Tag:awards
Posted on: March 31, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 1:08 am
 

Lamar Odom was the total sixth man this season

Posted by Royce Young

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Like most of the others, the Sixth Man Award is pretty vague. Is it for a player that actually is the sixth guy in the rotation? Is it for a bench player, exclusively? Can a guy that started almost half his team's games win it?

According to the rules, yes. To be eligible, you just have to come off the bench more games than you started. Lamar Odom is just barely eligible (34 starts, 39 off the bench). But in a way, that's one of the best parts of his Sixth Man resume.

Odom has filled in everywhere this season for the Lakers. Power forward, center, small forward. The guy is maybe the most versatile player in the league. And it's not like he's done a good job. He's done a fantastic job.

At 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on nearly 54 percent shooting (almost 60 percent true shooting, the highest of his career) and a PER of 19.88, Odom might be having his best, most efficient season of his career.

He's always been sort of the X-factor for the Lakers because of his unique skillset. And he's always been very good for them in whatever role he's used. But his main issue has been consistency. This season, he's been reliable almost every single night. When that happens not only is he one of the most dynamic players in basketball, but the Lakers are maybe the toughest team to beat.

Look at what he did in the World Championships in Turkey. Playing as one of the only big men on the United States roster, Odom was absolutely vital to the team bringing home gold for the first time in 16 years. His value to a team can't be understated. Things like points and rebounds per game don't often do him justice. Most felt Odom was an All-Star snub for his efforts this season, despite his apparently "low" numbers.

Not that his numbers are bad, though. He's second in scoring off the bench and first in rebounds. He's 10th in the entire league in field goal percentage and among power forwards (if that's what he even is), he's fifth in assists per game. However you cut it, Odom has had a great year.

There are other very nice candidates, no doubt. Jason Terry of course, Jamal Crawford, Thaddeus Young, Glen Davis and a few others. Sixth Man is sort of one of those hard to figure awards because you have to try and measure production versus impact off the bench versus value to the team versus other intangibles. What separates Odom, for me, is that he encapulates everything you want in a role player. Able to step in and start three positions. Able to play in crunch time. Able to take over a game on his own, if needed. And always productive. Checks across the board.

That's not always been the case for Odom as when his career wraps, I think we'll all look at his incredibly unique skills and ability and wonder if he underachieved. I don't necessarily see it that way -- especially these last few seasons with the Lakers -- because fitting in next to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol is hard. Really hard.

NBA Awards
For guys like Terry and Crawford, they basically know what they're called on to do. Terry is to play second fiddle to Dirk and score in bunches. Same for Crawford off the Atlanta bench. But Odom has to manage how he fits next to being productive. That's really, really challenging. And a reason stats don't always tell the story.

Odom really feels like the one player out of this group that if you subtracted him, his team would be cost a substantial number of wins. I really think he's that valuable to what the Lakers do. Just the options he gives Phil Jackson late in games to match up or create mismatches with.

Really, the best argument there is right now as to why not to vote for Odom is because he started so many games. As long as he's within the rules, it doesn't matter to me and again, I kind of like that. Like I said, being the type of play that's able to fill in wherever is needed is what makes a great sixth man.

Being a bench player is something Odom has said is sort of hard for him to grasp, because he knows how good he is. He was the No. 4 overall pick of the Clippers in 1997 and has the ability to start for basically everyone.

"At first, it was hard for me," Odom told reporters recently. "From a business standpoint, the year Phil wanted me to come off the bench was my free agent year. You know how that goes. When you're a free agent, you want to start and play as many minutes as you can. But it was the right decision.

"As a sportsman, you're used to starting," he continued. "I used to be one of the guys and go to guys on the team. I'd be lying if I told you it didn't. I'll be honest with you, a little bit. I've always started for every team I was on and was one of the first three options."

And that sort of mentality is exactly what makes a guy a great team player and a great sixth man. A lot of guys with the kind of profile Odom has and talent aren't willing to sacrifice minutes and a starting spot. Odom is, while still playing at one of the highest levels he ever has.



Posted on: March 30, 2011 7:05 pm
 

LeBron James says Derrick Rose is MVP

LeBron James endorses Derrick Rose for MVP for obvious, and not so obvious reasons. 
Posted by Matt Moore

In what has become a fairly vicious MVP debate between supporters of Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, Rose has had several clear advantages, one of them being "endorsements." If we admit that the MVP is a popularity contest, which of course it is, endorsements from notable people in the game are as powerful as they are in politics. On Wednesday, Rose picked up another one, from the defending MVP, LeBron James. 

James told reporters prior to the Heat's game against the Wizards that Derrick Rose is his MVP. 

The endorsement isn't surprising based on multiple factors. One, James is just smart enough to know not to push himself for the award. Second, Rose is a friend, part of the Calipari string of pro point guards that James has gotten to know over the years. And third, Rose isn't Dwight Howard, who James has developed a rivalry with based on playoff series and the Magic being a divisional opponent. Howard has been public in his criticism of the Heat and the attention paid. That probably tied into LeBron's decision to publicly back Rose. 

