A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2011 NBA POY Watch 4/11

with 23 comments

My weekly MVP rankings for the duration of the regular season. However, I’ll continue updating this as we go through the playoffs.

Player (last week’s rank)

1A. Derrick Rose (1)

1B. Dwight Howard (2)

A cop out? Maybe. I typically hate it when people make ranked lists and then insist they can’t choose. Dude, if you don’t know what your opinion is, why am I here? So I get it. If you insist on a 1 & a 2, then go by the letter suffix I put on there which keeps the same order as last week.

Bottom line though is that this week I have to make up my mind and commit to who my MVP pick is – but I haven’t yet made up my mind. Keep going back & forth. Very clearly, there are people on both extremes I find silly. No, Rose is not willing his team on pluck alone to best in the league status. No, Rose statistics aren’t bad – they are quite good, and the idea that just because there is no one stat that puts Rose on top, he can’t be #1 is bizarre (Out of the billions of people on earth, we have stats putting Rose easily in the top 10 that don’t factor in the intangibles of leading a team with great chemistry, and this is definitive proof against him?).

Give me a few more days…then I’ll give you my MVP and emphasize once against how wrong it is that the most prestigious individual award in the game doesn’t factor in the playoffs.

3. LeBron James (3)

Locked in at the 3rd spot. Funny, if you had asked people at the beginning of the year how LeBron would finish in the MVP race if the Heatles’ Big 3 largely stayed healthy, his stats went down, and the team finished with a significantly worse record than he was used to in Cleveland, I doubt many would have said top 3. Yet, I don’t find many people showcasing a mood of “pleasantly surprised” by where he is.

4. Dirk Nowitzki (4)

Dirk’s placement on my list this year is heavily tied to team record because of his missed time. If the Mavs slip any further, he might fall below Durant, but the Mavs seem to be getting back into a groove.

5. Kevin Durant (5)

Y’know for a good while I was talking about the Thunder in a somewhat disparaging fashion. Seemed like they were just consistent at beating the bad teams. Couldn’t beat the elites. Well, I still wouldn’t call them top contenders, but they’ve been beating the top teams they’ve faced lately. Granted beating the Lakers right now may be a bit of a mirage but the win over the Heat was nice, and the way they beat the streaking Denver Nuggets down twice in a row was impressive.

I still think that the double headed monster of Durant and Russell Westbrook doesn’t have near the net impact that one would think just by looking at volume stats (and that that’s a factor in Durant’s falloff compared to last year), but it might be time to start getting some legit fear for the Thunder as a solid team that could pull off an upset.

6. Dwyane Wade (6)

Yeah, the spot is his, and with it, my choice for the other guard spot on the All-NBA 1st team. When the Lakers were streaking I found myself feeling it harder and harder to have him ahead of the star of the title favorites, but the truth is, I still feel that both LeBron and Wade are doing more for the Heat than any one Laker.

7. Kobe Bryant (7)

8. Pau Gasol (8)

Kobe & Pau keep their spots. The Lakers coasting their way into the playoffs is nothing new, and nothing to get worked up about.

9. Chris Paul (10)

Paul moves up one spot, and he’ll get my nod for 2nd team status. I did want to note that with some anti-Rose debaters bringing up Paul as someone who could do what Rose does, this is something I wonder as well. However, I don’t think we can ignore the fact that Paul’s points, assists, and minutes are down, while he truly plays on a weak offense (something that isn’t actually true of Rose at season’s end), and reports that he’s continued to be plagued with the aftereffects of injury have been confirmed.

10. Manu Ginobili (9)

So Ginobili will finish just barely in the top 10. Seems about right for the lead member of the ensemble with the best record in the league. Of course, if I truly felt like the Spurs were the best team in the league, I’d be tempted to still have him higher.

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm

23 Responses

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  1. Is Durant getting a boost because of Durant or because of Perkins? I never liked how Kobe won MVP in 2008 because of Pau Gasol…as if Gasol’s arrival changed Bryant’s value.

    I don’t like the “could Paul do what Rose is doing” comparison either. Not saying you’re doing this here, but in general, they are too simplistic for me. Could Rose do what Paul is doing? No 2 players are the same, no 2 teams/roles the same. I think it’s a fair thought-experiment, but when I think of Paul on Chicago I assume they’d run a slightly different offense, for instance.

    Btw, I predict you side with Rose for MVP. (I have a fetish for predicting predictions.)

    ElGee

    April 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    • What boost exactly? You talking about my potential moving up of Durant over Dirk, or what others have done?

      Perkins? Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s helping the club, but OKC was on a roll before he started playing major minutes. Their statement came against Miami came with Perk going for 4 & 5 in 18 minutes of play. Does that really warrant a “only because of Perkins” type statement?

      Re: Paul. I’m sure you get me, but just to be clear – I’m focusing here on the fact that NO just isn’t asking for as much from Paul as in previous years, despite the fact that they aren’t exactly hitting it out of the park. This is certainly relevant when contrasting with with Rose, who is basically being asked to put in max NBA energy.

      Re: predictions of predictions. Interesting. Care to elaborate?

      Matt Johnson

      April 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      • Was speaking more to others, but you do a degree. Perkins is definitely helping their defense, regardless of raw stats/not having huge minutes. He makes them more of a contender, and my point is that I never understand why that would change the leads candidate’s value.

        I could tell you why you’re going to pick Rose, but it would ruin the fun. 😉

        ElGee

        April 11, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      • Aaaaah! He’s in my head! Get him out of my head!

