By: Kevin Sawyer
At the beginning of this season, I made some bold predictions about how the MVP race would turn out. Now that we are heading into the All-Star break, let’s turn those predictions into reality. KG might have the thing locked up, but here is how I would rank the candidates if I were 200 sportswriters balled into one.
1. LeBron James (Previous rank: 6)
The only reason he won’t win it is that you can’t write a fancy story about how he won it. He didn’t swap teams, or "make his teammates better" (which is impossible), or play a sexy position (PG or C). If he keeps this up, all you can say for him is that he has outplayed everyone else… By a lot. Does that make him valuable? I don’t see how it doesn’t.
2. Chris Paul (Previous Rank: 8 )
I’m tempted to use the supporting cast argument for James, but Paul wins that category in a landslide. Paul has his team near the top of the West. Yeah, that West, the one where 50 wins isn’t going to guarantee you a playoff spot. Look, David West is fine, but he’s no all-star, and people are writing obituaries for Steve Nash’s Suns because they added Shaq to a roster that already includes Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill. I shutter to think what Paul could do with that group.
3. Kevin Garnett (Previous Rank: 5)
What would it take for Garnett to lose the MVP award? I was thinking dead toddlers in the trunk would do it, but it would have to be weird. Like dead toddlers dressed as monkeys underneath a pile of love letters to Philip Seymour Hoffman. You know, somethin’ spooky. That, or 25 games missed due to whatever it is that he actually injured when he left that Minnesota game.
That said, his defense has really set a tone for his new team, which more than makes up for a slight offensive dropoff. Paul and James, though, are in a different class, if we’re being honest, and the more games Garnett misses, the more articles you’ll see pimping those two.
4. Dwight Howard (Previous Rank: NA)
Now might be a good time to analyze the value of superstars who play every damn game (as Howard has since, like, birth). It’s easy to look at a guy who plays 74 games and say that guy has played a full season, but let’s do some math. Howard has a PER of about 25. Like most superstars, Howard’s back up is, um, lackluster (specifically, it’s Adonal Foyle). Lackluster Foyle has a PER of about 12.
If Howard were to play only 74 games per year. The PER for the starting center position would dip to 23.7 or so. Not a huge deal, but when you are naming MVP candidates with identical cases, such numbers loom large.
5. Tim Duncan (Previous Rank: 7)
It’s boring how good he is. Duncan is like the kid on Dance Dance Revolution on hits like 42,000 perfects in a row. It’s amazing, but eventually you just want him to slip on his own sweat and bang his head on that little guard rail they have on the back. Hell, Duncan’s so sweet, he’s been doing this since DDR was popular.
6. Kobe Bryant (Previous Rank: 1)
Pre-game conversation in the Laker locker room:
Pau Gasol: I just want you to know, I’m not about stats. I just want to win.
Kobe Bryant: No, no, forget all that… Just score 30 points.
Pau Gasol: What?
Kobe Bryant: I make it easy. Trust me.
Pau Gasol: Typical American arrogance. Reminds me of Damon Stoudamire.
Post-game conversation in the Laker locker room
Pau Gasol: Wow, you were right. That WAS easy.
Kobe Bryant: That’s right. I’m Kobe @#%$^ Bryant. Also, I knit you this sweater at halftime.
Pau Gasol: It’s beautiful.
Kobe Bryant: (Disappears in a puff of purple smoke).
7. Chauncey Billups (Previous Rank: NA)
No homerism here. Billups’ contribution to the Pistons is summed up as much by what he does as what he doesn’t do. His ability to dish, get to the lane, and set up the offense without turning the ball over is as special as it is difficult to appreciate. Oh, and he is certainly living up to the Mr. Big Shot moniker this year. That 30 footer vs. Orlando was just sick.
8. Amare Stoudemire (Previous Rank: NA)
Has so many things going against him that he probably won’t even get a vote. He doesn’t play enough minutes. He plays alongside a two-time MVP (and has another MVP joining him); he had "chemistry issues" that supposedly forced a terrible trade for the aforementioned; he is the center for a team that has garnered an unfair reputation for not playing any defense. Nonetheless, there is a big reason why Phoenix kept this guy instead of Shawn Marion. When playing 35 mpg or more, Amare logs 26.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. Those numbers get you on this list.
9. Chris Bosh (Previous Rank: NA)
I had sort of written him off after his slow start this season, but Calderon-to-Bosh is fast becoming the new Stockton-to-Malone. If Bosh can keep this up, and if Toronto can go on the nice little tear I think they are going to go on, Bosh will escalate.
10. Yao Ming (Previous Rank: 2)
The Rocket’s recent success has made my pre-season Yao-pimping seem marginally less absurd. Yao hasn’t lived up to anyone’s expectations this year, but is still leading an offensively troubled roster to a playoff spot in the merciless west.