But at the end of it, Rose is just more James' style of player.  A perimeter whirling dervish of offensive firepower in a Bulls uniform. Doesn't take much knowledge of James' history to know that fits in strongly with his own preferences. 

Rose now has endorsements from the former MVP, Michael Jordan, and Stan Van Gundy, among others. There's been little evidence that the voters will break rank with the greats of the game to endorse Howard, no matter how much evidence may exist to make it a competitive race. Rose is quite simply an incredible player with a great story and all the momentum. 
Posted on: March 8, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 12:26 am
 

Roundtable: MVP Two-Man Game?

Is the MVP race a two-man game, and if so, what's holding each candidate back?
Posted by Matt Moore

Matt Moore: I don't think anyone can look at the numbers on closing games by the Heat and keep James in it. I hate to place so much emphasis on one part of the game, but along with the struggles, and the fact they have so much help, I think it's hard to keep him in it when you use that as the last element. So we're looking at Rose vs. Howard. Which is at once surprising and not shocking at all. I don't think anyone saw Rose making this kind of a jump this soon, or Howard to really have his presence felt more than he had in earlier seasons.  

Part of me, though, still wonders about Dirk. The only real dip for the Mavericks was when Dirk was out. In all the rest of the games, they've been mammoths trampling the world. Are we counting out Dirk too soon?

Ben Golliver:  We shouldn't count out Dirk Nowitzki. Especially if we're saying James is disqualified because of the late-game struggles (and we are), Dirk should be in the discussion for that very same reason.

I still like Dwight Howard's candidacy for a number of reasons. He wins the "did more with less" argument over the other major players -- yes, even Derrick Rose -- and he gets bonus points for helping Orlando weather a big-time midseason shakeup trade that could have sent the Magic's season in a number of directions. Orlando is 24-13 since the trade went official, nearly an identical winning percentage to what they managed prior to the trade. There's a fair argument to be made that this is not Orlando's best year at title contention, but that argument is about everything except Howard. He's averaging a career-high in points (23.1), near his career-high in rebounds (13.9), he's shooting 60% from the field and he's doing it without any other real low post threats. 

His team wins, he's put up numbers and he's persevered. Those are solid check marks in the three biggest boxes to me. Rose is just a half-whisker behind him to me. 

Moore: Does the fact that he's averaging more points while shooting more, but also shooting worse from the field than last year and worse from the stripe than in years prior matter at all? His TR% is the worst since 07. Block percentage worst since 08. ORating and DRating just as good as in year's prior. I think that's why I don't buy Dwight. He's not playing better than he has in prior seasons, and in prior seasons he wasn't good enough. So why now? Maybe that was just our mistake in prior seasons, though. 

Nowitzki's basically not going to win because he's not a sexy candidate, we can all just admit that, right? Because his production is through the roof. 

Golliver: I think the efficiency argument against Dwight has some merit but is fairly easily explained by the context of the season. Efficiency and usage aren't going to be linear when you reach the heights he's at, and he's not taking more shots by accident this year. The knock against the Magic was always that he didn't get enough touches, right? I think it's in their best interest to keep feeding the big fella, and his field goal percentage is barely down anyway. One of the big "what ifs" in the NBA is how ridiculously forceful (not to mention efficient) a presence Howard would be if he was even an average free throw shooter. But getting to the line has indirect value (he's at a career-high clip there) even if he isn't cashing in nearly as often as he should be. Of course, we can pick nits with regard to his offensive game all we want, but of the top 5 regularly discussed candidates Howard is surely the most dominant defensive presence and by far the best rebounder. 

As for Dirk, I think it's a combination of sexiness and the ever-present fatigue factor. It was interesting to hear Kevin Durant allude to the fact that he isn't an MVP candidate this year because he's not the new, hot name. I think there's some merit to that. A player's "story" plays a huge role here and Dirk's story boils down to: "Guess what? I'm still really, really freaking good." Maybe he should be playing up the fact that he bounced back from that disastrous relationship he had with his alleged (but not really) baby mother? Sympathy goes a long way in the media. We love a comeback, even if it's manufactured.

Moore: It's not that Howard hasn't been insanely good, it's whether he's been the best. After all we're throwing out the player who may very well be the best pound for pound on the planet in LeBron James. But then, Rose's numbers in terms of efficiency haven't been great either. In terms of impact when you watch, it's pretty easy to come to a tie between Howard and Rose. The most interesting aspect may be the teammates-factor. Most will agree that Rose has better teammates than Howard, but we're talking Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. But then with Howard we're talking Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson.

