San Antonio Spurs: 10 Reasons Manu Ginobili Deserves to Be in the MVP Discussion

Marilyn DubinskiCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2011

Man-U're Good: 10 Reasons Ginobili Deserves To Be Included in MVP Conversations

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 8, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    To the outside world, Manu Ginobili is just a role player having a career year following a two-season semi-hiatus due to various injuries. 

    To other fans, he's a pesky Argentinian whom they despise for his nagging ability to make them miserable, but secretly wish he was on their team.

    To his opponents, he's a force to be reckoned with, a guy they can't take for granted without regret and most of all, he's the leader of the best team in the league.

    What many don't see is that these are several parts of the equation for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award.  That doesn't mean he should win it.  His previous role as the sixth man on the team and averaging under 32 minutes per game work against him.

    However, despite those little oversights, Ginobili deserves to at least be mentioned in the race for the prestigious MVP award, and here are 10 reasons why.

10. The Best Player on the Best Team

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 05:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs tries to keep the ball as Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics defends on January 5, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Spurs 105-103. NOTE TO USER:
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Let's start with the most obvious.  Although the panel of US and Canadian sportswriters who determine the MVP every season don't have it written in stone, a common factor that many MVP's have is being the best player on the best team. 

    It doesn't take a genius to know that this is no fluke.  An important aspect for the candidates is whether or not their play translates into wins and a potential championship run for their teams.  There's not much value in a great player who can't win.

    Clearly, Manu falls under this category.  So far, the San Antonio Spurs are running away with the lead in their division, the Western Conference and the entire league. 

    If they can keep up this pace with Manu leading the way, he should undoubtedly be considered an MVP candidate. 

9. Offense

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    NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 28:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball over Jason Smith #14 of the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on November 28, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Spurs defeated the Hornets 109-95.  NOTE T
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Being the best player on the team does not necessarily mean being the best scorer, but it certainly doesn't hurt.  A player can only do so much for his team if he is one-dimensional on offense.

    Manu would be 10-dimensional if there were such a thing.  He can drive through the lane, hit three-pointers, create his own shot, create for others, etc.  He also leads the league in three-point makes at 2.3 per game.

    His season averages of 18.9 points and 4.7 assists are fluctuating around his career highs.  He is also averaging 87.1 percent from the free throw line.

    While those aren't gaudy numbers that pop out on the page compared to someone like two-time MVP LeBron James, they are very productive for 31.6 minutes of playing time. 

    Suppose Manu played 40 minutes per game.  His averages would be nearly 24 points and six assists per game.  Pretty MVP-like numbers one has to say.

8. Defense

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    PHOENIX - MAY 03:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs defends against Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 3, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Su
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    A player can only do so much for his team on offense.  Part of being an MVP is being able to get stuff done on both ends of the floor.  That includes playing some defense.

    Again, Manu doesn't have numbers that jump off the page (four rebounds and 0.8 blocks), but such defensive stats are not going to be that high for a shooting guard.  His job is to be a pest for outside shooters and prevent them from driving or getting wide-open shots.

    Manu does all that and more (including blocking bats).  He's sixth in the league in steals with 1.8 per game, and all the players above him play at least five more minutes per game. 

    He also is an expert at getting in position to draw charges (again something other fans don't like but secretly wish they had).  Add in his excellent transition defense, and Manu is one of the more underrated but effective defenders in the league.

7. Plus/Minus Ratio

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 05:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots past Glen Davis #11 of the Boston Celtics on January 5, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Spurs 105-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The plus/minus ratio is an excellent way to study a player's overall effectiveness on the floor.  It can be a misleading statistic in individual games, but it says a lot about a player over the course of a season.

    Basically, if a player's number is positive, his team outscores opponents by that many points when he is on the floor.  If it is negative, his team is outscored by that much.

    Manu has the second-highest plus/minus ratio in the league at plus-337, meaning the Spurs outscore opponents by 8.02 points per game when he is in the game.

    Not only is he just three points behind Boston Celtic Paul Pierce (plus-340), he also leads the league in plus/minus per minute at 0.253, making him the most efficient player in the league.

    Production on offense, defense and the presence and energy Manu brings to the court all contribute to this statistic.  It tells a big story that can often be over looked but gives real MVP indications.

6. Healthy

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    PHOENIX - MAY 03:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on May 3, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Spurs 111-
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Throughout his career it has been proven that the Spurs are at their best when Manu is healthy.  When that is the case, he is comparable to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant at times.

    Manu has had his fair share of injuries that have affected his play over the course of his career.  This season marked the first time he entered camp injury free and rested after a quiet summer.

