|Chris Paul (left), Kobe Bryant (middle), and Steve Nash (right) are all being talked about for the NBA's MVP award.|
The NBA's Most Valuable Player award is one of the league's most prestigious honors.
Whenever a player wins the MVP, it isn't just based on his numbers, but the impact and value that player has on a team.
So if you had to chose an MVP for the first half of the season, who would you choose?
The decision hasn't been that easy, which is why I turned to six of Bleacher Report's most knowledgeable NBA writers—Erick Blasco, Dave Metrick, Dave Finocchio, Andrew Ungvari, Aaron Keel, and Scott Serles.
When choosing a MVP, I always look at the key word in that term. Of course the key word is valuable.
So with that said, What is the actual meaning of valuable anyway?
Dictionary.com gives three separate meanings of the word:
1. Having considerable monetary worth; costing or bringing a high price
2. Having qualities worthy of respect, admiration, or esteem
3. Of considerable use, service, or importance
To me, those three meanings have only applied to four guys the first half of the season.
Those guys are Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and LeBron James.
But since only one guy can win the award, I have to go with Chris Paul.
Paul has been the best player on the best team this year (Sorry Boston).
No disrespect to Kobe and Nash, but this guy has taken his game along with his team to another level this year.
Paul is one of three point guards averaging a double-double (Nash and Jason Kidd the others) and leads the league in steals.
Not only that, but the Hornets are (surprisingly) in first place in a division featuring both San Antonio and Dallas.
Take Paul away from the Hornets, and I can't even begin to imagine where they would be standing right now.
His stat line: 20.7 PPG, 10.9 APG, and 2.5 SPG
Picking an NBA MVP is always difficult due to the undefined subject of what constitutes an MVP.
Is it the “best player” in the league? Then Tim Duncan gobbles the award up.
Is it the most talented? Then Kobe gets it without a blink of an eye.
Is it the best player on the best team? Then David West (sorry Chris Paul) is the midway point’s MVP.
Is it the player with the best numbers? Then LeBron soars above his competitors.
Or is it the player most important to his team’s ability to win? Then Al Jefferson is the league’s MVP—can you imagine the T-Wolves without him!?!?!?
None of those descriptions accurately define what an MVP really is, but I’ll try my best.
An MVP should be a dominant player that is the driving force of his team’s greatness. An MVP should be able to enforce his skills against even the most skilled of opponents.
An MVP shouldn’t just be a player who plays at a high level, but one who has his team play at a high level because of him.
An MVP should only play for a team that has matched or exceeded expectations as MVP’s don’t disappoint.
MVP’s should be able to dominate weaker teams because of their presence, and should be able to beat elite teams because of their tremendously talented and clutch play in close games.
Numbers should not matter in determining an MVP. Players are great on basketball courts, not stat sheets.
The Spurs and Tim Duncan have not played inspired ball for a month and a half and only Manu Ginobli is playing anywhere close to MVP level.
Dwight Howard is still too limited offensively and very immature defensively. Dirk is little more than a jumper shooter whose tricked voters into giving him the award last year.
The Cavs haven’t won enough for LeBron to be mentioned, and with Andrew Bynum out, neither has Kobe’s. Baron Davis is too erratic.
The Celtics “big three” have been so good that none of their players have needed to play at MVP levels—as paradoxically as that sounds.
Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Brandon Roy all are exceptional but don’t quite have the talent or the impact of my pick for MVP.
And that’s because my pick for MVP is Steve Nash.
Despite his teammates’ bickering, Nash continues to get the most out of the Suns every single night and terrorizes opponents with his creative brilliance.
Nash sees the court better than anybody since John Stockton, can make any pass at anytime, is a very crafty finisher, has a lethal jumper, always puts his teammates in the best position to succeed, and only looks to score to keep defenses honest, though he’s a nearly unstoppable scorer when he wants to be.
Plus, the entire Phoenix offense thrives on Nash.
Shawn Marion is okay at creating his own shot, but every other player on the roster is a gunner, or a cutter that becomes virtually useless when Nash is on the Phoenix bench.
For sure, Nash is an awful individual defender—not by lack of effort, but because he’s a step slow laterally, and because he’s incredibly frail. However, Nash’ help defense never gets the credit it deserves.