The argument that Howard's defense goes further than Rose's offense. Rose has improved on defense, but doesn't have the same impact as Howard on offense. 
Posted on: February 14, 2011 6:15 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 6:53 pm
 

Pretenders or Contenders? The MVP candidates

As we head into the All-Star break, who's are the pretenders and contenders for the NBA MVP award?
Posted by Matt Moore



Before we get to our list of MVP contenders and pretenders, check out Adam Aizer, Greg Urbano, and Ben Golliver as they discuss the most underrated and overrated teams in the NBA and more in our weekly CBSSports.com NBA podcast:  



This season likely features the closest MVP battle we've seen since 2006. The list of worthy candidates is phenomenally long this season, and every candidate has a strong resume and clear question marks which is why this will end up as a hotly contested race down the stretch. 

To be honest, I'm loathe to write this. Anyone whose candidate is excluded will be outraged, but not as much as those listed in the pretenders category. It seems like a direct slap in the face, as if not saying a player is among the very most elite, just the generally elite, is a huge insult. It's understandable. Everyone loves their guy. Worse will be those outraged by my inclusion of certain contenders. Just as some are passionately certain that "their guy" is the MVP, there are candidates that just rub people the wrong way. Some are Chris Paul fans who can't understand all the fuss about Derrick Rose when CP3 has been around for years. Others are livid over Amar'e Stoudemire being in the conversation when Dwight Howard is a force at both  ends of the floor.

The answer to all this? If I had my way, we'd have a ten-way split for Co-MVP. It would be like that episode of "Oprah." "You get an MVP! And you get an MVP! And you get an MVP!" only instead of screaming middle-age stay-at-home moms it would be shrugging 25-30 year old basketball players who don't understand why you're giving them a car when they make over $16 million a year in most cases. The point is that all of these players deserve tremendous respect just for being included in the conversation. And it's entirely possible that some of them really do deserve to win it, or don't deserve to be considered, were there some sort of objective measure. But there isn't. It's a purposefully vague award voted on often by people who have not seen anything close to the entire body of work of all the acceptable candidates. The following is merely meant to be a roadmap based on the likelihood of the voters, featuring the common compliments and detractions for each.

To sum up: don't shoot the messenger. We're all winners in my book.

Contenders

LeBron James: If there's a favorite, it's got to be LeBron.  The reigning two-time MVP is averaging 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He's the best player on the second best team in the East, and has shown the abilities that still consistently cause objective observers to label him as the best overall basketball player on the planet. His candidacy continues to improve each month, as he averaged 30 points in January, and is averaging 8.6 rebounds since the start of 2011.  Furthermore, Cleveland's horrific turn lingers in many eyes, despite the injuries to Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao wreaking havoc on Byron Scott's lineups. It's hard to argue against James when his former team went from the best regular season record in the East to arguably the worst team in the league. But there are reasons why James may not get the vote. His numbers, particularly his assists, are down, despite having his superstar teammates. We expected the scoring drop when put alongside Bosh and Wade, but he's having a harder time creating for teammates despite having far superior ones. His efficiency is also down considerably, with a 26.7 PER this season down from 31.1 last year. He may also suffer from the  "Jordan effect" where writers get tired of votiing for the same guy over and over again. But the biggest reason, sigh, is of course his image. No one wants to reward James' preseason preening, and considering the enormous expectations put on the Heat, it's hard to reward James when he hasn't blown everyone away despite the All-Star teammates he shares the floor with. 

Chris Paul: Paul has been the most efficient point guard on the planet this season. While Rajon Rondo leads in Assists, Weighted Assists, and Assist percentage, Paul isn't far behind in any of those categories, and has a lower turnover ratio. He's also better offensively. His (near) return to health has taken the Hornets from a lottery team to a team looking at homecourt advantage in the first round in a tough Western Conference, and may have single-handedly pushed the attendance where it needed to be to avoid the lease agreement issue. Paul is still strongly considered by many to be the clear-cut best point guard in the league, in an era where that position is filled to the brim with outstanding talent. The knocks on Paul seem like nit-picking. He simply hasn't been dominant in closing stretches of close games. Too often he defers, and not in the "pass to the open man off the double" way. More in the "here, David West, here's the ball, I'll be in the corner, good luck" way. He seems to be struggling to regain his explosivness that he showcased in his near-MVP season in 2008, and has not trusted his floater enough. Paul has had a phenomenal season and is definitely a contender, but the voters will need more in order for him to walk away with the trophy. 

