BTA's Race to the MVP: Week Three

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BTA's Race to the MVP: Week Three
The past few weeks in the league have been a mixture of high and low emotions.
In a period of two weeks, we have seen a player retire and come back to the team that drafted him, a young player go down with yet another devastating injury, and a superstar who finds himself as the bad guy in a situation you don't often see in basketball.

Greg Oden has been hit with the fourth straight major injury of his young career. Each year he has shown signs of hope, but disappointed many as he goes down with another knee injury.
It's pretty clear that he was elevating his game this year with the goal of being the dominant player he was expected to be. Even if the stats weren't there and the fouls were still something of an issue—he must be just about leading the league the last two seasons in ticky-tack and phantom fouls—his presence in the middle has been huge.

The reason not to panic is because Portland has a more than serviceable backup center in Joel Pryzbilla. It's a shame on a personal note; I was really rooting for Oden to have a breakout year. But Portland will still be a damn hard team to beat—you can't discount a team with Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Andre Miller.
Last season they were a sniff away from the second seed in the West. Why would they miss the playoffs this year? I'd stay the course and get Oden back to full health as soon as possible (which appears to be next season). Pryzbilla and Aldridge can fill in nicely. What a luxury it must be to have those two as the replacements.

Welcome back, Allen Iverson. The Sixers needs a scorer who can opt in and out of scoring whenever he wants. Andre Iguodala is a great scorer, but is someone that cannot be relied on—especially his outside game—in every situation. I am not saying Iverson can be relied on as much as he used to be, but people have underrated his scoring abilities since his inability to mesh with a team over the past year and a half.
Iverson could easily become his old self in this situation. With Lou Williams gone and and an offensive gap to fill, he has an opportunity to prove himself yet again. Eddie Jordan has already stated that he will start, and this could boost his morale and possibly get him back to his old self.

I remember reading a piece written by Bill Simmons in which I strongly believe he summed up AI perfectly:
"One of the most fascinating, complex athletes of my lifetime: a legendary partier and devoted family man; a loyal teammate who shoots too much; a featherweight who carries himself like a heavyweight; an intimidating competitor who's always the smallest guy on the court; an ex-con with a shady entourage who also happens to be one of the most intuitive, self-aware, articulate superstars in any sport."

You don't often see players dance on the court when they're blowing out a team. Most consider it disrespectful and extremely unprofessional—but to LeBron James, it was amusing.
In a blowout against the Bulls, LeBron James went to the free throw line with his team up by 20 points, and with Chicago's center Joakim Noah watching from the sideline, LeBron put on a show for local Chicago fans—dancing and showing off.
LeBron is extremely lucky he wasn't ejected from the game. Not because of his dancing, but because of the fact that after his free throw, he walked over to the Bulls bench to try to engage Noah in a fight. As much as everyone is making a big deal over the dancing, I really think that's the bigger issue. If LeBron weren't a super-star level player, there is no way he would not get ejected for that.

If LeBron were a real man, he would have let Noah run his mouth and continued to pummel the Bulls. Instead, he didn't act like the role model he's supposed to be and he tried to get Noah to bite back. Noah was the smart one here for not allowing LeBron to coerce him into a fight. LeBron could have dealt with the situation a lot better than he did. Luckily, tensions didn't escalate any further.

On to the MVP Rankings:


1. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (16-3)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
19 36.6 28.8 5.3 4.0 2.3 0.2 .489 .292 .857
Last Week's Rank: 1
Just when you thought Kobe was coming back down to earth after an amazing start to the season, he hits a near impossible shot to win the game, extending the Lakers win streak to nine.
Kobe is clutch—this was not a situation where the two teams are tied, and there is nothing on the line.
The Lakers were on a winning streak, they were at home, they're the favorites to win the title, and they were down by two with just over two seconds to go. Granted, it's the regular season, but Kobe is the man.

2. LeBron James, Cavaliers (15-5)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
20 37.7 28.2 6.8 8.1 1.3 0.7 .518 .333 .783
Last Week's Rank: 6
Is this man a PG? The past few weeks, he's been virtually unstoppable with the ball in his hands.
In their win over the Bucks, the Cavs went on a 29-0 run. I would love to see them exert that type of dominance for the remainder of the season. It would be interesting to see Boston and Cleveland in a seven-game series at the peak of their potential. I just think the Shaq trade will be for the better, or pretty much purposeless. I don't think they will do anything long term, but if they can play like this against relevant teams, the East could get very interesting.

3. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets (15-5)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
20 37.0 30.2 5.9 3.4 1.4 0.3 .489 .353 .869
Last Week's Rank: 5
A relatively quiet week for Melo, but he has regained his throne as the top scorer in the league and remains as the only player in the league to score over 20 points in each game this season. The Nuggets are currently the second best team in the west, and a big reason for that is Melo's stellar play.

4. Dwight Howard, Magic (16-4)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
20 32.6 18.2 12.3 1.5 1.3 1.8 .652 ---- .568
Last Week's Rank: Not Ranked
I'm not a fan of players playing below their expectations, but we need to give credit where credit is due. Dwight Howard has been an absolute beast this past week. He recorded a 20-20 game against the Bucks, has 10 straight double doubles, and is leading the Magic to the second best record in the league, behind the Lakers.

5. Steve Nash, Suns (15-6)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
21 32.3 16.5 2.8 11.5 0.4 0.2 .523 .441 .944
Last Week's Rank: 3
Nash is still putting up MVP type numbers, and the Suns have been playing well, all but the Hornets and Knicks losses have been against top five teams on the second night of back-to-backs.
Also, not to throw excuses around, but both times they gained momentum in the third and fourth quarter, the refs made some questionable calls that took momentum away from them.

6. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (14-7)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
21 38.1 27.0 8.4 3.1 1.1 1.5 .473 .350 .888
Last Week's Rank: 4
Who says the German can't play defense? Dirk looks like he's in his prime right now, averaging career highs in points, assists, and blocks.
Sure, the Mavericks have other weapons, but it begins and ends with Dirk. If he's having a good shooting night, the chances of winning the game are high, if he's shooting poorly, the Mavs are a train wreck.
If Josh Howard comes back and stays healthy, I don't think Nowitzki will score more than 23-24 points (on a highly efficient shooting night). If Howard continues to stay out of the starting lineup, Nowitzki is the only one who can in the starting unit that can create for himself, causing his scoring numbers would rise.

7. Kevin Garnett, Celtics (16-4)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
20 30.4 14.9 7.3 2.7 1.0 0.7 .552 ---- .827

Last Week's Rank: Not Ranked
The Celtics are on a seven-game win streak, due to the emergence of Garnett, who appears to be back in shape and ready to make a huge impact on the Celtics.
Over the last seven games, Garnett has not scored fewer than 16 points, but more importantly, he's been getting others more involved. In the blowout in Charlotte, Kendrick Perkins erupted for 21 points and 12 boards. Garnett is the difference maker for this Boston squad, and has been shooting very efficiently over the past few weeks.

8. Dwyane Wade, Heat (11-9)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
20 38.3 26.7 5.1 5.7 1.9 1.1 .427 .250 .763
Last Week's Rank: 7
In what was supposed to be the Nets first victory of the season, Dwyane Wade hit a game-winning three-pointer to win by one at the buzzer. He had an awful game, the first of what had been one of the worst slumps of his career.
Flash forward to the night of the Nets' first win. That night, Kobe Bryant hits a game-winning three, to win by one, in Wade's face at the buzzer.
In between these two games (a 10-game stretch), Wade has played terribly, except for two games—one of which Wade had 34 points on 10-of-16 shooting, 10 assists, four blocks. That's the Wade we need to see more of if he wants to raise his ranking.

9. Brandon Roy, Blazers (13-8)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
21 37.0 20.0 4.8 5.2 0.6 0.2 .443 .342 .800
Last Week's Rank: 8
Brandon's numbers are very consistent, and he's been playing at an extremely high level as of late.
What Portland really needs is a small forward who wants to finish at the rim. If the Blazers had someone who could actually cut through defenses and keep them guessing, then their "problem" at point guard would also be minimized.
Right now there's no one on this team besides Roy (Jerryd Bayless to a lesser extent, but he does not have the expansive game, nor size they need) who can do this. However, with both Miller and Blake on the floor, Brandon gets the ball above the three-point line and he's supposed to what? Just blow past someone 20 feet to the rim? This team lacks that explosive wing, and with the injury to Oden, Roy will be forced to shoot more jumpers.

10. Joe Johnson, Hawks (14-6)
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
18 38.5 21.4 5.5 4.9 1.0 0.0 .444 .286 .863
The Hawks' hot start has disappeared, and they're falling back down to Earth. Johnson is shooting consistently from the field, but his three-point shot is falling, and his role on the team is getting larger and larger each game. But he's still leading this team to the fourth best record in the East, and his numbers remain high.

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