Amar'e Stoudemire: Where Does the New York Knicks Star Rank in the NBA MVP Race?
Willis Reed won the NBA MVP Award in 1970 en route to becoming eternally remembered for hobbling onto the Madison Square Garden court and playing part of Game 7 of the NBA Finals on one leg.
No other Knick has won the award. Seriously, no one. The award has been given since 1955, and the Knicks have been around since the NBA's inception in 1946, so their MVP success rate is less than two percent. Patrick Ewing finished in the top four numerous times, but he was never a serious threat to win.
Alas, the New York Knicks' savior, Amar'e Stoudemire, is here, and he has staked his claim in the MVP race on the national stage following his 39-point, 10-rebound performance in a near-victory over Boston last night.
Where does he rank among the top 15 candidates, and what are the top 10 criteria for choosing him as the MVP?
Starting with the aforementioned criteria, read on to find out.
Second in NBA Scoring
Amar'e Stoudemire is currently third in the NBA with 26.7 points per game, behind Kevin Durant and tied with Kobe Bryant. He also shoots 54 percent from the field.
30-Plus Points, 50-Plus Field Goal Percentage in 9 Straight Games
Amar'e Stoudemire has averaged 33.2 points per game in December, and has scored 30-plus points with a 50 percent-plus field goal percentage in each of his last nine games. That 30/50 streak is second in NBA history, to Shaquille O'Neal's 11.
10-Plus Rebounds in 7 of Last 10 Games
Amar'e Stoudemire has been criticized for not rebounding up to his perceived potential throughout his career, but he has gotten at least 10 rebounds in seven of his last 10 games, highlighted by a 31-point, 16-rebound performance against the Toronto Raptors in a 116-99 win.
16-10 For First Time Since 2000
The Knicks have not had at least 16 wins in their first 26 games since 2000, when they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games to the Indiana Pacers after finishing with a 50-32 regular season record.
With the season Amar'e Stoudemire is having, 45-50 wins and a top-six playoff seed in the Eastern Conference is not out of the question.
Second Half Performance Against Denver Nuggets
Prior to last night, perhaps Stoudemire's most noteworthy game occurred in a contest where he had scored just six points in the first half.
Amar'e Stoudemire scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half of the Knicks' 129-125 win over the Denver Nuggets last Sunday. In the middle of the third quarter, he scored 12 straight points for the Knicks, and in the fourth quarter, he nailed three straight jumpers to give the Knicks a three-point lead.
Third-Best Efficiency Rating
Through games played on Tuesday, December 14, Amar'e Stoudemire had the third-best efficiency rating in the NBA behind Pau Gasol and Kevin Love (databases were not updated as of this writing).
An efficiency rating is measured by adding a player's points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks per game while subtracting free throws missed, field goals missed and turnovers per game.
Stoudemire's turnover numbers are obscenely high, so this makes his rating even more impressive (or less impressive, depending how you look at it).
Amar'e Stoudemire got mad after a sloppy loss to Houston in mid-November.
"I'm not sure if it's the fact maybe a winning mentality has never been here. I'm just not used to it. I'm used to winning. I'm used to talking about winning and having that confidence toward winning. You just can't have guys complacent and comfortable with losing...
"I don't understand why we're not playing with the urgency. I'm not used to that. We're not playing like we're on a four-game losing streak, now five. We don't have that sense of urgency. It's almost as if it doesn't matter."
Since then, the Knicks are 13-3. It was the turning point of the season.
Stoudemire leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, at around eight points each time out. The Nuggets know this all too well.
"Amar'e is a bad matchup for [Glenn "Big Baby" Davis], he can face him up and beat him off the dribble. Baby knows it. He's jumping at pump fakes. Actually, Amar'e is a bad matchup for just about everyone right now."
If notorious Boston Celtics homer and NBA expert Bill Simmons says Amar'e Stoudemire is a bad matchup for just about everyone right now, you know Stoudemire is playing MVP-level basketball.
Eastern Conference Player of the Week
Stoudemire has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice, as has Dwight Howard.
Russell Westbrook and Dirk Nowitzki have been named the Western Conference Players of the Week twice, so four players have received the Conference Player of the Week distinction a pair of times this year.
LeBron James won the last two MVP awards, but he has a long way to go and a lot of players to leap before winning this season.
Note: As we all know but easily forget, the definition of MVP can be interpreted in multiple ways. A sportswriter can simply give the award to the regular season's best player (LeBron James, 2010), or give it to a player deemed the most valuable to his team, even if he is not the best in the league (Karl Malone over Michael Jordan, 1997).
(Of course, the 1997 vote was a crock, but I digress.)
I tend to fall on the latter side of the coin, taking the word valuable at its most literal definition in regards to team value. Is LeBron James better than Deron Williams? Of course. Is LeBron James more valuable to his team than Deron Williams? Hell no. Jazz backup point guard Earl Watson is a solid career journeyman, but definitely not a starter with under three points per game this season.
Read on to see where Amar'e fits from a biased Knicks fan's perspective.
15. Kevin Garnett
15.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.58 SPG, 53.8 FG%
Kevin Garnett will not win the MVP, but his game last night proved why Boston needs him to stay healthy. His intensity and aggressiveness is unmatched, and he seemingly willed the Celtics back within a 113-113 tie to get Boston back in the game. As we saw in the 2009 playoffs, the Celtics are simply not a championship-caliber team without Garnett on the floor.
