Who wants to be like Dirk? Well, the MVP part…
not who wants to choke in the playoffs.

Check out Parts I and II of my look at this year’s MVP candidates, and my gripe against the MVP

There’s a reason I didn’t get round to writing this blog sooner. Between me being lazy, spending time honing my NBA 2K8 skills and being distracted by my real job, I haven’t got round to it because deciding how to order this season’s top 3 MVP candidates is FREAKEN HARD! I will not lie to you – I have changed my mind about who should be this year’s MVP about 28 times over the past few weeks. I change it about three times a day. I change it the more I think about it. After Kobe’s incredible 52 point game against Dallas on March 2nd I was convinced Kobe was the MVP. Three days later Lebron comes out and explodes for 50 against the Knicks and its starts changing my mind. Four days later Kobe misses a game winner against the Kings and his stock slides even more.. “Yep Lebron is the MVP”, I tell myself. Four days later, as if on queue, Lebron misses a game winner against the Wiz and I started doubting myself again…

What about Chris Paul? He never left the back of my memory, and while the Kobe vs Lebron debate was wrestling in my head CP3 waltzes through the first three weeks of March averaging… get this… 25.8 points, 13.6 assists and 2.7 steals while shooting an insane 59% from the field and 48% from three point range. What is this guy’s weakness again? He punishes the Spurs with 26 and 17, punishes the Lakers with 27 and 17, and today completely murdered the Bulls with 37 and 13 including a complete take-over in the fourth quarter. Folks, I can’t remember the last time a player averaged 26 points and nearly 14 assists for a month. I just checked the season splits for Timmy Hardaway (the last guy to average 20-10) from back in 1992-93 when TBug was at his peak. His best was a month averaging 23-12, but its still short of Paul’s insane 25.8 and 13.6.

You think Lebron’s 30 points and 7 assists are big? That equates to 44 points for his team, whereas Paul’s month of March Madness has him contributing a massive 53 points to his team. 53 points! That is the same as Kobe going out there and scoring, well, 53 points without an assist. Hey, Kobe can score 53 from time to time, but this is Chris Paul’s average for the month! He’s done this every game! And that’s while still leading the league in steals and his team only one game away from leading the West (and doing much better than the Lakers/Cavs right now I might add). And don’t look now but Chris Paul is only 0.1 assist per game from catching Nash as the league leader – the way he’s playing I have no doubt he’ll overtake Nash. A player leading the league in steals and assists while scoring 20+ a game. Can someone please get back to me and let me know if this has EVER happened? I can’t think of anyone who’s done this, at least not in my life time. Isiah Thomas may have come close… maybe Gary Payton. But these guys are Hall of Famers. Chris Paul is 22 years old.

Chris Paul for MVP! That is where my head is at right now, but at 3.50pm today I had Lebron #1. The longer it takes me to write this blog the more chance I will change my mind before I finish. But you know what? That doesn’t matter. It’s normal… IT’S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Why? Because the season isn’t done yet. That is why I keep changing my mind, because one day I’m watching Lebron do something amazing, then Kobe comes out and tops it the next day, then I watch Paul do something even better and I’m all confused again. This is the exact reason why MVP voters wait till the end of the season to cast their ballot. You can’t make up your mind 60 games into the season, but nevertheless, people try so darn hard to. Hell I’m trying to right now, but at least I’m admitting I can’t make this decision without more evidence. It’s just too hard. So folks, call it sitting on the fence, call it a cop out, but the MVP race at the top 3 is just too close for me to call right now. I’ll still rank em, but they’re all #1’s to me.

1C – Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant I don’t know if it’s because the Lakers are slipping in the rankings or because Kobe Bryant Blog Day used up every single ounce of Kobe love I had left, but in my eyes, Kobe’s MVP stock is slowly dropping. A few things are contributing to this. 1) Gasol got injured so now the Lakers simply aren’t as good and will lose more. 2) The Rockets have taken all the league’s limelight thanks to their massive streak – the Lakers simply aren’t that good a story any more, and remember that MVP brownie points in the media’s eyes = what makes a good story. 3) Kobe has not been playing like an MVP. Three of the Lakers last four games have been losses, and in those losses Kobe has been shooting 38% from the field and averaging a little over 3 assists. They haven’t been bad games, not at all. But right now, Kobe is going to need something special to win back the MVP voters. “Average-Good” games won’t cut it. Luckily for the the Mamba, the stage is set perfectly…

For Kobe to win MVP… With Gasol out of the lineup and the Laker’s top 4 playoff position in jeopardy, this is Kobe’s chance to make a statement. The Lakers play at Dallas, at Utah, home against Sonics and Warriors, then away at Golden State. If Kobe lights it up over this five-game streak and if the Lakers can go 4-1 (or even 3-2), he will be back in the good books. But if the Lakers bomb and drop 4 or 5 of those, Kobe can kiss his MVP trophy good bye. If, and I hope he does, he survives this little Pau-less test, he can look forward to April 11, the third-last Laker game of the season. It’s at home against the Hornets, and the KB24 vs CP3 battle on that night could be the pinnacle of what has been a crazy MVP race thus far.

