Award Watch: 2010-2011 NBA MVP
A new week, a new re-shuffling of the rankings here at the MVP Watch… As always when deciding on these MVP rankings, we factor in individual player production (via both standard stats and advanced metrics) as well as team performance/success.
1. Dwight Howard – Orlando Magic (21.9 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg):
If you are looking for evidence as to why D Howard takes the top spot in the early season MVP rankings, go back and re-watch the first quarter of Thursday night’s Magic/Blazers game. Howard was absolutely dominant, in every sense of the word. He clogged the paint, grabbed boards, blocked a couple of shots, and was literally unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor. Moreover, the variety of his offensive arsenal was especially impressive (and surprising). He faced up on the left side about 15 feet from the hoop and unleashed a (dare I say) Tim Duncan-equse banker off the glass… He posted up on the right block, glided across the lane, and dropped in a pretty sweeping left-handed hook… Then he caught at the rock at the foul-line as the trailer on a delayed fast-break, crossed over the defender and laid the ball in with the left hand. Dwight later added a reverse layup for good measure. He even connected on all six free throws he attempted! Howard finished the first 12 minutes of action with 18 points – outscoring the entire Trailblazers team by himself (18-14).
2. Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks (24.7ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg):
Ho hum, yet another win for the Mavs Thursday night – their NBA-high 11th straight victory – and another supremely effective and efficient performance from their captain, Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk poured in 21 points (shooting 8-for-10 from the floor and 4-4 from stripe) and snatched 10 boards – racking up his seventh double-double on the young season. He isn’t flashy, and he’s been so good for so long that we tend to take his excellence for granted, but, when looking at the numbers, Nowitzki’s play this season demands attention. He is currently shooting a career-high 56% from the floor; and over the Mavs last 10 games (all wins), Dirk is connecting on 60% of his FG attempts, 90% of his free throws, and 48% of his three-balls.
3. Deron Williams – Utah Jazz (21.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 10.0 apg):
D-Will has been one of the league’s most dominant offensive forces over the first six weeks of NBA action, leading the Jazz to numerous impressive victories, both at home and on the road. For his efforts, he was named Western Conference Player of the Month last week: "Williams compiled 10 double-doubles and shot .856 from the free throw line. He led the Jazz to its second-best November winning percentage (.813) in franchise history and first place in the Northwest Division. He helped the Jazz overcome double-digit deficits to win eight of its 14 games, including a four-game sweep of an Eastern Conference road trip at Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte. Williams also hit two last-second game-winning shots, nailing a driving lay-up with 6.8 seconds remaining in double-overtime to defeat the L.A. Clippers, 109-107, on November 6, then a week later draining a floater with 0.8 seconds left to give the Jazz a 96-95 victory in Charlotte on November 13. Williams becomes the fourth different player in Jazz history to win Player of the Month, and it is the 12th such award in franchise history. He joins John Stockton (once), Karl Malone (seven times) and Carlos Boozer (twice), with Boozer the most recent Jazzman to win the award, taking the honors for February 2010." Great matchup on tap Friday night, as the Jazz host the Magic and their own Player of the Month (Dwight Howard).
4. Amar’e Stoudemire – New York Knicks (25.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.3 apg):
The Knicks are actually one of the NBA’s hottest teams, thanks in large part to the phenomenal surge by Amar’e Stoudemire. New York, winners of six straight and 10 of their last 11 contests, have been transformed from league-wide laughingstock to legitimate playoff contender this season. Stoudemire’s stats over the Knciks last 11 contests are undeniably impressive: 29.8 PPG (58.3 FG% and 83.2 FT%), 10.2 boards, 2.4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Moreover, he has carried the Knicks when they need him most – Amar’e leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, at 7.7 points. Stoudemire has the chance to tie a Knicks franchise record on Friday in Washington if he can score 30 points against the Wiz (would be seven straight games at 30+). However, Amar’e and the Knicks are going to have to prove themselves against much tougher competition beginning next Wednesday. Over a 30-day stretch (14 games) beginning December 15, the Knicks will play ALL six NBA divisional leaders (Celtics, Bulls, Magic, Spurs, Jazz and the Lakers).
5. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder (23.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 8.6 apg):
Now that Kevin Durant has returned from injury and appears healthy, the Thunder will likely rely less on their stud PG. However, over the first month-plus of the 2010-2011 season, Westbrook was undoubtedly the Thunder’s best player, amassing incredible all-around stats (including the second best PER rating in the NBA), hitting clutch shots, and pounding home electrifying dunks; all while guiding OKC to a 15-8 overall record.
Same-Team MVP Combo Candidates:
Manu Ginobili/Tony Parker/Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs (Record 18-3):
If I had to hand the hardware to just one Spur, I’d go with Manu – who is playing at an incredibly high level – but Tony P and Timmy D are obviously integral to the Spurs’ success, as well.
Rajon Rondo/Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett – Boston Celtics (Record 18-4):
The game-winning play in Thursday night’s last-second victory over the Philadelphia 76ers was a great example of why the Celtics are the best team in the East … and why these three stars personify that success. With six seconds remaining in the contest, the Celtics were down by one and were inbounding the ball on the sideline; most everyone in attendance assumed Doc Rivers had drawn up a play to get the ball in the hands of Ray Allen or Paul Pierce – their designated late-game gunners. Instead, they used Pierce as a decoy, and caught the Sixers on a switch, which left an undersized Jrue Holliday on Garnett underneath the basket. Rondo recognized it immediately and lofted a perfect alley-oop to KG, who gently deposited the game-winning bucket.
Pau Gasol/Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers (Record 16-6):
Pau has struggled since a scorching start to the season, as a nagging hamstring injury seems to have sapped some of his strength. However, it’s not a major concern for the Lakers at this point, as they have reinforcements coming soon (Andrew Bynum). More importantly, they still have the best player on the planet on their team.
LeBron James/ Dwyane Wade – Miami HEAT (Record 15-8):
Amazingly, I haven’t listed D Wade or King James, the reigning two-time MVP, in the space yet this season. The combination of the incredibly high expectations placed upon the HEAT, and Miami’s slow start over the first month of the season, precluded either superstar from getting much MVP consideration. However, the HEAT are hot once again and both Wade and LeBron are beginning to find a groove playing alongside each other. It will likely be very difficult for either player to garner significant MVP consideration due to all that talent on the same team; nonetheless, assuming they start racking up winning streaks, they have to included in the conversation (somewhere).
Individuals In the Race:
Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls (25.1ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.2apg):
D Rose has been a beast since the opening tip on Opening Night. Now, with power forward Carlos Boozer back in action, the Bulls should start to hit their stride soon, only boosting Rose’s MVP credentials…
Chris Paul – New Orleans Hornets (15.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 10.5 apg):
The Hornets have come back to the pack a bit after a great start to the season, but they are still seven games over .500 (after finishing eight games below .500 last season). The primary reason for New Orleans success is their all-world point guard, CP3. As we have come to expect, Paul is once again putting up phenomenal numbers this season. He leads the league in steals, is 3rd in assists, second in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio, and boats a league-best 26.91 PER rating.
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder (27.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.8 apg):
A healthy Durant is always a threat to out up MVP-caliber performance anytime he steps on the floor.
Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks (17.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.3apg):
No Joe Johnson, no worries… Big Al has assumed increased responsibilities for the Hawks with Johnson sidelined, and is now averaging nearly 20 PPG this month. Horford is dark-horse candidate to slip into the Top-10 in voting by season’s end.