A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2011 POY Watch 11/22

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My version of the MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Chris Paul (1)

Still the obvious choice. I’m hearing some people get confused because of Paul’s modest stats. Make no mistake, he’s dominating like an MVP – the Hornets have just been good enough to not need maximum doses of him.

2. Pau Gasol (2)

Caps the week with a ridiculously dominant performance against Golden State. It’s amazing how against how many teams in this league he is literally unstoppable. Also worth noting for all the talk about why exactly Gasol has so much more respect now than he did against Memphis – that the gap between his current performance and what he did in LA initially is pretty clearly bigger than between the first couple years in LA and Memphis.

3. Dirk Nowitzki (4)

2-2 week for the Mavs, but that’s not on Dirk.  He played like a hero in the losses, and it was just a brutal schedule this week.  It’s remarkable how consistent the man is when you see all the turmoil around him in this league.

4. Dwight Howard (6)

A perfect week and now the Magic lead the East.  Solid mid-level MVP stuff coming from Howard – but the problems remain.  He’s always in foul trouble, and there’s no reason yet to think that the extra problems there he has against the best teams will go away.  Until he cures that, it’s going to be tough for him to really become king of the mountain.

5. Kobe Bryant (10)

Kobe bounces back up 5 spots.  I’ll admit it’s mildly ridiculous how he’s fluctuating here but my core viewpoint remains the same:  As long as the Lakers look like they’re toying with the rest of the league, I’m not going to knock Kobe too harshly for taking a backseat to Gasol, and so now he rises.  If the Lakers coast though, you just can’t look at Kobe any more and think “…but he’s carrying the team!” – and yes I realize how strange that sounds when he’s scored more points than anyone else in the league.

6. Rajon Rondo (3)

Celtics lose the last two games this week, the last one without Rondo.  It’s always an interesting thought process that goes into how a star is judged as an MVP candidate or all-star type player when he misses time and his team clearly misses him.  All things considered, Rondo falls, but not too far.

7. Russell Westbrook (NR)

Westbrook’s been on my radar all season, but as the pre-defined Goose to Kevin Durant‘s Maverick it’s hard to see him as a legit guy for MVP/POY consideration even when Durant clearly hasn’t been up to his Golden self and Westbrook is ahead of him by any advanced metric we have.  What does it take for a Goose to get out of the friend zone?  Well, dominating an elite defensive point guard and team on root to the Thunder’s biggest win of the season with Durant sitting on the bench = Sexy.

8. Derrick Rose (NR)

Rose was in a similar limbo for different reasons.  Mediocre team success was part of it, but it’s also the fact that I don’t like it when my point guard shoots as much as Rose apparently likes to do (2nd in the league in FGA per game).  Don’t get me wrong, I want my point guard to volume score when the opportunity presents itself, but I want to see some seriously bad ass efficiency when that happens.  The job of a floor general is to run the team with himself as just one of five weapons.  If he’s volume shooting regularly despite mediocre efficiency, then that’s a strong indicator that he’s not making optimal use of his supporting cast.

Those doubts remain in place, but the Bulls are starting to look quite good, and while I love Joakim Noah, I have to give the Bulls MVP nod to Rose.

9. Manu Ginobili (9)

Ginobili treads water.  Realistically, I know he’s not playing an MVP type role, but the Spurs are doing so good it’s hard not to put someone here, and also, it’s not like there are 10 guys out there who are playing so damned well in pains me to leave them off.

It’s an odd time to watch the Spurs.  After years of always believing they were better than their record, now I feel the opposite, as their reliance on Duncan has essentially disappeared, no one has stepped up tremendously, and yet the Spurs seem better than they have been in quite a while.

10. LeBron James (NR)

LeBron pops back on the list.  Obviously if I felt more strongly about how he and the Heat were doing, he’d be above Manu, but other guys fell off this week so he rises.  Hollinger will continue to talk about their margins of victory and say that nothing is wrong with the Heat, and he’s got a point – but the Heat still don’t have an elite record and they lost to a weak Grizzly team this week.  I expect the elite record to come, but wins and losses due matter.

Falling Off

Steve Nash After jumping from NR to 5, a symmetrical fall for Nash.  Rondo’s story, an order of magnitude strong.  Got injured, played one game badly, then missed two, Suns get killed in all three.  No way he’s top 10 now – but at the same time, dayum, no one’s team falls off without their star like Nash’s does – and it’s been that way for years now.  It is important to recognize that there’s a difference between being able to recover immediately in a temporary situation, and being able to recover after an off-season in a permanent situation (Hello Cleveland), but still, Nash’s impact in at least the former situation is unreal.

Carmelo Anthony The Nuggets look mediocre, Melo’s not really looking like a hero.  He disappears with a meh.

Paul Millsap In the end, this is still Deron Williams’ team.  Last week wasn’t a token appearance, he earned the spot – but in the 7 games since then, he hasn’t led the game in scoring once.  He needs to do more to keep getting mention here.

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