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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nowitzki Receives MVP, Nash and Bryant Round Out Top Three

Perhaps the worst kept secret in the NBA was revealed today when Dirk Nowitzki was officially announced as the 2006-07 NBA regular season MVP. Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks went 67-15, one of the best records in the history of the NBA, and he played a key role in that success, leading Dallas in scoring (24.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg) while averaging a career-high 3.4 apg. He shot .502 from the field, .416 from three point range and .904 from the free throw line, joining Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller and Steve Nash as the only players to exceed .500/.400/.900 for an entire season; each of those shooting percentages represent career-highs for Nowitzki. He did all of this in 36.2 mpg, his lowest amount of playing time since his second season (1999-00), a reflection of his team's dominance (i.e., he was sitting out at the end of a lot of blowouts).

Nowitzki received 83 first place votes, 39 second place votes and seven third place votes from a 129 member media panel; Steve Nash, who won the two previous MVPs, finished second (44, 74, 11) and Kobe Bryant finished third (2, 11, 65, plus 30 fourth place votes and nine fifth place votes). Points are awarded on a 10, seven, five, three, one basis, so Nowitzki had 1183, Nash had 1013 and Bryant had 521. Others who received at least 100 points include Tim Duncan (286), LeBron James (183) and Tracy McGrady (110).

There is no denying the elephant that sat in the room alongside Nowitzki, Dallas owner Mark Cuban, Dallas Coach Avery Johnson and NBA Commissioner David Stern during the MVP press conference: in the first round of the playoffs, Dallas became just the third number one seed to lose to an eighth seed since the current playoff format began in 1983-84 and the first one to do so in a seven game series. Obviously, that is a disappointing way to end the season but the recent backlash against Nowitzki being this season's MVP is tasteless and ridiculous. This is a regular season award: it is clearly labeled as such and that is why the voting is done before the playoffs even start. So, what happens in the playoffs is completely irrelevant. Until this year I don't recall that there was ever this much talk about whether or not a regular season MVP deserved the award based on what he did in the playoffs. The closest comparison would probably be 1994-95, when San Antonio's David Robinson won the award and then Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon, the 1993-94 winner, torched him head to head in the playoffs--but that involved direct competition between the two leading contenders for that year's MVP. Perhaps that was not entirely fair either, but the stark contrast in the head to head showdown certainly lent credence to the idea that Olajuwon should have been a repeat winner. Maybe if Steve Nash outplayed Nowitzki head to head in this year's playoffs then a case could be made against Nowitzki but they in fact met just last year and Nowitzki was the best player on the court as his team eliminated Nash's Suns and went on to the NBA Finals.

The NBA MVP is meant to recognize the best individual regular season performance in a given year. Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks were the story of the 2006-07 regular season. I don't hear the people who are complaining about Nowitzki's MVP saying anything about the conspicuous lack of championship hardware on Nash's mantle. Did you know that Nowitzki has a higher career playoff scoring average (25.2 ppg) than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett? Nowitzki ranks 13th all-time and he also ranks 22nd all-time in career playoff rebounding average (11.1 rpg), ahead of Karl Malone, Abdul-Jabbar, Bird, David Robinson and Dennis Rodman, among others. There is no question that Nowitzki and Dallas did not perform well in this year's first round--but it is wrong to say that this nullifies what he did over an 82 game regular season or that this proves that he is a subpar playoff performer overall.

Yet, people are talking about changing the system and doing the voting after the playoffs. That is stupid--since 1969 there has been a Finals MVP to acknowledge postseason greatness. Also, it makes no sense for the NBA to award a single MVP after the Finals that encompasses the entire year--regular season and playoffs. That is a bad idea because what do you do if, for instance, Baron Davis leads Golden State to the championship? He was nowhere near the best player during the regular season and his team was mediocre for 82 games. Does it make sense to give him an award for all of 2006-07 when he only performed well for a few weeks? If Davis and the Warriors win the title then he will be a very deserving Finals MVP winner.

