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Why No L.A. Lakers Superstar Is a Realistic Contender for 2012-13 MVP

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Why No L.A. Lakers Superstar Is a Realistic Contender for 2012-13 MVP
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The four star Los Angeles Lakers players leading the way this season have their share of accolades. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have three MVP awards between them. Dwight Howard has won three Defensive Player of the Year awards. The three of them combine for 15 All-NBA First Team nods.

But that combined hardware doesn't lead a single member of the cast to win an MVP award this season.

If anything, the combination of these greats diminishes the chances that one of them will win the MVP award.

Each player has an aspect to his game that offsets part of what at least one of the other players does. Kobe likes to hold the ball and control the offense. However, Nash has closely controlled the offenses he's run, as shown by his top-three finishes in assist percentage in each of the last nine years.

Also, Kobe has piled up points to push his case in MVP races. However, his shot attempts will be reduced by the number of shots that Howard and Pau Gasol will take as Nash distributes the ball a little more evenly.

Kobe could still find a way to accumulate shot attempts and points by playing outside the system, as he always has done. That would take away from Howard's chances, diminishing his shot at an MVP in that respect.

Howard has partly built his greatness with his defensive prowess. He blocks numerous shots, controls the boards and generally shuts down the inside. If he's to be a legitimate MVP candidate, he'll have to make up for the deficiencies of the defense-challenged Nash and the shortfalls of two declining defensive stoppers in Metta World Peace and Kobe.

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Howard will have a hard time stopping players inside with teammates on the perimeter playing leaky defense. He might be called "Superman," but even the best defensive players in the league look human when trying to make up for the shortcomings of others.

Gasol, who has been a staunch defender throughout his career, could help Howard stop attacks, but the impact of his help won't be immense.

Aside from the issues that arise with the interconnectedness of the Lakers stars, each of the stars faces his own issues. Fans have wondered for a few years when Nash will hit a wall. He's managed to stay strong at age 38. His minutes did dip a bit to 31.6 per game, but he still came in second with 10.7 assists per game.

This will be the year when people start to see the defects in Nash. He'll be running a Princeton offense that requires constant movement. Nash will need to keep moving or risk falling out of place. He'll struggle to hang with the rest in the half court.

Also, if the ball is constantly moving in the half court, then Nash will lose a couple assists each game with the ball arriving in a scorer's hands from someone else simply because of how the ball rotates.

Kobe and Gasol will also feel the effects of age. Kobe won't hit quite as many shots. Gasol saw his scoring numbers fall last season (from 52.9 percent FG in 2010-11 to 50.1 percent FG in 2011-12; from 82.3 percent FT to 78.2 percent FT; from 18.8 PPG to 17.4 PPG). He'll continue to see those numbers fall in his player age 32 year.

Howard's rebounding numbers may drop somewhat because Western Conference teams shoot better than Eastern Conference teams. 10 of the top 15 shooting teams last year were from the West. Meanwhile, 10 of the 14 worst shooting teams were from Eastern Conference.

With teams hitting a little more against the Lakers, Howard could lose one or two rebounds per game.

Players on teams with at least three superstars have won MVP awards. LeBron James' victory last season is a prime example. However, James was clearly the leader of the team. He was by far the most consistent Miami Heat player. Dwyane Wade had his share of lapses and games when he was simply off.

Chris Bosh missed time due to injury.

That gave LeBron a great opportunity to show that he had an extraordinary impact on the team's prospects.

This Lakers team may not present its star players with that opportunity. Kobe's chances depend on his ability to shine while playing outside of the system. Nash needs to make the system work for everyone. Howard's impact comes where he can score, rebound and play defense the way no one else on the team does.

He'll have to stay healthy in order to do that, and it wouldn't be good to push one's luck with that possibility.

Kobe and Nash might be able to increase their chances if Howard misses time due to injury.

Still, others around the league, such as Andrew Bynum, LeBron and Chris Paul will have greater impacts on their teams.

The Lakers' four stars will combine to form a championship-level core. However, not one will stick out quite like the three that were just mentioned.

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