14. Manu Ginobili
20.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 37.4 3P%
I'd be remiss to not include a member of the 21-3 San Antonio Spurs on this list. One might say the true MVP on the Spurs is Gregg Popovich, however.
Ginobili is playing only 32 minutes per game and is still managing to score 20-plus on most nights.
13. Dwyane Wade
23.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 50 FG%
Give credit to Dwyane Wade for picking up some of the rebounding slack in lieu of Udonis Haslem, and for scoring 28-plus in his last four games.
The Heat are slowly picking up steam. I guess we can pencil in Boston vs. Miami for the Eastern Conference title.
12. Rajon Rondo
11.2 PPG, 13.8 APG, 2.3 SPG, 52.9 FG%, 43.2 FT% (what?)
He's made two all-NBA defensive teams already, and figures to be a mainstay there for the rest of his career. Furthermore, he is the mastermind and orchestrator of a Celtics offense in flux due to injury. Credit to him for keeping things in control.
11. Russell Westbrook
23.3 PPG, 8.6 APG, 5.2 RPG, 4.08 TO, 2.04 SPG
The best individual performance this year goes to Russell Westbrook, who had 31 points and six assists at defensive mastermind Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics' house. The Thunder won 89-84.
Kevin Durant was hurt by the way. No big deal.
10. Kobe Bryant
26.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 44.8 FG%, 34.5 3P%
Have to find room somewhere for the second-best scorer in the NBA, though Pau Gasol is more valuable to the team this year.
9. Chris Paul
16.2 PPG, 9.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 3 SPG, 48.7 FG%, 46.4 3P%
I have a feeling Chris Paul will be off all MVP lists by the end of 2010 with the way New Orleans is playing, but he deserves due credit for having the highest player efficiency rating in the league. Also, I'm pretty sure the Hornets would go 15-67 without him.
8. Kevin Durant
27.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.9 APG
I'm not sure how he's going to survive playing 40 minutes per night again. He's leading the NBA in scoring despite regressing to under 30 percent shooting from the three-point arc.
That being said, Kevin Durant is still a boss.
7. Pau Gasol
19.8 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 51.6 FG%
Gasol is top three in NBA plus/minus, first in efficiency and collecting double-doubles like candy on Halloween. He accomplished this without Andrew Bynum complementing him in the frontcourt, making his value that much more impressive.
6. LeBron James
23.9 PPG, 7.1 APG, 6.2 RPG, 46.3 FG%
Although, like Kobe, the self-proclaimed King isn't having an MVP-type year yet, I had to find room for him, somewhere.
PS: Courtside tickets for the Heat/Knicks game are going for $52,000. I used to go to Knicks games on $10 Ticket Night. Those times are over.
5. Deron Williams
23.0 PPG, 9.8 APG, 47.8 FG%, 1.3 SPG
Sssshhhhhhh. Deron Williams has scored 30-plus points in his last three games. He has managed to incorporate new talent into the lineup well following the departures of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer.
Prediction: When his career is done, Williams will be considered the best point guard in Jazz history.
4. Derrick Rose
23.9 PPG, 8.4 APG, 4.3 RPG, 45.8 FG%, 41.2 3P%
The undisputed king of the reverse layup and freakish slices into the paint, Derrick Rose is fast, and we all know that fast don't lie. We'll see just how great he is without Joakim Noah in the lineup for 10 weeks. I predict Chicago stays in the top five in the East.
3. Amar'e Stoudemire
26.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2 BPG, 54 FG%
Stoudemire is so valuable to the Knicks that I don't even know how they could replace him in the lineup. Ronny Turiaf? Timofey Mozgov? Anthony Randolph? Put Chandler at the 5 and move Douglas to the 2?
(The last one was a half joke.)
Seriously, it is getting to the point where Stoudemire is almost unstoppable within 15 feet of the basket with just one man defending him. Defend the jump shot, and he'll throw a dunk in your buddy's face. Play off him, and he's nailing a jumper. And then there's the pick and roll...
2. Dwight Howard
21.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 57.8 FG%, 2.4 BPG
Despite Orlando's recent losing streak, Dwight Howard is still a top-three MVP candidate based on his defense, rebounding and improved offense thanks to Hakeem Olajuwon's offseason workouts with him.
He gets the very slight edge over Stoudemire because of his great defensive efforts. While Stoudemire is a little better defensively than everyone believes (I once read that Stoudemire was allergic to defense...please), he is nowhere near Howard's class in defending.
1. Dirk Nowitzki
25.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 56.2 FG%, 40.4 3P%, 85.6 FT%
Dirk Nowitzki is shooting career-bests in field goal and three-point percentage for a 20-5 Dallas Mavericks team that is filled with players that are either past their prime or never reached it. He's your 2010 calendar year MVP for the 2010-11 season.
His best performance was easily a 42-point game in a 88-84 win over Detroit last month.
How Can Amar'e Finish First In MVP Voting?
If the Knicks win in the neighborhood of 50 wins, finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and Stoudemire keeps up his current 26-plus point, nine-plus rebound averages, he's your NBA MVP. It would be a shocking turnaround, especially considering Sports Illustrated picked the Knicks to finish 11th in the Eastern Conference, one place behind the...New Jersey Nets?
Ultimately, that would be tough for the Knicks and Stoudemire to do, with a duet of games still coming up against top-10 teams such as San Antonio, Dallas, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City, Utah and Boston and a quartet of games coming up against Miami and Orlando.
However, ladies and gentlemen, your New York Knicks are on pace for a 50-win season...