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Orlando Magic Trade Rumors: Do Magic’s Trades Lock Up MVP for Dwight Howard?

Lance MorrisonCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2011

Orlando Magic Trade Rumors: Do Magic’s Trades Lock Up MVP for Dwight Howard?

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Dwight Howard was a viable MVP candidate before the Magic made the trades to acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, and Gilbert Arenas.

    The four-time All Star unveiled several new post moves including a lefty jump hook and a face-up jumper, off the glass, from 8 to 12 feet, a la Tim Duncan. Howard is scoring 21.2 PPG which is 3.5 PPG higher than his career average and is fourth in the league in field goal percentage at .564.

    Howard is the most dominant rebounder in the game having been the leading rebounder in the NBA in each of the past three years and coming second in 05-06 and 06-07. Howard is currently second in the league with 13.1 RPG, with 3.5 of his total rebounds per game being of the offensive variety.

    The time honored standard of greatness in the NBA is 20 PPG and either 10 RPG or 10 APG. 20 and 10 in a game is a great game, 20 and 10 for a season is a great year and a player with 20 and 10 for a career goes to the hall of fame.

    Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and rookie Blake Griffin are the only players averaging at least 20 and 10 so far this year.

    Howard has more steals than any other player at the center position and more steals than speedy point guard Derrick Rose and Jerry Sloan disciple Derron Williams. Howard is the best one-on-one defender at the center position and he patrols the paint, displaying a brand of help defense that has made him the most feared shot blocker in the league throughout his seven-year career.

    He is also currently fourth in the league in blocked shots making Howard a candidate for an unprecedented third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award.

    Despite Howard's individual dominance on both ends of the floor, his bid for MVP is bolstered by the types of players the Magic acquired in the trades.

    In this slideshow, I will identify three reasons why the Magic's acquisitions might assist Howard in becoming the 2010-2011 MVP. In subsequent slides, we'll see how Howard stacks up against other 2010-2011 MVP candidates.

Improved Three-Point Shooting

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    Jason Richardson shoots a higher percentage from three point range than Vince CarterChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    When Vince Carter was in Orlando, he shot .346 from three point range. Jason Richardson is shooting .425, which is significantly higher than Carter's three-point shooting percentage in Orlando.

    When Rashard Lewis was in Orlando, he shot 367 from three point range. Hedo Turkoglu is shooting .412, which is down slightly from the .423 he shot in Phoenix, but still significantly higher than Lewis' three-point shooting percentage in Orlando.

    Richardson and Turkoglu have replaced Carter and Lewis at the shooting guard and small forward positions respectively. Shooting "the three" at a high percentage is essential for Howard's bid to win the MVP.

    Howard's quickness, leaping ability, newly developed footwork and high shooting percentage makes him the most difficult post player to guard in the game today. Most defenders are unable to guard Howard one-on-one.

    When a defender is one-on-one with Howard, that defender gets a dunk in his face a very large percentage of the time. As you might imagine, Howard gets double teamed a lot.

    Coaches are reluctant to have a perimeter defender leave a high percentage three point shooter to double team in the post.

    Howard is not a great passer out of the double team yet. However, he does get 1.5 APG for his career. That's just enough to give coaches gray hair and ulcers trying to decide whether to allow the two-point shot at 56 percent, or double team the post and take their chances with the 40 percent shot from three-point range.

    The Magic's newly acquired high percentage three-point shooters ensure that Howard gets more one-on-one opportunities in the paint. The more one-on-one opportunities Howard gets, the more likely he is to be the MVP.

The Dribble Penetration of Hedo Turkoglu

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    Hedo Turkoglu can shoot, pass. and driveChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Dwight Howard is unable to create his own shot off the dribble from the perimeter. Like most centers, Howard requires the assistance of play makers to get him the ball in position to score. The Magic now have five players in their regular rotation capable of making plays off the dribble.

    The most notable of these ball handlers is 6'10" "small" forward Hedo Turkoglu whose scoring is up from 9.5 in Phoenix to 12.5 PPG playing for the Magic. His APG have also spiked from 2.3 in Phoenix to 6.5 with the Magic. That makes Turkoglu directly responsible for an additional 11-plus PPG.