1B – Lebron James
Eighty percent of the time over the last ten days, I’ve had Lebron as my MVP 70% of the time. I was talking about this today on the TrashTalk forums, but to me Lebron is the number 1 guy in the league at carrying his team and the most valuable to his own team. It’s the old player-swap method of deciding the MVP. I don’t know who came up with it but it works well. You take Kobe out of the Lakers and replace him with a “decent” shooting guard, say Mike Miller, and the Lakers are still a playoff ball club. You take Chris Paul out of the Hornets and replace him with a “decent” point guard like Kirk Hinrich, and while they might struggle, they still win more games than they lose. You take Lebron James out and replace him with a “decent” small forward like Tayshaun Prince, and they’d probably be the worst team in the league. That’s not to rag on Tayshaun; it’s just how good Lebron James is. I’m not even looking at his numbers, I ignore them, I’ve become totally immune and unexcited about Lebron nearing a triple-double every game just like Kobe’s 40-point games in 05-06 started to get boring. It’s not the numbers. It’s how he helps his team win. Lebron scores more points in the fourth quarter than any one. His mid-range and long-range jump shots have gotten to a point where he starts to rely on them in crunch time. When he’s aggressive and driving, not only are you helpless to stop him (trust me, I’m a Detroit fan.. I know what he did last summer), but you’re a victim to his unselfishness because Lebron James, for some reason, believes there are other people on his team worthy of finishing a basketball play. That’s what makes him Lebron. He’s the most physically unstoppable force the game has seen in a long time, yet he’s completely unselfish. It’s perplexing.

What will perplex MVP voters come the end of the season is the Cavs winning record, cos like I said back in my gripe against the MVP, there seems to be this new invisible rule that states you can’t win an MVP if you’re not on A) the best team in the league or B) a 50 win team. Thanks to their loss to the Magic today, It’s looking unlikely the Cavs will win 50 games (they’d have to go 12-2 from here on). So while everything I’ve just said might still ring true, there’ll be a number in a “W” column that says “44″ or “46″, and it will be that number that unfortunately gets in Lebron’s way.

For Lebron to win MVP… He better hope the voters have a change of heart towards the aforementioned “invisible” rule. If they do expect Kobe Bryant to reach boiling point because for two straight seasons he did what Lebron did this year, but wasn’t close to winning the MVP. You don’t think Kobe’s aware of this? You didn’t detect a hint of bitterness when he said this earlier in the week? The great news for Lebron is that even if the voters remain stubborn about this rule, the Cavs have a pretty easy schedule over their last 14 games. Remarkably they face the Pistons three times, but if Lebron goes game 5 on their ass as well as whooping the Hornets at home on March 26, then the 48-50 wins that I think LBJ needs to have an MVP case might be not be out of reach.

1A – Chris Paul
I made my case for Chris Paul above. Right now, he’s the one playing like an MVP. He’s the one leading his team to inspiring victories. He’s the one peaking in form at the right time of the season. He’s the one guy I’m in awe of. The Western Conference is so tight right now and there are so many good teams, that it will take an incredible effort by someone to lead their team to the top. That may sound obvious, but think about it for a minute. Almost every team in the top 8 out west has an MVP candidate on it. Which ever team finishes #1 will do the MVP voters a massive favour because they will effectively have also made it clear which player was most valuable. A few weeks ago Kobe’s Lakers looked like they were going to run away with the #1 seed, so the Kobe-4-MVP bandwagon started piling up – it was a safe option. But now it’s crazy. No one knows whats going on because the team that’s in front wasn’t in the playoff picture six weeks ago and the team that was #1 favourite (the Spurs) are now lucky to be sixth. Then the team in 9th goes and scores a million points in a game and soon David Stern starts having a mental brake down. The end of this season has more drama than a bad Passions episode. So what will MVP voters do? Well, they will be confused just like everyone else until the whole thing ends. At that point the playoff picture will be clear as day, and so will the choice of MVP. At that point, I’m betting it will be CP3 and the Hornets who come out on top. Well, I wouldn’t actually bet on it. I might change my mind in another hour or so…

PS – What about T-Mac?
I know what a lot of readers will be thinking after reading my list of top 11 MVP candidates. Where is Mr. McGrady? I’ll tell you why I don’t have him in here. Right now he’s played 51 games this season and started only 46 of those. He played all of November and December but by the end of December the Rockets were 15-16 and looking very ordinary. He played six games in January averaging 18-5-5, and since February he has been a very important part of the Rockets endless winning streak. Now to me, you can’t win an MVP by playing well for half of a season, and so far McGrady hasn’t even done that. You go back two months ago and McGrady was nowhere to be seen on the MVP radar – I mean really, he was off the map. He was actually gaining anti-MVP votes for helping the Rockets sputter out of playoff contention when during preseason many tipped them as title contenders. Credit to T-Mac for helping turn it around, by all means. His team deserves its record, they are playing great team ball. If they finish #1 out West after playing great ball for only half a season then good for them, they deserve it. But T-Mac does not deserve the MVP. You need to be great over the full 82 to win that.

Comment posted by
at 3/19/2008 11:13:30 PM

dunno how you cannot put T-Mac in your top 10? If you say each of the top 8 out West has an MVP candidate, where is T-Mac?

hard to argue about CP3 at #1 though. dude is killing it at the moment

Comment posted by
at 3/18/2008 11:31:22 AM

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