Dwight Howard: Oh, Dwight. If Howard were to play every game on the offensive end as he did Sunday against the Lakers, the award could be thrown at his feet during All-Star Weekend. Howard is an extremely divisive figure in the conversation, arguably even moreso than LeBron. LeBron's detractors don't like him, and have good reason not to like him, but finding fault with his game is pretty tough. With Howard, finding fault with his game isn't difficult, but neither is finding evidence that he's the single most impactful player on both ends of the floor. He's still the monstrous defensive presence he has been for the past three seasons, even if Kevin Love's astronomical rebound rate has stolen the top spot statistically. Howard is still the most dominant rebounding force in the league. He's able to influence play mechanics and shot selection, he rotates, blocks shots into the ninth row, has terrific awareness and is the biggest reason why the Magic are still hovering around homecourt advantage in the first round. Howard has also featured a more expanded offensive repertoire, showing off a mid-range jumpshot to go with his array of dunks. He leads all centers who play 30 minutes a night in FG% at the rim , at 75.5%. So what's the hold back? In short, if you absolutely need a bucket in the fourth quarter of a contested game, Howard is still not the best place to go. With all the improvements made to his offensive game, he's actually shooting his second worst free throw percentage of his career. That alone wouldn't take him out of the running, but with the Magic having made several trades to improve the squad and still struggling, Howard isn't supporting them enough on his own to make him the favorite in some eyes. His footwork remains inconsistent, his offensive repertoire still the basketball equivalent of the menu at a baked potato restaurant. You can get it loaded with whatever you want, it's still a baked potato. Howard may be the candidate who suffers most from perceptions rather than facts about his game, and that's saying something with LeBron James in the conversation. 

Derrick Rose: If Howard is most often punished based on feeling rather than fact, then Rose is his mirror image. The point guard who's not an elite passer, the scorer who's not the model of efficiency, but the player who "wows" voters night in and night out. Rose has shown a phenomenal ability to take over games, particularly in the fourth quarter, and with extended injuries to both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls' second and third best players respectively, it's been Rose that has pushed the Bulls to be in contention not only for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference, but possibly a top-two seed. He's improved in nearly every aspect of his game, from defense, to scoring, to creating contact and getting to the line, which was a concern early this season. He's quite simply been a phenomenal basketball player, even though he's not necessarily dominant in any one area. Rose has found a way to make the necessary play more times than not when the Bulls have a chance to win the game, and his athleticism and explosiveness simply blows you away. All that said, he's a third-year player on a third-place team who's only shooting 45% from the field. Rose being considered a candidate is either a testament to the immeasurable impact his play has on the game, or a case of big-market bias combined with a sentimental affection for a outstanding highlights insteads of empirical evidence. 

Pretenders:

Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bryant doesn't care about this award. Could not give a flip. He cares about the sixth ring, catching Michael, cementing his legacy, sending Phil out on top (or perhaps more importantly, not failing him), and doing it his way. Which means lots and lots and lots of shots. Whether you agree or disagree that Kobe's the source of the occasional Lakers' stalling mid-flight offensively, to argue that Bryant doesn't like to shoot is beyond reason. He leads all players in FGA per 40 minutes . All players. Even the end-of-benchers who like to toss it up so as to say they made a few buckets in an NBA game before heading off to the D-League again take fewer shots than Bryant. And that's acceptable. He's the singular best offensive talent of his time. So he'll continue doing what he wants, and scoring, and winning more often than not, in part because he had the unimitigated gall to demand to play for the Lakers before the draft, and has been rewarded with teams of unfathomable talent and a Hall of Fame coach, and in part because he may very well be the second best ball player to ever lace up shoes on an NBA floor. So for Bryant to be considered a pretender should not be taken as some sort of grand insult the way so many consider his exclusion of the award from 2005 to 2007 to be. He's older, he doesn't shoot as well, he doesn't have to try as hard, and Pau Gasol is just as much a part of what makes the Lakers great. Bryant is a phenomenal player on the West's second best team, as well as the star of the defending NBA champions who many expect to repeat. None of this makes him worthy of the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award, just as none fo the accomplishments of the contenders listed above make their legacies in any way comparable to what Bryant has accomplished. Bryant's past a silly regular season award. He's playing for points in the game of immortality. 

Dirk Nowitzki: If physically pains me to place Nowitzki here. Did you know that Nowitzki is shooting 51% from 16-23 feet ? Think about that.  As the number one offensive threat for a Western Conference contender, in the most difficult place to shoot from (three-pointers are often set, catch and shoot opportunities with reasonable space from a closing defender), Nowitzki makes more than he misses. That's incredible. What will really shock you, however, is Dirk's defense. He's allowing just 29% FG shooting in the post. He's certainly not defending top-level post players, but that's still incredible for a guy often criticized for his defense. Same with isolation, where he's allowing just 36.4% shooting. (Numbers courtesy of Synergy Sports.) All this and he's helped lead the Mavericks to the second best record in the Western Conference. So what's the knock on Dirk? Nowitzki suffers more than any other candidate from the "What have you done for me lately?"card. Nowitzki has already won the award, his team isn't blowing everyone away in their conference, and they're still not taken seriously as a title contender. It's impossible to find an argument with Dirk's play, it's that once again, he doesn't seem to "feel" like an MVP. 

Amar'e Stoudemire: Stoudemire energized New York in the first quarter of the season and was blasting his way through the Eastern Conference. It looked every bit like Stoudemire was going to be a legit MVP candidate this year. But the Knicks have fallen off, and as a result, Stoudemire's contributions no longer seem as sterling. Yet he's still averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, at or near career highs, and certainly is the most valuable player on a Knicks team that's a lock for the playoffs, even as homecourt slips further and further away. The biggest knock on Stoudemire? Defense. His defensive numbers are average in the post according to Synergy Sports, and there's a widely held perception that he's a terrible defender. It's probably an exaggeration, but without any signature wins over the top defensive teams outside Chicago (ironically the top defensive team), Stoudemire will be hard pressed to get the vote, even with the New York advantage. 