Nash is virtually indefensible, incredibly clutch, and most importantly, he’s built the careers of nearly everyone on the Suns.
He’s a great player who begets other great players.
Sounds like the characteristics of an MVP.
Kobe for MVP
For the past three seasons, Kobe Bryant has been widely regarded as the best player in the NBA. But the MVP award isn’t given to the best player in the NBA.
If it were, Mr. Bryant would probably spend his free time polishing the three trophies he’d already been awarded.
Instead, the prestigious award is rightfully given to the best and most valuable player on one of the league’s best teams. And over the last three seasons the Los Angeles Lakers had no claim to being one of the best.
But this year is different.
After a summer that saw Kobe publicly calling for his trade, he’s done an amazing job leading the Lakers on and off the court. And the result has been a surprising first half for the Lakers as they’ve posted one of the best records in the Western Conference.
|"Despite his teammates' bickering, Nash continues to get the most out of the Suns every single night and terrorizes opponents with his creative brilliance." -Erick Blasco|
When LA fans booed Kwame Brown at a recent home game, it was number 24 who had his back, telling those fans what they did was “terrible” and if they wanted to do that “they can stay home.”
It appears that Kobe Bryant is maturing before our very eyes and if his Lakers can survive a long, upcoming road trip and Andrew Bynum’s knee injury and finish as one of the West’s top teams, I think Bryant should be hoisting that Maurice Podoloff over his head in May.
Just a hair under 50 games into the season, I think we're looking at four legitimate MVP candidates: Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Steve Nash, and Chris Paul.
Bryant is the most likely benefactor of the "Dirk Nowitzki award" (formerly known as the "Karl Malone award"), going to the player who's built up sentimental momentum from the "media" resulting in a "no, he probably didn't deserve it" consensus two months after the fact.
Why all the expected compassion? Because Bryant is in his 12th year in the NBA, and too many people can't expect him to "justifiably" outshine the likes of LBJ for much longer.
Kobe's having another great year, but statistically, nothing he's doing stands out from his past 3-4 seasons. Of course, basketball is a team game, and Bryant's case is also compelling from an ashes to grace perspective.
Talk about stats, Lebron James is averaging 30 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds, and the room for improvement in his game is still so apparent.
Simply put, he's the most dominant penetrator in league history, which begs the question, why is he still shooting under 50%? Picky, I know. Lebron is beast of an individual, but in my eyes, the Cavs have to continue this run if he's going to win out over the best of the West.
Steve Nash is having his fourth straight remarkable season, and his second straight season where it's hard to distinguish the now from what he did during his two MVP awards.
As we know, there's a certain "we've had yours" in sports MVP decisions, and though I'm generally not a supporter of this notion, I do feel that Nash has been amply recognized from a historical perspective for what he does so well. What he doesn't do is play defense.
There's another top-notch point guard in the West that does play defense, and his name is Chris Paul. Paul is the clear-cut driving force on a team with almost no fan support, which has managed to run up a 32-14 record in the same league with the Spurs, Mavs and Rockets.
He's the best defensive point guard, with the most active hands that the lead has seen in years, and he's a model of efficiency on offense.
Paul is also emerging as one of the great "end of game assassins" in the game. It's so impressive for pass first point guard to change gears when his team needs him (reminds of John Stockton in this sense).
After watching Paul for 2 years in college, and now three years in the NBA, I think you're selling him short to call him "one of the league's great young players".
In my eyes, Chris Paul is a point guard for the ages—and I think he has a chance to be considered one of the best players to ever play the position. By the end of the year, I expect his to have fully emerged in the NBA's marketing package as the league's youthful mega stars (alongside Lebron James).
While we're on the subject, Paul should clearly get the nod over Jason Kidd as of the U.S. Olympic Team's starter this summer.
Rundowns in place, here's my list at the break:
1. Chris Paul
2. Lebron James
3. Kobe Bryant
4. Steve Nash
What Chris Paul has done this season is nothing short of amazing. The Hornets are atop what could be considered the toughest division in all of sports. They have no real home-court advantage and yet they’re 23-9 against the Western Conference and 6-2 within their own division.
Paul is averaging close to 21 points and 11 assists per game. That means he’s responsible for at least 43 points per game.
The Hornets average 99 points and seven 3-pointers per game. So if just two of Paul’s assists result in 3's then he’s responsible for more than half of their points. He’s also had double-digit assists in fourteen of the Hornets last 15 games.