    As the season wears on, some of those additional APG will translate directly to average PPG for Howard.

    Turkoglu's three-point shot commands respect, which makes space for Howard. Turkoglu uses the threat of 40 percent three-point shooting to draw defenders to him to contest his shot which enables Turkoglu to penetrate.

    After he gets past his initial defender, Turkoglu has the ability to pull-up for the mid-range jumper which tends to draw a second defender to contest that shot, and in turn, makes space for Howard.

    Because of his size, Turkoglu is able to shoot over or dunk on most perimeter players. This means a big man has to move into position to defend Turkoglu when he drives to the basket which creates space for Howard to get offensive rebounds and put back dunks.

    Turkoglu can pass down into the post from the three-point arc, pass off the pull-up to Howard cutting to the basket or the "dish" to Howard with position in the paint after drawing the bigs to him when he drives to the hoop.

    The addition of Hedo Turkoglu creates scoring opportunities for Howard in the paint and greatly increases Howard's chance of becoming MVP.

Classic Chemistry

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    Guess who Nelson is passing the ball to?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It took the Heat 17 games to build a winning chemistry. The reason it took that many games is because even with the great players they do have, they require coaching schemes and practice to make up for the championship pieces they don't have.

    Basketball is a game of roles and responsibilities.

    The Magic now have the classic combination of point guards that can distribute the "rock" (not that Nelson and Arenas always do distribute the "rock," but they can), wing players who can shoot, slash to the basket and make plays for their teammates, a rebounding and defending grunt with no compunction about applying a modicum of violence in the nightly execution of this essential role and it's all built around Dwight Howard, a skilled and peaking low-post player who works hard in the offseason to hone his craft.

    In other words, Dwight Howard has three guys to create space and make plays for him as well as a muscular minion by his side to aid in his quest to control the paint. The "new" Magic" had two games on back-to-back nights in different cities with no practice, they were 0-2. After one practice they ran off nine straight wins.

    Their nine straight consecutive victories include wins over the Spurs who have the best record in the league, Boston, with a healthy Kevin Garnett, and the second best record in the league at the time, and New York, with fellow MVP candidate Amar'e Stoudemire.

    Why did it only require one practice for them to gel? Because they are in possession of all the classic pieces of a winning team. If everyone understands their role and does their job, winning will ensue.

    The NBA MVP generally is chosen from a team that was built around a candidate, who won enough games to be poised to do damage in the playoffs. The Magic are currently ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference, and rising.

The Competition

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    Co-MVPs?Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Is Dwight Howard a lock for the MVP? There are far too many factors and unforeseen circumstances to ever say that anyone is "a lock" just 39 games into the season.

    Furthermore, there are no shortage of great players in the league who are capable of a run that could garner the MVP.

    The following slides are an assessment of Howard's primary competition for the 2010-2011 MVP award.

Kobe Bryant

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    Don't count Bryant outHarry How/Getty Images

    There are many who have been quick to deem Kobe old and his back-to-back NBA champion Lakers' run, done.

    First of all, anyone who is capable of being fifth in the NBA in scoring with 25.2 PPG in an "off year," at 32, with his skills in decline is not to be dismissed. In Michael Jordan's final year with the Bulls, anyone who had been watching could see that his once indomitable skills were in decline, his will to win was not.

    Bryant's will to win is among the most formidable in the history of the league. To count him out of the MVP race with more than 40 games to play would be both unwise and disrespectful of his status as the greatest clutch player in this league today.

    Kobe is on a quest for greatness. A sixth championship and a second three-peat hallows his place in history and gives him right to be mentioned in the same breath with the greatest champions of all time.

    Does Kobe really care about regular season honors at this point in his illustrious career? If the Lakers need some regular season heroics to get them into the top four playoff seeds he may give Howard a run for his money. If not, Kobe's eye is on the prize and he will shut it down until that "second season" where we will see his best, for one last run.

    I can feel the Kobe haters bristling, "he must be a Lakers fan," I'm not! Greatness is greatness and our emotional baggage toward a great player pales in its presence and is certainly of no consequence.