Kevin Garnett: Can a player average only 15 points and win MVP? Probably not, which is why Garnett will likely fail to get many, if any votes for MVP. But he deserves to at least be in the discussion. Garnett shoots 74% at the rim this season, and 46% from 16-23 feet . He's the unquestioned defensive leader of the most trusted defensive unit in the league, and his work has somehow been even better than usual this year. His explosiveness has returned after last year's recovery from a knee injury, and he has been dominant at both ends of the floor at times. If LeBron James is excused from statistical dips because of his teammates, how about Garnett who plays on the deepest team in the league? Not to mention, how many other candidates can hit someone in the testicles and not get suspended for it? Garnett means more to the best team in the East than any other player. That alone should get him in the room for this discussion. But he's still not individually brilliant enough to warrant the award. The Celtics without Garnett could conceivably still be a top three team in the East. Thats' how stacked they are. And much like Bryant, Garnett's presence isn't most felt in the regular season, but in April, when the toughest part of the season comes into play.
Posted on: January 18, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 11:54 pm
 

CBSSports.com NBA Midseason Awards

Posted by Matt Moore

To go along with our Midseason Progress Reports (Eastern and Western Conferences ), here are our picks for the Midseason awards. You can read Ken Berger's full Midseason Report here. 




You'll notice how all four of our MVP picks differ. That's because we're bold.  I chose Kevin Garnett not based on stats but based on his rebounding, and defensive impact combined with his impact on the flow of the Celtics offense. Throw in some intangibles, and how the team performed without him, and you've got a pretty solid resume. Blake Griffin sweeps the rookie award, to no surprise. 

Royce Young was surprised not at the Cavs being bad, but being this terrible. Jason Terry leads for sixth man, again, according to Ben and Royce, and Thibodeau gets two votes for Coach of the Year.

Going to be a fun second half, people.
Posted on: November 30, 2010 3:35 pm
 

Award-O-Matic MVP 11.30.10: CP3 as MVP

NBA F&R breaks down the MVP candidates after the first month of the season by dissecting the award down to three parts: Most Valuable, Most Important, and Most Oustanding Player. CP3 is in control.
Posted by Matt Moore with contributions from Ben Golliver and Royce Young




Well, we're a month into the season and the context of this year has begun to take shape. While certainly a long way from the finish line, we've already gotten a glimpse of who's playing well, who's playing average, and who ... not so much. And so it is that we begin our monthly look at awards. On a regular basis we'll take you around the award contenders and give you a look at who is in contention for the NBA's major awards by breaking down what they really mean in our Award-O-Matic. Today we start with the MVP.

The problem, as has been elucidated approximately a million times by various media members, is that the MVP is a nebulous, hard to define award. Its name is Most Valuable, but it most often goes to the Most Outstanding Player on a winning team. If your play is other-worldly but your team doesn't win, you have no shot. If you contribute the most to a winning team but your numbers aren't stellar, again, your chances are slim. It takes a combination of three factors: value, performance, and importance to snag the award. As such, we decided to break the award into those three categories, tally them up with the top player getting 3 points, the second 2, the third 1, then summing to see if we could come up with a list.

First up?

Most Valuable Player (To Their Team): Who is most responsible for their team's success? Or, to put it another way, whose team suffers the most without them?


Matt Moore:


1. Dirk Nowitzki: Without him that offense is anemic and it's been his rebounding that's kept them in games at points.
2. Carmelo Anthony: Seriously, Nuggets. Cliff. Teetering. Melo's the only thing keeping the truck from smashing into pieces.
3. Dwight Howard: Get him in foul trouble and the Magic turn into a Mid-Major college team, just wining it from perimeter to perimeter.

Ben Golliver:

1. Chris Paul:
  I like Darren Collison as much as the next guy, but CP3's return from injury to lead New Orleans' absurd hot start, despite an unimpressive supporting cast, reveals exactly how valuable the league's best point guard is.
2. Rajon Rondo Boston would still be good without Rondo, but his game ownership places them on an elite level and makes them the odds on favorite to win the East yet again. 10.6 points, 14.2 assists (what!), 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals through the end of November. Crazy.
3. Kevin Durant The Thunder have had an up-and-down start but imagining this team with Russell Westbrook at the helm by himself, dragging an ineffective Jeff Green along for the ride, would be a recipe for a guaranteed lottery team. KD will get better -- perhaps much better -- over the course of the season, and he's already easily leading the NBA in scoring again.

