Sunday, March 16, 2008

And the NBA's MVP is ....

This season’s NBA MVP race has come down to three people. Each one of these players has put their team on their back. Yet, it shouldn’t even be a race. When you analyze the situation, there’s only one answer to the question “Who is the MVP of the NBA this season?”

The answer to the question, believe it or not, is not Kobe Bryant. Yes, he’s putting up 28.3 pts, 6.1 reb, 5.3 ast and 2 steals per game. As of this morning, his Lakers are tied for first place in the Western Conference. All of that is cool, but Kobe isn’t the MVP for two reasons.

The first reason was mentioned by Bill Simmons not too long ago; Kobe spent most of the first month of the season pouting and waiting to be traded to Chicago. The MVP of the league can’t be somebody who didn’t even give a damn for the first part of the season. As soon as the Lakers started winning and Kobe realized they could be a good team, he started playing hard.

The second reason is the Lakers are one of the deepest teams in the league. It sucks to lose points because of this, but that’s the nature of the MVP award. If Kobe was injured or not on the Lakers, they would still be a playoff team. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, and Derek Fisher wouldn’t be the best team in the West, but they’d be far from the worst.

Right now the Lakers go ten deep and two of their best players are injured. The other two contenders have to play with far less talent. Kobe is the straw that stirs this drink and he should get lots of credit for getting this team to the top of the Western Conference. However, this year isn’t his year.

It almost makes you wonder when his year will be. The last few years he didn’t win MVP because his team sucked; now he shouldn’t get it because his team is really good. No wonder he wanted to get traded to the Bulls. In Chicago, he would’ve had them in the top three at worst and would’ve been a lock for MVP.

Moving on, in a very close second place is LeBron James. This year 30.9 pts, 8.1 reb, 7.4 ast and almost two steals a game isn’t enough. King James is playing on a team plagued by injuries and talent deficiencies. The Ben Wallace trade didn’t make the Cavs better as much as it shifted the talent to different places.

LeBron is the sole reason the Cavs are a playoff team, and he has them sitting in fourth place. There isn’t much else to say about LeBron, he’s transformed himself into the best player in the NBA and is finally living up to the hype. Yet, this year just isn’t his year. At least it shouldn’t be.

The guy who deserves the award this year is Chris Paul. He’s putting up 21.4 pts, 3.9 rebs, 11.2 ast, and 2.7 steals a game. Those numbers are crazy, especially for a 6’0 point guard. He leads the league in steals and could very easily pass Steve Nash (11.4 apg) for the league’s lead in assists per contest.
His Hornets are a half game out of first place in a year when many didn’t expect them to make the playoffs. Out of the three MVP candidates he probably has the thinnest supporting cast. Yes, their starting five is good with Tyson Chandler, David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Morris Peterson, but look at the bench.

Their first five off the bench is currently Janero Pargo, Bonzi Wells, Rasaul Butler, Ryan Bowen and Hilton Armstrong. Mike James, Julian Wright and Melvin Ely get playing time as well, depending on who’s healthy or not.

Watching them play, Paul makes everybody around him better. He made David West into an all-star, he has Tyson Chandler playing like a young Marcus Camby/Ben Wallace, and he’s resurrected the career of Peja Stojakovic.

This year is better than any year Steve Nash has ever had, coming from a huge Steve Nash fan. Let’s go to the numbers. Steve Nash won the MVP in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Here are his stats from those years:

04-05 – 15.5 pts, 11.5 ast, 3.3 reb, 1.0 stl, 50% FG, 43% 3PT, 89% FT
05-06 – 18.9 pts, 10.5 ast, 4.2 reb, 0.8 stl, 51% FG, 44% 3PT, 92% FT

Here’s Paul’s full stats from this year:

07-08 – 21.4 pts, 11.2 ast, 3.9 reb, 2.7 stl, 49% FG, 36% 3PT, 87% FT

His scoring numbers are better, his assist and rebound numbers are on par, his shooting percentages aren’t that far off (three-pointers withstanding) and his steal numbers are far greater.

When you look at the reasons why Nash won those MVP awards and should’ve won MVP last year, it’s the same situation. Chris Paul is the team. They just wouldn’t be able to function without him.

With him, they’re one of the best teams in the NBA. While the Hornets don’t fast break like Phoenix, their half court game with Paul is very similar to the Suns half court game with Steve Nash.

They run pick and rolls with Paul and Tyson Chandler/David West and when that doesn’t work CP3 just takes it to the cup. In addition to running the show completely, he’s also leading the league in steals.

Yet, he’ll probably finish third in this race. The media seems to have narrowed it down to a two man race already between Kobe and LeBron. Once again, they are looking at the names and not paying attention to the games.

Just look at Chris Paul’s last five games, when the Hornets went 4-1, with the only loss coming to the Rockets:

27 pts, 17 ast, 4 reb, 4 stl
26 pts, 17 ast, 1 reb, 3 stl
37 pts, 11 ast, 3 reb, 2 stl
25 pts, 16 ast, 3 reb, 3 stl
23 pts, 18 ast, 2 reb, 2 stl

Is that not ridiculous? Who does that? It’s a shame he’s going to get robbed on this award this season. Not to take anything away from Kobe (probably the player who will win the award) or LeBron, who are having phenomenal seasons, but this year at least, the award should go to CP3.

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