Stumping for Dwyane Wade
What is an MVP? Merriam-Webster defines MVP as an abbreviation for most valuable player or “a heart problem in which the valve that separates the left upper and lower chambers of the heart does not close properly,” which is not helpful at all.
When typing in ‘most valuable player,’ the dictionary defined it as, “error, no suggestion, try again with a different word.” Well, now we know why Steve Nash almost won the award three times in a row.
Basically, there are no fixed or real rules for the MVP award, which is why it is normally so hotly contested in the media.
This year is clearly different though. Everyone has already decided that the award should go to LeBron James this year. Hell, almost everyone had decided this before the all star break. It is hard to blame the voters too.
All James has done this season is average 28 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.8 spg, and 1.2 bpg. In addition, his Cavs have the best record in the NBA largely due to his contributions and leadership. In many years he would be a shoe in.
Plus, it isn’t like he has a lot of competition this year. Dwight Howard remains offensively challenged whenever he can’t dunk, Kobe Bryant cannot shake a late season shooting slump or the fact that his team in general is wildly inconsistent, and Chris Paul’s Hornets have taken a step back under his watch.
If you take it a step further, there are more players who can’t even really be candidates this year, but either were or probably will be:
- Yao Ming, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy aren’t currently considered talented enough by most people to win the award (and thus cannot be possibly as valuable as the incredibly talented James.)
- Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Tim Duncan, and Al Jefferson have missed too many games.
- Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups have canceled each other out.
- The same actually can be said for Tony Parker and the aforementioned Duncan.
- Dirk Nowitzki will never win another MVP award because of the way he so effortlessly choked away his last one.
However, there is one player who cannot be discounted like all the others this season.
He is someone who deserves to be considered at the same level as LeBron James, someone who has delivered game-winning threes one game and game-winning blocks the next.
Someone who was probably the best player for Team USA over the summer yet rather than appear fatigued this season has been remarkably consistent, and someone who inexplicably found a way to get up eight times even after only falling down seven.
Why not Dwyane Wade? The most common argument against Wade and for James is that the Cavs have the best record in the NBA while the Heat are 15th out of 30 NBA teams.
The Cavs are on pace for a near perfect home record (40-1) while the Heat have a lower overall record than the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns. However, it is ridiculous to point to a team’s greater record as proof of one player’s having a greater value than another.
While it is true that a great basketball player will generally be able to have a greater impact towards his team’s overall success than a great baseball or football player, this is not the case here.
Wade’s team has a worse record because the Heat are considerably worse than the Cavaliers in almost every aspect of the game of basketball.
Take a look, it is true. Despite being constantly disparaged over the years as being a random hodgepodge of below average talent, the Cavs are actually a perfect blend of complimentary role players for LeBron James. Mo Williams for one is a great side kick.
Meanwhile, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (aside from being a top 10 center in this league today), Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, and Sasha Pavlovic are all dead eye shooters who can hit an open jumper created by a driving LeBron James or be involved in screen and roles with him.
Then finally you have Anderson Varejao, Joe Smith, JJ Hickson, and when healthy Ben Wallace to rebound the hell out of the ball at both ends to create numerous opportunities for LeBron James and his collection of shooters to score.
Everyone has well defined roles on offense, and more importantly these guys when put together play great team defense. As I write this column on Thursday night, the Cavs are allowing a league low 90.9 points per game.
Now take a look at the Heat. This team actually averages fewer points (98.1) than they give up (98.2.) While the Cavs are a team with well defined roles and constant defensive intensity, the Heat are...not quite the opposite of that, but not particularly far from the opposite either.
Once you look past Wade, there really isn’t too much to see. In the front court, Michael Beasley has the potential to be better than anyone that LeBron currently shares a locker room with, but he sure as hell isn’t now.
Beasley is constantly making mistakes (something rookies are prone to do) and cannot be trusted this season with starter’s minutes. In his place are Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O’Neal. Haslem actually is the type of role player who would fit in with the Cavs.
O’Neal is the type of gimp who would fit in at a rest home for the elderly. The starting small forward for this team is Jamario Moon. He is a jack of all trades that should be coming off the bench and providing a spark, but instead he plays 27 minutes a game for this team.
In the back court you have (other than Wade) Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook. Both of them actually have the potential to be fantastic role players someday, but like many of these Heat players, they were simply not there yet this season.
The rest of the roster is some sort of collection of D-League All Stars and Mark Blount. I think that’s enough said.
So clearly, LeBron James benefits from a much better supporting cast than Dwyane Wade. Yet, Wade’s team is still going to make the playoffs and if they can pass the 76ers, be favored to get into the second round of the playoffs (sorry Atlanta).
Hell, even if they do not, Orlando sure as hell isn’t looking forward to playing the Heat and the only reason they aren’t is because they are terrified of the prospect of playing against D-Wade.
That isn’t to say that LeBron James isn’t also feared, it’s just that when you play the Cleveland Cavaliers you have to watch out for LeBron James, leaving any of their shooters open, and boxing out all their voracious rebounders.
Plus, even if you are lucky enough to stifle all of the above, you still have to deal with their constant, hounding defense. That’s an incredible amount to worry about. With the Miami Heat, all you have to worry about is stopping Wade.
Yet the Heat are still a plus 500 team because Wade has been so lights out this season.
Sure, the discussion becomes hazier (and includes Kobe Bryant) when you are talking about the best player in basketball, but that’s not what the award is called.
It is the most valuable player award, and in terms of value for just this season, Wade has been worth more to the Miami Heat than LeBron James has been to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
A large part of that is because the Heat are much worse than the Cavaliers and thus much more in need of a superstar of their skill set.
In many ways it is unfair to penalize LeBron for playing for a better team, but if situation didn’t matter, the award would be given to the best player and not the most valuable one. In terms of value for his team, no team owes more to its success than Dwyane Wade.
That isn’t to say that Lebron James isn’t valuable. He is. In fact I have him at number two. However, that’s as a clear number two this season to number eight.
At this point, you either get it or you don’t.
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