Royce Young:

1. Chris Paul:   Subtract Paul and what do you have. I can promise you it's not an 8-1 team. It's really as simple as that.
2. Dirk Nowitzki:   The Mavericks are dangerous in every fourth quarter that they're close in. The reason is because Dirk can score in every situation, at any time. He essentially is the Maverick offense.
3. Steve Nash:   Take Nash away and yes, there's Goran Dragic who can dazzle in stretches. But without Nash this Suns team is nothing more than a 35-win club. With Nash, there's potential to push for the playoffs.

Most Important Player: Who is most crucial to their team's success? Ex. Last year I argued that Josh Smith was MIP because when he did Josh Smith-y things, the Hawks were nearly unstoppable, and when he didn't, they were much more beatable.


Matt Moore:

1. Chris Paul:
He does everything and it starts and stops with him. This is even more clearly illustrated by their recent struggles down the stretch where he hasn't been involved.
2. Al Horford: The level of production Horford is creating right now is simply astonishing. More astonishing is how overlooked he is.
3. Pau Gasol: It's him that's carrying the Lakers. Even as Kobe scores all the high points, the most dominant Laker performances this season are from Gasol.

Ben Golliver:


1. Pau Gasol: His virtuoso early season performance has single-handedly made Andrew Bynum an afterthought. What more needs to be said?
2. Deron Williams:   Utah's streak of comebacks begins with Williams' tough-minded leadership and ends with his play-making and shot-making.
3. Dirk Nowitzki:   Another banner start from Dirk singlehandedly puts a Dallas roster loaded with question marks in the playoff mix.

Royce Young:

1. Pau Gasol: Having Gasol as part of the triangle has been like a revelation. He's really what makes the Lakers so darn dangerous.
2. Kevin Garnett:
We saw what an impact his has in regard to the Celtic defense two seasons ago when his knee was injured.
3. Nick Collison:   He's a classic no-stats All-Star. He's only played for a few weeks so far this season for Oklahoma City but his value is immeasurable and impact immediate. He tips rebounds that become extra possessions, takes charges, sets outstanding screens and makes two or three small (but big) plays a game.


Most Outstanding Player: Who has simply wowed you?


Matt Moore:

1. Rajon Rondo: Key plays every time he's on the floor and he makes it look easy, There are a lot of moments where he looks like he's just on a different plane from everyone else.. and he's got three Hall of Famers on his team.
2. Russell Westbrook: Westbrook has managed to take over the game down the stretch. His turnovers are down, assists are up, he's got range and that mid-key pull-up jumper is as deadly as it ever has been. He's been simply phenomenal in half-court and full-court sets.
3. Deron Williams: Three point guards? Yup. Check Deron at the end of the clock with the game on the line. Money. And that's after all the assists, rebounds, key plays and floor leadership. Man's a ninja, no joke.

Ben Golliver:


1. Dwight Howard:
  Lost in the Miami Heat wave, Howard is quietly putting up 22.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as the defensive and rebounding engine that will make Orlando a title contender for years to come. By the way, Orlando sits atop the Southeast Division -- 3.5 games ahead of the Heat.
2. LeBron James: His numbers are crazy and his highlights are spectacular. It's a wonder he can jump so high and dunk so hard carrying the burden of Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra's corpse on his shoulders.
3. John Wall:   Wall doesn't belong in the MVP discussion -- there are too many holes in his game (jumper, turnovers) and his team is terrible -- but for sheer "outstanding-ness" and "wow factor" he merits inclusion here. His assist numbers have been great and his speed is tops in the league; he's a lot further along the NBA readiness scale than even his biggest fans could have imagined.

Royce Young:

1. Rajon Rondo: He's been nothing but insanely ridiculous. Manages the game perfectly, understand his place within an offense and runs the show beautifully.
2. Kevin Love: When given the time on the floor, he's a legitimate 20-20 threat every single night. How many players can you really say that about?
3. Russell Westbrook: There's a case to be legitimately made for Westbrook as an MVP contender. Kevin Durant is still leading the league in scoring, but Westbrook is what's kept the team winning games. But his play has been just insane this year (23.8 ppg, 8.4 apg, 5.1 rpg) and he's a super-highlight waiting to happen.

Here are the tallies:

Most Valuable Player:
1. Chris Paul (6)
2. Dirk Nowitzki (5)
Tied for 3rd: Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo (2)
Tied for 4th: Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash (1)

Most Important Player:
1. Pau Gasol (7)
2. Chris Paul (3)
Tied for 3rd: Deron Williams, Al Horford, Kevin Garnett (2)
Tied for 4th: Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Collison (1)

Most Outstanding Player :

1. Rajon Rondo (6)
Tied for 2nd: Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard (3)
Tied for 3rd: Kevin Love, LeBron James (2)
Tied for 4th: John Wall, Deron Williams (1)

Top 5 in Totals:
1. Chris Paul: 9
2. Rajon Rondo (8)
3. Pau Gasol (7)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (6)
5. Dwight Howard (4)
Posted on: September 21, 2010 1:13 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Who's winning MVP?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Who will be lifting the Maurice Podoloff Trophy next season?

