NBA player gives me nightmares… except Oliver Miller because I once dreamt he ate Australia).

For Dwight to win MVP…
He would have to lead the Magic to a 17-0 record for the remainder of the season while Hedo is sidelined due to illness, Kobe would have to be hit by a bus, and against the Cavs on March 17 Howard would have to superman-dunk the ball in Lebron’s face while simultaneously eating him.

Part II coming soon…

Comment posted by
at 3/11/2008 7:21:25 AM

I feel sad that you left him at no.11…..

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