A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2011 POY Watch 11/29

with 2 comments

My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (3)

We had two really strong candidates leading the way before this week.  They fell off.  Dirk is still going strong.  His team is a force to be reckoned with that shows no sign of going away.  And when the team does lose, it’s basically a given that Dirk will have turned in a heroic performance that just comes up short.

2. Chris Paul (1)

Ah man, the Hornets are plummeting back down to earth.  3 losses:  1 a blowout, 1 a choke, and 1 against the worst team in the league.  And Paul didn’t look like a hero in these losses.  He only drops one place for now, but it won’t take much for him to fall further.

3. Pau Gasol (2)

He drops like Paul drops.  I can see people thinking he should drop further.  People keep thinking about him as a sidekick who isn’t having MVP level impact because he won’t have MVP level impact as the season progresses and the competition grows more fierce.  The fact that he’s struggling against legit centers like Roy Hibbert further hammers than in for them.  I’m not going to say their expectations for what will happen are necessarily wrong, but up to this point Gasol’s given big value.  Dude’s played about a 100 more minutes than Kobe, and while it’s true Kobe could play more if he needed to, Gasol IS the reason he doesn’t need to.

4. Dwight Howard (4)

Dwight holds steady.  Like Kobe, he’s played about 100 less minutes than Gasol.  His team has a great record, but who have they beaten?  As far as I can tell, beating the disappointing Heat is their best win of the season, but they lost to those same heat when they played them in Miami.  Honestly, the types of issues Gasol has, Howard’s got something similar going.  Good teams can stop his offense, and get him into foul trouble period.  He remains elite, but has not taken that next step necessary to be an MVP front runner.

5. Manu Ginobili (9)

Well, now Ginobili’s really starting to catch fire.  The Spurs have one half the number of losses as anyone else in the league, they truly are playing better than anyone else, and it is Ginobili who is carrying the load.  He has always been someone who flirted with superstar-level play.  It will be interesting to see what he can do, now that he truly is the best player on the Spurs.

6. Kobe Bryant (5)

Kobe slides one spot, but he didn’t really slide, so much as Ginobili emerged.  Kobe’s picked up the slack lately for the Lakers when his teammates struggled, but it hasn’t actually led to wins.  When he starts picking up that slack consistently while his team dominates, he’ll rise up the charts quickly.

7. Deron Williams (NR)

Deron and the Jazz are killing it right now.  After a slow start to the year, they’re looking as good as anyone right now.  Remember when those plucky Jazz upset the Heat not too long ago?  Funny, now they’d easily be favored.

8. Russell Westbrook (7)

Still going strong, but feels like a guy who’ll have a tough time staying on this list.  Hard to imagine Kevin Durant won’t get back to his old self and cleanly emerge as the MVP candidate for the team.  For now, another solid week for Westbrook, but a couple of losses, and he wasn’t at his best in all of those games.

9. Derrick Rose (8)

He’s a special player, and he is having a major net impact.  I’m still not totally sold that his mega-volume, middling-efficiency is entirely justified.  “No one else can score?” they say, and then Rose misses a game and his replacement scores 33 on 22 FGA.  Again, not saying Rose doesn’t make the Bulls better, but I think he may still have some significant kinks in his decision making to work through.

10. Rajon Rondo (6)

Well, we’ve now seen the Celtics pull their requisite “kill a team without our supposed star player” routine.  It does hurt Rondo.  Not enough for him to fall off the list, but the bottom line is that Boston, perhaps more than anyone in the league, is positioned to thrive when not at full strength.  It’s amazing to contrast Boston’s hasty assembly with Miami’s.  Ainge and Rivers deserve a ton of credit.

Falling Off

LeBron James – I’m still not ridiculously worried about the Heat in the long run, but it now seems pretty laughable for John Hollinger to be saying that there’s nothing wrong.  The Heat have played a tough schedule, but at 9-8, it’s quite clear that they’re playing nothing like the immediate dominant revamped teams (’08 Celtics, ’05 Suns) we’ve seen.  The team is not built for balance and depth, and while LeBron looks better than his teammates, he still looks nothing like the King of Cleveland we’re used to.

Written by Matt Johnson

November 29, 2010 at 2:59 am

2 Responses

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  1. Like the Dirk pick. Of all the teams between 11 and 14 wins, he’s doing it with the least to me. The Mavs are shoddy to say the least.

    I think Dwight has had an underrated statistical season with his jump to 23ppg with his typical dominant d. But Orlando’s ORTG is only 14th compared to their normal top 5. So it makes me hesitant to put him #1, though top 5 is a must

    Paul vs Deron is interesting on a raw vs advanced level. Deron is 22/10, Paul is 16/10, but Paul has the 27 PER to Deron’s 22. I understand why – Paul is more efficient, the league’s best stealer, and turns it over less. But Deron is still close in TS% (.58 to .61), stealing is related to gambling, and Utah actually turns the ball over far less than New Orleans as a team. At the very least it’s an either or thing for me. Once again we have to wonder if Deron would be getting generational top 3 hype if Paul never existed, making him the only young 20/10 PG in the league, which ordinarily is a very difficult task

    I do think Kobe should be in the discussion. Again clocking away 27/5/5 on the league’s best team and offense. I don’t worry about his .55 TS% when the Lakers are clowning the league offensively

    One more note. The Heat fiasco has made me appreciate non ball dominant stars more – I did before, but even moreso. You look at a guy like Durant who’s getting some rub for his shooting % falling off. Well he’s still at 27ppg .55 TS%, essentially Kobe numbers. Moreso, he’s doing it beside a 24ppg, 8apg, 6th in the league in USG% Russell Westbrook – A ball dominant superstar guard. And the Thunder are winning, the offense is running smoothly, and the vibes are fine. Big difference between them and the Heat to me. Even if the Heat’s SRS and ORTG still looks good, they clearly don’t look like a cohesive basketball team

    I wouldn’t call Durant a legit MVP candidate right now – But it’s made me appreciate Dirk, Dwight, Manu, and Kobe at least as guys who can thrive with others who need the ball. Uncoincidentally, all those guys rack up wins like crazy, and it looks like Durant is on his way to 50 W seasons until he gets old or injured

    Dr Mufasa

    November 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

  2. Some good thoughts there.

    I’m still getting a handle on Deron. I think he got moved up to elite status by the basketball community prematurely, but at this point he’s clearly one of the very best. I still wouldn’t put him up there with peak Paul, but I think Deron might prove to have the better career. For all the superstars acting badly right now, you never heard a peep from Deron along those lines.

    Your last couple paragraphs get into some really interesting stuff. I think that the recognition of the value different roles bring to the table is crucial, and if the Heat continue to fail, that’s going to become a very powerful narrative for a long time.

    As far as thriving with others who need the ball, I’m hesitant to look at Kobe, or Jordan for that matter, in that way. Lamar Odom was never really able to emerge as a star on the Lakers, and he really should have been the case study in this. It’s Gasol who is the one working so well with others having the ball – and in general, I’d say it’s big men who are among the best working this way because they simply can’t dominate the ball.


    November 30, 2010 at 6:23 pm

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