I don’t know what other people’s definitions of the word “valuable” are but those are pretty valuable numbers.
Paul also leads the league in steals and is third in assist-to-turnover ratio.
I can only imagine where the Hornets would be without Paul.
You can always make a case for Steve Nash winning the MVP. His averages this season in points, rebounds and assists are all actually better than his career numbers.
The reason I’m not picking Nash is because the Suns have struggled in games against the Western Conference’s top teams. They are 2-7 against the Mavericks, Lakers, Jazz, Warriors and Hornets this year and in those two victories the Lakers were without Andrew Bynum and the Jazz were without Mehmet Okur.
Kobe Bryant is a candidate too but the injury to Andrew Bynum has proven that Bynum might actually be this team’s most valuable player.
The Lakers are 3-4 since Bynum went down with a knee injury. For a team with only 15 losses in 43 games, those four they’ve lost without him account for more than a quarter of their season loss total in just seven games.
I’ll reconsider if the Lakers go 7-2 or better on this 9-game road trip that includes stops in Detroit, Toronto, Washington, and Orlando.
Until then, Paul is not only the Western Conference MVP; he’s also the league MVP.
When it comes to the mid-season MVP of the league, for me it’s a no-brainer.
Garnett, Bryant, and Nash?
You can have them.
The guy I want running my team is none other than Hornets PG Chris Paul.
I know most people will go with Garnett because of Boston’s record this season so far, and there’s nothing wrong with that logic.
But let’s be honest, Boston has done exactly what Boston was expected to since day 1 of the season.
Beat up on lesser talented teams in a weak conference and coast to the East’s number 1 seed.
When you have Garnett, Pierce, and Allen on your team you should be in first place, anything less would be a disappointment.
But when I take a look at the numbers and the play for me it’s just too hard to not go with Paul.
At the very young age of just 22 Paul has, at least in this writer’s opinion, established himself as the league’s top PG.
Forget about Steve Nash, take a look at the numbers and you will find that Paul is the better player.
While Paul is averages less than 1 assist less a game then Nash, he leads Nash in points, steals, and rebounds per game while averaging less turnovers per.
Paul has also gotten the better of Nash in their head to head meetings, with Paul’s Hornets 2-0 against Nash’s Suns this season and with Paul besting Nash in both points and assists averaged.
And oh yeah, the Hornets are mere percentage points behind the Suns for the best record in the West.
All this with a supporting cast that most people would be hard pressed to name.
There is also something about Paul when he plays that you don’t see in a lot of other players in the league, with the exception of a few.
That is his leadership on the floor during the game.
It’s nothing in particular that you can point at, he doesn’t show the same kind of intensity that someone like Garnett does, it’s just the way he goes about his business that tells you this guy is a leader.
Now all this may change as the season goes on, the Hornets could end up just barely making the playoffs or missing them altogether.
Paul may not be able to continue this incredible pace he is on, there are a number of possibilities that could change my opinion.
But for me right here, right now I say forget the rest and give me the best.
Chris Paul in ’08.
New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul gets my vote for first half MVP.
The Hornets finished the 2006-2007 season a mediocre 39-43.
Paul has led the Hornets this season to already 32 wins as they sit atop the Southwest Division a game and a half ahead of Dallas.
If the playoffs began today the Hornets would also be the second seed in the tough Western Division.
CP3 leads the league in steals, and is second in the NBA in assists. He is no where near the top twenty in turnovers as are his point guard counterparts Kidd and Steve Nash, throw in 20 points a game and I think you have yourself an overwhelming argument for Paul as MVP.
He has also made the players around him better as you would want the point guard of your team to do.
It is no mistake that David West and Tyson Chandler are enjoying their finest seasons as a pro. Paul is the leader of the best team, in the toughest division in basketball.
There will be others that will argue, well, what about KG? What about Kobe?
While there is no denying the contributions that those two have made for their team, Paul has put the Hornets on his shoulders are are making a surprising run at an NBA title.
Before the season, if you would have mentioned the Hornets and NBA Champs in the same breath, you might have been laughed at.
I know there is a lot of basketball to be played, but right now Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets are serious contenders.
To view Michael Whittenberg's previous roundtable column click here.
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