    In fact, fans might as well appreciate greatness since that's all we can do about it.

    I'm from New York, and I hated Larry Bird with everything I am. Somehow, neither my feelings, nor the defense of my beloved Knicks ever stopped Bird from breaking our hearts, with two seconds left, from three point range.

    Everyone on the planet knew he was going to shoot it and fans practically rushed out of the stands in a futile attempt to thwart his greatness, and then it went in, all net, again!

    Kobe may not get the MVP or another championship but he's going to let us know, in no uncertain terms, that he's great one more time before he's done and the haters are just going to have to live with it!

Wade and James

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    They could easily be Co-MVPsVictor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Dwyane Wade and LeBron James may be the most dynamic tandem in the history of the game. They are listed here together because they are just that, a tandem.

    James may have the edge in the MVP race because he kept the Heat afloat during their early season woes. But they did not start winning until Wade got healthy and began to play well.

    Wade and James cancel each other out.

Derrick Rose

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    Keeping Chicago In the hunt though key injuriesJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It's a general rule that point guards should facilitate a players rise to leading scorer, not be the leading scorer themselves. Derrick Rose has had no choice but to call his own number because the Chicago Bulls season has been beset by injuries from the start.

    First, newly acquired free agent Carlos Boozer was out for 15 games with a broken hand and now Joakim Noah is out. That has not stopped the Bulls from riding Rose's coat tails to the third best record in the Eastern Conference.

    Rose has to be considered legitimate MVP candidate because of his 24.3 PPG and 8.1 APG. That means that Derrick Rose is directly responsible for over 40 points per game. He is a one man offensive explosion.

    Unfortunately, Rose has not yet learned the art of playing consistent one-on-one defense against point guards in the NBA. You can see that one day he will be great, but right now he's a riverboat gambler that often loses. He is often overly aggressive about overplaying an offensive player and gets burned. He gets just 1.11 steals per game to show for all his gambling and overplaying.

    Rose is a great offensive player but does not have the all around game to be MVP...yet!

Amar'e Stoudemire

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    We've always known Amar'e Stoudemire could score. What no one had seen was whether or not Stoudemire can lead a team, put it on his back if he has to, and carry them to the playoffs.

    In years past, Amar'e Stoudemire was a scorer and that's all. There are a lot of NBA players who can score. There would be a lot more who could score with Steve Nash spoon feeding them opportunities, in the right position, on time, every time, for eight years.

    This year, he slapped away the spoon, struck out on his own and clearly, he's a full grow'd up man.

    The fact that Stoudemire is scoring 26.2 PPG, which is 4.5 PPG more than his career average, and he's doing it without Nash is a surprise, but certainly not a mind bending stretch of the imagination. The fact that he is third in the league with 2.39 block shots per game defies all we thought we knew about him.

    I'm not telling you that Stoudemire has suddenly become the one-on-one paint menace that Dwight Howard has been throughout his career. However, Stoudemire has begun to apply his startling level of athleticism at the defensive end.

    Stoudemire will chase a player down and block his shot from behind and he will expend the effort to play help defense in the paint when necessary.

    There was never any question about whether Stoudemire could be a good defender, only whether or not he would. If there have been any questions about Stoudemire, they have been about effort, never ability.

    Phoenix had a shot to steal the Western Conference Championship series from the Lakers in 2009-2010 had Amar'e shown up for every single play, every single night. He didn't.

    Stoudemire is new to being the leader of a team and he has never been a maximum effort guy. When you are the leader of a team who takes plays off, the players you are leading think they can too.

    Believing that Stoudemire can suddenly give maximum effort in every game, on every play is like believing in fairies and unicorns. I have not seen it and simply can't believe this ability exists until I do.

    Before we anoint Amar'e MVP, let's wait to see if he can keep giving maximum effort on both ends of the floor or if he starts to take a play, or two or a game or two off. If he does, the Knicks will respond in kind.

    Stoudemire is the closest candidate to Howard's MVP status. If Stoudemire does not win it, Howard will.

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