    The difference has been obvious.  While Manu did play a good majority of last season, it took him several months to get into any kind of rhythm.  When he did, things got better for the Spurs.

    This season has ended up being the best start in franchise history primarily thanks to Manu, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan all being healthy and rested.

    If the Spurs make it to the Finals in good shape, count on Manu completing the trifecta of each Big Three member winning the Finals MVP.  If that were to happen, there would be no denying who the best-ever threesome is.

5. Clutch Play

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    If there is one thing an MVP has to be able to do, it's coming up big with the game on the line.  He should be the go-to player in the clutch.

    Manu is all that and more.  There are very few players who have made more fourth quarter magic this season than him.  He has been a big part of the Spurs' multiple comebacks (something that was missing last year), and he has already hit several game winners.

    A more underrated part of being a clutch player is being able to hit free throws.  Whenever his team is ahead with the game on the line, it gets the ball into his hands.

    One thing that Manu does better than almost anyone else is overcoming bad stretches.  Even if he's had a terrible first three quarters, he always comes up big in the fourth.  That's what being an MVP is all about.

4. Leadership

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with teammate Richard Jefferson #24 after making a basket late in the 4th quarter giving the Spurs a 95-91 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time War
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Manu Ginobili has the leadership quality of an MVP.  He has no problem directing traffic, instructing his fellow teammates and giving advice the newcomers.  He's even drawn up a few successful plays lately.

    He also sets a good example on the floor.  He doesn't whine or complain.  He doesn't get into rifts or fights, even when he's had his chances. 

    Such chances include Jason Terry's recent hip check, or Eduardo Najera's neck-grabbing tackle during the playoffs last year.  In both those cases he either stayed down or quickly walked away to avoid retaliation.

    Another way he shows leadership is by playing aggressively and never quitting.  If his team is down, he pushes them harder and tries to get everyone involved (unlike Kobe, who thinks the only way he can get his team out of a slump is by overshooting).

    Being an MVP is not all about the numbers.  It's about being the leader of the pack who can steer his team the right way and help the younger players.  There's no doubt Manu can do all that and more.

3. Determination

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    SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 29:  Guard Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts during a 97-87 win against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 29, 2010 in San Anton
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Before the season began, Manu sat down and had a heart-to-heart talk with coach Gregg Popovich.  He didn't say start me, play me more or give me the ball more.  He said he wanted to put more emphasis on winning games instead of taking it easy until the playoffs. 

    Pop listened, and so far it has paid off.  Because of a lackadaisical start to last season that included losses to teams they should have beaten, the Spurs had to dig deep to even make the playoffs, and not having home court advantage took its toll. 

    Thanks to Manu's advice, the Spurs are off to their best start in franchise history and could very well have the home court throughout the playoffs. 

    Another sign of Manu's determination to win every game was his obvious displeasure from being benched towards the end of the recent loss at Madison Square Garden. 

    There was not much time left, an even tougher game was coming up the next night and it would have taken a miracle to win at that point. 

    Despite those facts, Manu was clearly upset that his team gave in.  He wanted to be on the court to at least attempt a comeback.  Talk about determination.

2. Already Is An MVP

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    ATHENS - AUGUST 28:  Emanuel Ginobili #5 of Argentina shoots over the defense of Italy during the men's basketball gold medal contest game on August 28, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Indoor Hall of the Olympic Sports Complex in A
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    Manu already knows what it takes to be an MVP.  He's been one many times before: 

    • 2001 Lega A (Italy) MVP
    • 2001 Euroleague Final Four MVP
    • 2001 FIBA Americas Championship MVP
    • 2002 Italian Cup MVP
    • 2002 Lega A MVP
    • 2004 Olympics (Athens) MVP

    About the only thing missing from that list is an NBA MVP.  Even if he doesn't win it, he has certainly proven himself over the years.

1. Can't Win Without Him

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    SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 17:  Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs holds the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy during the NBA championship parade down the San Antonio River walk June 17, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    If there is one thing the last couple of seasons have shown, it's that without Manu Ginobili at his best, it is very difficult for the Spurs to win it all.

    When he missed the entire playoffs in 2009, they lost in the first round without his fire power off the bench.

    He was a key part of their first round upset of the Dallas Mavericks in 2010, but that broken nose finally got the best of him as they got swept by the hot-shooting Phoenix Suns.

    Manu obviously doesn't deserve any blame for those losses, but it certainly opened eyes as to how valuable he is to his team.

    Being the most valuable player on a championship-caliber team definitely makes him worthy of MVP talk, even if it is just a consideration.

    Ultimately his minutes and unselfishness will probably prevent him from winning the award, but a Finals MVP trophy would be a great consolation prize and probably the one Manu would prefer to have.