        Matt Johnson

        April 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm

  2. Uninspired by this year’s MVP race. Good players contesting for the title rather than great players jostling for greatness.

    Ravenred

    April 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    • Some truth there. Frustrating to know none of these guys hold a candle to LeBron of the past two years, when LeBron is still in the middle of his prime.

      Matt Johnson

      April 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      • Two words.

        Caroline. Wozniacki

        ;).

        Ravenred

        April 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      • lol. If every not all-time-great MVP candidate looked like Caroline, indeed, I would not be as frustrated.

        Seriously, I always thought Sharapova was incredibly overrated, but how can you not love Woz’s smile?

        Matt Johnson

        April 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm

  3. One of the reasons this year’s MVP discussion has been rowdy is that while you can make the case for Lebron or Howard based on statistical evidence, they perform terribly in the quality of story part of the award. Neither team has inspired fawning coverage or national excitement – in fact both seasons are kind of a letdown by media standards, even though Miami has to feel pretty good at the moment.

    Both players seem to play the game ‘the wrong way’ at times. Howard misses games due to technicals, can’t hit his FTs and is taking more possessions off on defense (to my eye). James was icy to his coach, acts like a diva and always seems like he could be more effective if his offense were more disciplined and if he took fewer jumpers.

    The MVP in the NBA might as well be the Espy for ‘best story’. Until James or Howard do something that makes writers want to write about them they don’t have a realistic shot at winning one.

    Greyberger

    April 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    • Just to be clear I think things like being a bad teammate, fouling your way into suspensions, and team expectations should be a factor in MVP votes and these factors obviously hurt James and Howard. I agree with the sentiment that the best seasons played this year don’t stand up to recent MVP seasons like Lebron 2009 and 2010.

      Greyberger

      April 11, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    • Well said. I didn’t like how Hollinger described the “story” aspect to things, but there is some truth to it and you sum it up admirably.

      I’m still inclined to say that with LeBron, the “story” swimsuit contest is a pretty reasonable thing to demand. When you build a super-team, the idea is that the few stars are so valuable you don’t need anything special in the role players. If that proves not to be true, this certainly says something negative about the abilities of the stars in question.

      Granted, it would be silly to punish player-LeBron for star-LeBron’s off-court decisions, but when two superstar ball-dominant volume scorers join forces and then struggle to make optimal use of each other, it becomes hard to separate those two aspects.

      Matt Johnson

      April 11, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      • Word. There aren’t any great candidates this year.

        Greyberger@gmail.com

        April 12, 2011 at 8:28 am

  4. Women’s Number Ones don’t tend to last long, oddly.

    You had Henin, Sharapova, the Williamses, Clijsters, Hingis occupying the number 1 spot without ever looking like long term dominating players (The Williams sisters would be in that ballpark, but they’ve drifted in and out of competition, with still-impressive results. Henin and Clijsters, if not for injury. Clijsters, if not for some reorientatino of her priorities).

    The last non-great world number one in the men’s however, was probably Hewitt, who was solid without being spectacular.

    Woz is fun, but it’s a fling (er… in terms of fandom, of course) not a committed relationship.

    Whether Rose will be the same for the voters will be an interesting question over the next couple of years. Whilst Bulls fans already have him pegged as the successor to MJ, I’m less sure.

    Ravenred

    April 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    • Meant Hingis in the “injury” section, not Clijsters.

      Ravenred

      April 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    • It’s been fascinating to watch men’s tennis dominated by oligarchy and the women’s not dominated at all. Definite reversal of trends. I still thing the possibility of superstardom for hot female tennis stars is the one legit factor going forward – everything else is just luck of the draw.

      I think with Rose, only ways he keeps getting MVP love are continued fantastic team success, or significantly better stats.

      Matt Johnson

      April 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm

      • I didn’t know the rankings had a modifier for “hotness”. (The Kournikova allowance)

        Oh well, live and learn.

        The Bulls will be significantly less of a surprise next year. “Team that won last year keeps winning” is not an MVP-type narrative. 😉

        Ravenred

        April 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      • Isn’t it? I don’t have time right now but I’d ask: When the team of the previous season’s MVP wins more games than the year before, how often has the guy not repeated as MVP?

        Kobe didn’t repeat, but that was only because of LeBron’s emergence.

        There’s Nash, but the team injuries the previous year were a big part of the reason for the MVP.

        I think those are the only two examples in the last 20 years.

        Matt Johnson

        April 12, 2011 at 12:17 am

  5. I think it wasn’t the Decision or his new teammates that cost Lebron the MVP this year, it was Miami not getting 1st. I’m thinking if the Heat won 63-64 games and the Bulls won 56, Lebron would get MVP. The MVP will lean towards the 1st place team if they have a star but that just happened to the Bull this year. I can definitely see Lebron winning future MVPs in Miami – especially considering that as the offense in Mia gets more and more set, I see higher and higher efficiency for him. I can see a 53% FG .62-.64 TS% in Lebron’s future, to go along with 27 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds or something. Add that to a 62-65 W season and I expect Lebron emerges as the perenniel favorite again. But the best thing he can do it start winning them again is to get a title. Once Lebron gets that monkey off his back, nobody will blame him for the decision and he’ll once again be the alpha dog of the league and hard to vote against.

    julienrodger

    April 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

    • Before the season I wasn’t sure about this, but I fully remember in around February when it looked like the Heat were winning with each how all the MVP momentum was in LeBron’s direction.

      Matt Johnson

      April 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm

  6. […] 2011 NBA POY Watch 4/11 (asubstituteforwar.com) […]

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