A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2011 NBA POY Watch 1/3

with 4 comments

My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Dirk Nowitzki (1)

One of two guys on this list missing time with injury.  Dirk’s still got a comfortable lead to burn off though.

2. Derrick Rose (3)

The Bulls continue to play like contenders even without Joakim Noah.  I’m still not entirely sold that Rose is an MVP level player, but I can’t justify putting anyone other than Dirk above him right now.

3. Deron Williams (2)

Utah’s slipping a bit.  Hard to take that out on Deron, but also hard to win the MVP when your team isn’t looking elite.

4. Chris Paul (5)

The Hornets seem to have stabilized a bit with Paul taken on bigger load again.  Beating Boston, even without Garnett in the lineup is an accomplishment.

5. Kevin Garnett (6)

Like Dirk, Garnett is injured, and like Dirk, he doesn’t fall in my list.  In fact he rises, what gives?  Well to this point while it’s been obvious Garnett’s absence hurts the Celtics, it hasn’t cost them enough for them to lose their seed.  It won’t be long though before his fall begins in earnest here, but the rise this week says more about Ginobili than anything else.

6. Manu Ginobili (4)

How do you rank the best player on the best team?  It’s tough, and I go a lot based on my gut.  I look at this week though, where the Spurs tear through 3 great teams with 3 bad games from Ginobil, and it’s hard to look at him as a legit MVP candidate.

7. LeBron James (7)

LeBron stays at 7…behind the suspect best player on the best team.  I’ve got some more thoughts on LeBron coming up future posts as he remains THE storyline around.

8. Dwight Howard (9)

Howard and the Magic appear to have gotten their groove back.  If they keep it up, it won’t be long before Howard’s back in the top 5.

9. Dwyane Wade (NR)

Hell of a week from Wade with 2 40 point games.  It’s now truly a tossup as to who has been the best Heat player this season.

10. Kevin Durant (10)

That blowout loss to the Spurs was discouraging, but I’m still really feeling Durant right now.  He’s got his groove back, and an exact repeat of his previous season would have him in the top 2 right now.


Written by Matt Johnson

January 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm

4 Responses

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  1. This is really the first point in the season I’ve disliked your list. I understand the distribution of stars players is challenging MVP-rankings, as we’ve seen a shift back toward the 80s superteams (Celtics, Lakers, Heat, Magic) while remaining in a 30-team league with weaker teams built around one or two stars.

    However, doesn’t something have to give at some point? If we went purely raw wins added, obviously a player from the top teams could never be Most Valuable. Even if all the top players were on such teams and they were jostling for title spots while Amare and the Knicks battling for 45-wins.

    Thoughts on this issue?


    January 5, 2011 at 8:30 am

  2. lol. Kind of you to add a Like for this post to balance out your actual dislike of the list LG.

    I certainly agree that you can’t go by pure wins added. I’m actually not entirely sure what all bothers you here, so I’m going to focus on the Heat as that seems to be likely the most vexing part of the list.

    Pushing aside the guys from other teams for the moment, I’d think you’d agree that when LeBron goes from Cleveland where he literally has a worst-team-in-the-league-without-him supporting cast to Miami where there is every reason to think the team wins 50 games without him, if we don’t see a major improvement in team performance, LeBron’s MVP candidacy should be weaker than it was in Cleveland right? It’s just a question of how much weaker.

    Going over the people I’ve put ahead of him, there are 3 guys on the list with teams with better records. So while you may not agree with me there, that debate is not on point.

    That leaves: Rose, Deron, and Paul. At this point the first two have team’s with records only slightly worse than the Heat, and that’s a big part of why I rank them as I do. If Miami clearly separates themselves from those teams, things will change.

    Then there’s Paul who by really any conceivable advanced metric is beating out LeBron & Wade, and who I thought was right up there at his peak with Wade before the season. I can understand having him below the Heat duo, but is it really so objectionable that I don’t?

    Matt Johnson

    January 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

  3. Haha – I tend to like dissenting opinions if they are well thought out.

    The Miami guys really did get me thinking, so you hit on it perfectly. But you know I prefer SRS and other strength factors when evaluating a team, (and a player’s impact on a team) instead of wins. Wins are pretty good in basketball, but after 37 games I’m more interested in other factors.

    Another issue is injuries. I feel like we’re back in the RPOY project, but is it better to play 5 games injured and skew stats and +/- value, or sit out those 5 games and watch the team struggle. Wade, Durant, KG and Dirk all fall into that debate.

    So, specifically, I’d probably drop the 3 PGs to the bottom of the list and elevate the Miami guys. I have a Miami-related post coming soon so we can get into that later…


    January 5, 2011 at 12:13 pm

  4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When LeBron left for Miami, as an analyst, I was ecstatic. Not because I thought LeBron made the right decision, but simply because it was going to give us something really unusual to analyze.

    Win-Loss vs SRS, I use both, favoring one over the other depending on context. In terms of rating what Miami has done this year as an accomplishment. Miami’s SRS has been sky high all year…but those early losses really were indicative of problems. It’s all well and good to say SRS is more predictive, etc – but there was no way you could reasonably come out of the losses to Boston and think everything was hunky dory, y’know?

    But yes, by season’s end, I do typically consider SRS a better statement of how good a team is than W-L.

    As far as injuries, I always think the basics are clear even if the specifics are not. When you sit out, your actual value contributed goes unchanged (while other stars’ value presumably increases). However, your perceived value can jump in any direction, like it can in any other moment, but obviously amplified because of the rarity of such a moment.

    KG went up a slot this week for me, but that’s not going to continue. My thinking on him and Dirk both is that neither team is really hurt yet by their absence even while their dependence on their respective is quite clear. Dallas is still a 2 seed, Boston’s still a 1 seed, so no real news.

    Eventually though, if absences continue, then either the seeds fall or the team demonstrates its independence, with will cause the star’s MVP ranking to drop in a hurry.

    Matt Johnson

    January 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

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