The NBA MVP Race: Down to the Wire

Dan Wheat-RiversContributor IApril 3, 2009

PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 15:  (L-R) Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, members of the women's and men's gold medal winning USA Olympic basketball teams, wave to the crowd during half time of the 58th NBA All-Star Game, part of 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend at US Airways Center on February 15, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of talk about the three-man race for the NBA MVP going on recently.  I think the first thing you have to figure out in who you think the MVP is, is what MVP means to you. 

Some people think the MVP has to play on a winning team, which I agree with in basketball.  Basketball is a sport where one player can make a huge difference, and while one player may not carry you to the championship, one player can make you a winning team.  Other people think it should be the player that is most important to his team, and others think it should be the best player in the league. 

If we were going with the player most important to his team, I would have to go with Dwayne Wade.  Without him, before or after the trade, Miami is out of the playoff race.  and that's saying something in the east, where Washington is the only team that was really out of the race with a month to go.  I think if you take LeBron off Cleveland or Kobe off LA, they both still make the playoffs.  But that's not the way I pick an MVP, so we move on.

Let's compare the players numbers, which isn't all telling either.  Every team plays a different style and so the players have different numbers possible.  For example, a guy scoring 20 a game for the Bobcats, the lowest scoring NBA team, can't compare to a guy averaging 20 a game for the Suns or Warriors

OK, back to the big three.  Wade is scoring the most with 29.9 a game, followed by LeBron with 28.7 a game and Kobe with 27.8 a game.  I think this needs to be qualified though.  Wade has to do a higher percentage of his teams scoring, because his help isn't as good, but also LeBron and especially Kobe can routinely sit out all or part of the fourth quarter.  That's why Kobe is playing 2 less minutes a game than Wade.  So basically, points are even, so let's move on to rebounds. 

LeBron leads this category with 7.6 a game, followed by Kobe with 5.4 and Wade with 5.1.  This is a decent sized discrepancy, but it should be.  LeBron plays forward while the other two play guard, so he should be winning this category. 

OK, on to assists.  Wade has 7.6, followed by LeBron 7.3 a game, while Kobe has 4.9. So Kobe clearly falls off a bit here.  If it was Wade that fell off, I'd blame it on the lack of talent around him but it's Kobe, so I have to assume something else.  Kobe plays with a better point guard and back-up point guard than either Wade or LeBron.  I know this applies to Wade more than LeBron. 

Before you start yelling at me, I know Mo Williams was an all-star for Cleveland.  But I still think Fisher does a better job of running the LA offense and Kobe isn't needed to start the offense the way the other two are.

OK, I have one more area to talk about.  The much debated, who do you want to take the last shot in a close game.  Most people I've heard say Kobe, and I think I agree.  This has been the hardest thing for me in picking my MVP.  It seems like that should make the order Kobe, Wade, and then LeBron for my voting, but I just can't get there.  I'm voting for who I think is the best player. 

And I have to go with...LeBron James.  He is a play maker for himself and everyone else on the team.  He is the only nightly triple double threat in the NBA besides Chris Paul.  He can score with Kobe and Wade.  He'll guard any position, even center when Cleveland goes really small.  He's got to be the most athletic player in the league.  If this were last year, I'd knock his jump shot, but I can't do that this year. He's simply the best player in the league.