No, I'm not going to spend the first three paragraphs explaining my definition of "Most Valuable Player." I'm not going to go on about if I think it's about the player that means the most to his team or if it's the guy that was the most outstanding through the season.

Because truly, it doesn't really matter. Everyone likes the MVP to be a bit ambiguous, leaving the voting criteria up for interpretation. It makes for better results in the end, I suppose. Or at least more arguments.

But it also means that this season won't be much different than the rest in terms of who the main faces in the race will be. You're not going to have a guy like Gerald Wallace that plays bulldog defense and leads his team in rebounds, blocks and scoring all from the small forward position. His value to the Bobcats last season can't really be quantified, but he's definitely not the traditional MVP type of player. He just has no chance.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. So in the end, you'll have the same cast of characters. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Dwight Howard. And on. Oh, and one more guy - Kevin Durant.

Most don't realize that Durant was actually MVP runner-up last season. Now LeBron ran away with the award in a vote that wasn't close, but still, 21-year-old Kevin Durant was the runner-up. And he's my favorite to win it this season.

Why Durant? Because while LeBron is splitting not only the spotlight with Wade in South Beach, he'll also be splitting shots. He'll be splitting assists. He'll be splitting time with the ball. And most importantly, he'll be splitting big moments. To be an MVP, you need to own your team. You need to be The Man. And while most saw LeBron as the unstoppable MVP force that might win 10 straight last season, now he might not really even be in the discussion. And some think it was selfish that LeBron went to Miami.

There is the chance LeBron does something otherworldly though. I mean, he still is LeBron, an otherwordly basketball talent. What if he averages a triple-double? At that point, doesn't he have to be anointed? He's likely going to be on a team with one of the best records, plus add huge stats and something that hasn't been done in 40 years? You've got to award that. Even if he's the media devil right now.

And of course, don't forget the other usual suspects. Kobe will have numbers, his team will be good and he has everyone's attention. But as he ages, the less important big numbers have become and he's completely satisfied with 25-28 points per game. Dwight Howard does it all for the Magic, but voters have already proven hesitant to award such an imperfect player. Wade has the LeBron Problem and while there are other great candidates (Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams), one guys has to just stick out.

And Durant already has a leg up on everyone in the most important category: the media. Because of his uneventful but very eventful summer, Durant skyrocketed up popularity charts and had every person with a blog, Twitter or press pass writing about what a swell guy he is. You know, for announcing his "exstension" in a tweet and then for winning gold for his country. He's been cast as the anti-LeBron and in a world where whether it's sports, movies or real life, we like good vs. bad. Durant is Obi-Wan to LeBron's Darth Vader.

And that sort of thing is what could separate him. Durant is going to have the numbers. It's likely he'll finish with a line of something like 31 points per game, eight rebounds, three assists with percentages of 50-40-90. And if his darling Thunder squad wins over 50 and is in the Western mix, voters will pretty much hand deliver the award to Durant.

But KD has to deal with something he really hasn't had to yet - expectations. People are writing how he's the savior to basketball, the good guy, the one we should root for the sake of the children - children!!! - Durant should be the role model. But still, he has to perform.

His MVP campaign started with a simple tweet and built up serious steam in Turkey. But if Durant wants to hoist the Maurice Podoloff trophy in front of the Thunder faithful, he's still going to have to play. And there's no doubt he will.
Posted on: September 10, 2010 11:43 am
Edited on: September 10, 2010 11:44 am
 

Pop Quiz: Who's the Rookie of the Year favorite?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Who is winning Rookie of the Year? John Wall, Blake Griffin or someone else?

There's the Madden Curse, the Curse of the Billy Goat and the the Curse of the Sacred Buffalo. And for the past couple years, there's been the Curse of the No. 1 Overall Pick.

Of course there's Greg Oden who missed his entire 2007-08 rookie season because of microfracture surgery on his knee. Derrick Rose escaped and had a nice 2008-09 rookie campaign, but then Blake Griffin fractured his patella and sat out all of 2009-10.

Maybe it's a trend. Or maybe like the other "curses," it's just a combination of coincidence and bad luck.

But not often do you have a season with two No. 1 overall picks playing their rookie seasons together. John Wall and Blake Griffin are the last two top picks in the NBA and they are both entering their official rookie seasons. Griffin was the clear-cut favorite for Rookie of the Year last season before he got hurt, but his injury opened the door for Tyreke Evans to snatch the award. But with how electric Evans was last season, who knows, he might've won the award anyway.

So coming into 2010-11, we have two obvious favorites. But will one of them win it? If so, which one? Or if not, who else could slip in and grab the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy? Here are the favorites and then two sleepers:

THE FAVORITES

Blake Griffin, Clippers - It's easy to forget what a freak of nature Griffin is. It's easy to forget his non-stop motor, his talent, his ridiculous ability and his awesome athleticism. He sat out last season so it's easy to forget that he was pretty much a consistent 20-20 threat at the University of Oklahoma and that he averaged almost 30 points and 15 rebounds in the NCAA tournament. It's easy to forget that he was the most dominant college big man since Tim Duncan.