Voters could quit worrying about which is the best team and who is the best player on that team and simply give the award to the regular season's outstanding individual player. I've said all along that Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league and I think that, ironically, there would be less backlash if he had won the 2006-07 MVP. He is widely acknowledged to be the league's best player but for some reason many people shy away from recognizing the best player if his team did not win a certain number of games--but the reality is that we have not had a regular season MVP whose team won the championship that year since Tim Duncan in 2002-03, so the award might as well go to the outstanding player from the regular season. That said, if the premise that most voters used was to select the best player from the best regular season team, Nowitzki certainly fits that bill in 2006-07 and it is not right to criticize him or the voters for that; Nowitzki had a great season and the voters cast their ballots based on that performance.

posted by David Friedman @ 4:26 PM


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At Tuesday, May 15, 2007 10:03:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

"for some reason many people shy away from recognizing the best player if his team did not win a certain number of games"

fascinating... could that mysterious reason -- ever so hard to figure out -- be that basketball is a TEAM GAME?

individual awards really matter in singles tennis & golf... otherwise, who gives a f---. but if you do care, then face teh facts, your value is most apparent in making your team win games. rocket science here, i guess

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:53:00 AM, Blogger marcel said...

i belive you recognize a top player and he has to be on a good team steve nash top 5 player his team top 5 it makes sense you shouldnt give a mvp to a 40 win team if kobe won 50+ games then he deserved it but because they floundered like they did he didnt it doesnt matter what you do indivdually it goes to the individual on the best team i would give it to dirk this year based on the criteria kobe best player dirk mvp thankfully playofs dont matter cause then it would go to nash

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 5:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The award is an individual award. The voters are completely inconsistent, because if Kobe is "ineligible" based on his team's record then why did he finish third? If he finished third because he really is the best player then why did two lesser players finish ahead of him just because they have much better supporting casts? My position is much more consistent because I say that the award should go to the best overall player. Kobe meant at least as many wins to the Lakers as Dirk, Nash or anybody else meant to their teams. A superstar player, historically, is worth 15-20 wins, and Kobe is absolutely worth that much to the Lakers.

Both of you comment incessantly on this topic but consistently decline to address the facts that I present. Nash is not, by any statistical measure, the best player in the NBA. His value is supposedly marked by his team success--but he has never been on the most successful team in the NBA (a champion) or even the second most successful team (a Finalist). Yet he plays alongside a First Team All-NBA player, an All-Star, an All-Defensive Team member, a Sixth Man Award winner and some good role players (Diaw, Kurt Thomas).

When Shaq and Kobe were together with Jackson, some critics belittled their success by saying that they had the best team so they should win. Those guys won three straight titles and made it to four Finals in a row. They dealt with injuries and internal strife and other problems, so don't tell me about whatever adversity Phx has faced. All we've heard for the past several seasons is that Nash is the best player because he's made Phx so good. Well, when will they come through and make it to even one NBA Finals? When Kobe was on a contending team he got the job done. Duncan has gotten the job done several times as well. Even Dirk, who everyone is killing now, carried a team to the NBA Finals. The people who want to base a regular season MVP on "winning" have to change their story every round as teams get eliminated or else come up with excuses about why "their guy" did not come through. The MVP is a regular season award and it should go to the most outstanding individual player. Kobe had that team in the top four in the West for a good part of the season despite having no All-Stars, no All-NBA players--no award winners of any kind. If Odom and Walton stayed healthy they may very well have won 50 games. Kobe stepped up his game to another level in March when those guys were out or just coming back, scoring 40 and 50 points with regularity--at his coach's request--to drag the team into the playoffs. But according to your logic, the fact that they did not win 50 games disqualifies him from being MVP. That just makes no sense--and neither of you present any stats or logic to back up what you are saying.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 12:48:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

i really didnt think nash was the mvp the previous 2 years i would of gave it too shaq and kobe but you cant argue if he got it he's a top 5 player on a top 5 team it's an award thats about winning as well as indivdual in the regular season so if kobe gets it then it would be wrong too me he had the same team they won 42 games last year they won 45 the year before they won 34 they were 3 games worse this year than last so he wasnt deserving this year if they went up to 50+ games then he was deserving again but to regress i dont think so. when nash won the mvp's barbosa wasnt sixth man stoudamire didnt play for a year he just had marion for one of them and supporting players tim thomas came from the dead and killed the lakers in playofs last year. he got to the conference finals without stodamire when many thought they wouldnt make the playoffs. it's just not about stats i dont belive the mvp should be siiting at home at the beginning of may every year like kobe's been nowitzki was super rare occurence but come on to say you give it to the best player everybody doesnt consider kobe what about lb or somebody else then

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The Suns regressed eight wins from '05 to '06, so by your logic Nash should not have won his second MVP--and don't tell me about Phx's injuries; they have a deeper team than L.A. and the main reason the Lakers "regressed" this year is the injuries to Odom, Walton, Brown and others.

