Thursday, February 11, 2010

NBA MVP Race is Over

Some of you may have noticed a slight dip in post frequency over the last few weeks. I’ve been on a hiatus from my normal two posts per week routine. In the aftermath of the 100 Greatest Michigan Football Moments post—which was 20 times the length of an average post—I’ve been taking it easy with just a weekly post. Not sure how long the malaise is going to last but, in the meantime, I figured with the NBA All-Star Game just a few days away, now would be a good time to look at the NBA MVP race. Come to think of it, it might be an insult to LeBron James to call it a race because it’s one in name only.

MVP races and voting results can be frustrating for fans. Voting criteria is often based on lame precedents and position prejudices. This expectedly leads to controversy and often cynicism. For instance, Peyton Manning was just named the NFL MVP for a record 4th time. He had a good year but it would be difficult for anyone to argue that he won solely based on the way he performed this season. In a comparison with Drew Brees and Brett Favre, Manning is barely even in the conversation. Brees and Favre had two of the top 12 single-season passer ratings of all-time; Manning wasn’t even close to either. Brees threw 11 interceptions and Favre threw just seven; Manning threw 16. All three QBs played for first-place teams. The only advantage that Manning had was that his name was “Manning.”

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to find anything to criticize when it comes to the 2010 NBA MVP. LeBron James—and his preposterous 30 points/8 assists per night stat line—is going to easily win his second consecutive NBA MVP. In fact, barring injury, I’m not sure how anyone other than LeBron is going to win an MVP over the next five years. Clearly, voters could simply become tired of awarding the trophy to the same person every season a la Michael Jordan. MJ probably should have at least two more MVPs to his credit. With the Age of LeBron just getting off the ground, however, it’s unlikely that anyone will be tiring of King James anytime soon.

While it remains to be seen whether LeBron is ready to lead his team to an NBA Championship, his ability to statistically dominate the NBA like nobody in the last 30 years is not in question. He leads the NBA in scoring and is 6th in assists. He shoots over 50% from the field and 36.2% from 3-point land which is, by far, the best mark of his career. He has the highest defensive rating of any non C/PF in the NBA (the measure appears to be biased towards those positions). His team has the best record in the league and—despite his offensive awesomeness—the Cavs boast the best opponent field goal % in the NBA.

If LeBron were erased from the picture, the 2010 MVP race would be one for the ages. LeBron’s exploits are certainly impressive but he isn’t the only baller putting up gaudy statistics. Steve Nash is having arguably the best season of his career with averages of 18.4 ppg and 11.1 apg to go along with a remarkable 52% from the field. Dwight Howard leads the league in rebounds, free throw attempts, and blocks and is second in field goal %. Kevin Durant is having possibly the greatest season ever by a 21 year old. He’s just .1 behind LeBron in the scoring race while averaging more rebounds and shooting better from 3-point land. He also leads the NBA in Free Throws Made which should terrify the rest of the league. Don’t forget about Carmelo Anthony who has seen his game finally mature after six productively disappointing seasons. He might even be the odds on favorite if it weren’t for 13 DNPs. The league is certainly not short on MVP-worthy performers this season. I haven’t even brought up Dirk, D-Wade, and Tim Duncan who are one-man shows for playoff teams. But for all of the shining performers the league has seen this season it will still come down to LeBron vs. Kobe in the minds of the voters (even though it should be LeBron vs Durant).

The debate rages on. It’s every bit as fierce as Team Jennifer vs. Team Angelina and the testosterone equivalent of Team Jay vs. Team CoCo. Everyone has an opinion. LeBron haters argue that he lacks Kobe’s killer instinct. Kobe haters point to LeBron’s freakish size and athleticism. This is a debate that will likely continue for decades. It’s like Russell vs. Chamberlain II with one major exception. What made that rivalry so great was the fact that Wilt and Russ met in the NBA Finals three times. We’re still waiting on LeBron vs. Kobe I. In the meantime, Kobe’s season has been inferior to LeBron’s in just about every measureable away. Thus, LeBron James is your 2010 (and 11, and 12, and 13…) NBA MVP.


WinningHedge said...

Lol, great post. Even though I am a huge LeBron fan and biased, your blog was excellent. I especially like how you realize Durant should be 2nd in voting, as I concur. I loved some of the adjectives you used.

Jake said...

Thanks, Hedge!


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