But he's healthy and he's hungry. Those are two very, very scary things for those that dare challenge him head-to-head. Griffin has an other-worldly work ethic and he's spent the last 15 months waiting to get a crack at the NBA. He's ready to go and the Clippers need his services. He'll get big minutes and he'll likely put up big numbers.

John Wall, Wizards
- In terms of pure flash, skill and NBA talent, it's hard to top John Wall. He just has some sort of allure to him that makes him must-see. And that sort of thing goes a long way in determining Rookie of the Year. Wall has "it," whatever "it" is.

He's going to struggle some though, especially early on. He's being put in charge of a fairly bad Wizards team from the get-go. He's going to have to manage being a scorer and a distributor, something really good point guards don't figure out most times until their third year. He will struggle at times. He'll turn the ball over. He'll miss open shots. And he'll likely get frustrated. But Wall will have flashy games, good numbers and most of all, that Derrick Rose like draw that just makes him fun to watch.

DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
- A lot of really smart analysts agreed in June, DeMarcus Cousins was the most talented overall player in the draft. He's the most NBA ready player and most capable of stepping on the floor and contributing this second.

But for Cousins, it was a between-the-ears thing.

Assuming his head is on straight and he's focused, Cousins is an absolute force on the post. In the first three games of Vegas summer league, he was nearly unguardable. He was a walking double-double. But then he got tired, lost interest and his numbers dipped severely. If we see the good Cousins consistently, he's a legit contender. If he wavers, he might not even make an All-Rookie team.

Evan Turner, 76ers - During summer league, Turner looked lost. He looked confused. He looked as if he wasn't sure of himself, his abilities or how he was supposed to fit in.

But remember, summer league.

Turner nearly averaged a triple-double at Ohio State last season. His issue will be something he doesn't really control. New 76ers coach Doug Collins will have to figure out where he's supposed to play. Is it point? At the 2? At the 3? Once that gets settled and Turner fits into his role, he should be a guy that finishes with quality numbers on a team that likely won't be very good.

Greg Monroe, Pistons - Maybe Monroe would be better suited in the "sleeper" category. He was drafted seventh overall and isn't set up to garner a ton of attention or playing time early on in Detroit.

But Monroe's skills are unignorable. He passing beautifully out of the post, has terrific footwork and rebounds better than people give him credit for. Right now, he's a little low on the depth chart, but the Pistons are likely planning on moving some pieces around. So Monroe will probably get plenty of playing time in a rebuilding situation.

TWO DARK HORSES
Patrick Patterson, Rockets - Daryl Morey traded Carl Landry away to Sacramento last season at the deadline. And he replaced him with, basically another Carl Landry.

Patterson is a machine on the post. He never stops working, never stops fighting. He's pretty much a perfect Houston Rocket at this point. The traditional box score may say he's not great, the measurables may say he's not super talented, but he just gets it done. Given the chance, he might slip in and average quality numbers playing in a bench role for Houston. And if so, he might also slip into the ROY discussion.

James Anderson, Spurs - With the oft-injured and aging Manu Ginobili playing in front of him, James Anderson might be called upon at some point to step up in a big way for the Spurs. And since he plays for San Antonio, obviously Anderson will be up to the task, because that's the just the way the Spurs work.

He was an elite scorer in college that was questioned at the next level because he's not overly athletic and doesn't score at the rim. But does it matter when you can just plain score? He shoots an open 3 beautifully, he gets to the free throw line and he's not a bad defender. If he gets opportunities, he could potentially average double-digits and play a big role in keeping the Spurs going. And that might be enough to at least get him in the conversation.

THE PICK
This is a weird year. On one hand, there are the obvious favorites as in, two No. 1 overall picks. But on the other, it's a wide open race because there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding those guys. Can Wall settle in with Washington? Is Griffin completely healthy? How good is DeMarcus Cousins and can he jump other candidates?

After Blake Griffin's injury last season, the ROY race opened up completely. Basically everyone had a shot. This season, it's pretty much a two-man showdown, with a couple dark horses hanging around. Writers are just waiting to hand the award to either Wall or Griffin, so in order for someone else to get into the conversation, they'll have to have a big time year.

So it comes down to the two No. 1s. Griffin has the advantage of going through an NBA season already, even if he didn't play. He's had a year of practices, a year of meetings, a year of travel. And most importantly, a year away from home in a big city with a lot of money in his pocket. He knows how to handle it. Wall on the other hand, is coming in like a traditional rookie - fresh.

Basically in my mind, it comes down to Griffin's health. If he doesn't sustain anymore injuries and is able to play the bulk of the season, he's going to have seriously good numbers. Probably something in the 17-10 range or maybe even better. He's a statistical machine. Wall will have a nice year no doubt, but Griffin will likely put up numbers that can be ignored. And that's why, in his second rookie year, Blake Griffin gets the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com