This whole thing that the MVP is about the team winning is something that people have started saying in the past couple years to justify Nash. Go back and look and no one was emphasizing that so much in the past; yes, it was a factor, but the best player usually also happened to be on the best or one of the best teams. The past couple years with Kobe have been an exception to that. He is the best player, which is widely acknowledged, but the voters want to go in a different direction.

You are on to something when you say that people did not expect Phoenix to do well. I certainly thought that they would still be a good team without Amare (go back and look up my 2005-06 preview: I said that Amare's injury was a devastating blow to their title chances but I still had them fifth in the West, easily making the playoffs). People underestimated the Suns and then gave Nash MVP rather than admitting that they were wrong in the first place.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 7:35:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

they didnt have stoudamire the whole season they werent supposed to get to the playoffs they won 54 games without arguably there best player the lakers had there whole team both year they went back 3 games they had injuries but when odom was injured they still was winning games so what are you talking about if they had they whole team and won 54 then lebron would of won the mvp even though kobe should of not nash. the best player doesnt win it usually if thats the case jordan should of won like 8 or 9 or shaq 4 or 5 the last few years you said it youre team has to be one of the best and you have to be one of the best players so nash has the argument because of that. iverson won it team wins 56 1 in the east garnett 58 wins 1 in the west duncan 1. in the west 58 in o2 1 60 wins 03 shaq 2000 1. west 67 wins. jordan 5 all nuber 1 in the east and best or second best record. kobe had 2 number 7 finishes with 45 and 42 wins it's simply not enough it not to justify nash you have to win it's always been that way jordan came in 2nd to magic in 87 when he had a way more spectacular numbers than magic like kobe does nash or nowitzki but there teams were better and they had more help than kobe or jordan but they stil got it thats the way it is it's winning and being a top player perieod

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 7:39:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

it usually is the best player who wins but that best player on a great team shaq duncan jordan etc unfortunately when he is the best player his team is crummy it's just shows that they should of traded shaq for more than they got who he shouldof stayed with shaq

At Thursday, May 17, 2007 11:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Who says the Suns weren't supposed to make the playoffs? Right, the same "experts" who think that Nash is the best player in the NBA. They are wrong on both counts. Did you go back and see that I had the Suns, without Amare, as one of the top five teams in the West?

One, the Lakers did not have their whole team in any of the past three years. Odom, Brown, Walton--and Kobe himself one year--have been hurt. Two, having a "whole" broken down Yugo is not the same as having a "whole" Ferrari. In case you are not sure, the Lakers are a Yugo and the Suns are a Ferrari. You can put Jeff Gordon or Michael Schumacher in a Yugo and he still won't beat a Ferrari.

They could not get more for Shaq because of the money situation that I described. If they did not do a sign and trade with Miami then Shaq would have walked away when his old contract ran out and the Lakers would have gotten nothing.

You don't believe that the Lakers would jeopardize winning titles to save money but look at the Scottie Pippen situation. Jackson wanted the Lakers to sign Pippen in '99 but Buss would not fork over the money; Pip and the Blazers came within one fourth quarter meltdown of beating Shaq and Kobe, the nightmare scenario for the Lakers that Jackson described to Buss when he urged him to sign Pip. Shaq wanted a whole lot more money than Pip did in '99 and the Lakers had not intention of paying it.

At Thursday, May 17, 2007 7:42:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

thats the thing i could only go by the expectations of the basketball experts maybe the suns were beter than everybody thought if that was the case nash wouldnt of won the mvp but alot of folks thought that without amare they werent a playoff team so i buy in like everbody else and think that maybe next time ill take a step back and look at the roster


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