Archive for ‘Dwight Howard’

March 8, 2011

An Additional Opinion on the MVP Race: Dwight Howard

by Jeeves

I realize that talking about the MVP race is hardly groundbreaking blogging, but it is something that I want to address as the NBA season enters its last quarter. If I had it my way, the league’s MVP would simply be the best player in the league. Such a simple pronouncement takes out a lot of the opaqueness of the award and sets is up, in a historical sense, as a great barometer of whom, at any point, was amongst the best in the league. That isn’t to say that the MVP doesn’t do that now, (it does to a certain degree), but it’s often muddled by other factors. Wes Unseld was a great player; he’s a hall of famer. I don’t, however, think that he was ever amongst the very best players in the league, yet he won an MVP award. He won due to other vaguer factors that people often attribute to the award, such as which player if removed from his current team would see his team fall the farthest. I’m not trying to say one way or another if that’s the right way to look at the MVP, because there is no right way. The rules governing the voting aren’t exactly clear.

So with that at mind, I want to take a look at each MVP candidate through the prism, that it seems, most sports writers look through. That means I’ll take equal parts sheer basketball awesomeness, ability to raise teammates play, and irreplaceability (new word!) on their team. I’ll also take into account general development in comparison to past years, while de-emphasizing W-L record.

As I see things today, if I had a ballot, I would go:

1) Dwight Howard

2) Dirk Nowitzki

3) Derrick Rose

4) Lebron James

Each day this week, I’ll take a look at a different candidate, starting from the top and working my way down:

1. Dwight Howard

In basketball, it seems that people put about 70% of the emphasis on offense. If I afforded that same emphasis to my analysis, Howard would still be amongst the MVP candidates but certainly not at the top. The way I see it, defense is truly half of the game, therefore it should be treated as such when evaluating a player on their individual production. Howard is probably the premier defensive force in the league. He’s the two-time and by the end of the season will likely be the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. I realize past awards don’t have any bearing on current awards (at least they shouldn’t, ahem, writers tired of giving Michael Jordan the MVP), but it does corroborate my thoughts on Howard’s defense in a traditional sense. There are some advanced statistics that try to quantify defensive contributions that also support my argument that Howard is the best defender in the league. He towers over the competition in defensive win shares, which is a statistic that tries to quantify how many wins through the current season a player’s defense has contributed. Howard is currently at 5.8 with Kevin Garnett in second at 4.2. (To understand how large that gap is, the difference between KG in second at 4.2 and Al Horford who ranks twentieth with 3.1 win shares is only 1.1). He’s dominating on the defensive end as always; his team is wholly dependent upon him. He typically sees the floor with three to four perimeter based players of varying defensive reputations, from indifferent (Gilbert Arenas) to liability (Hedo Turkoglu) to decent (Brandon Bass). Despite those around him, the Magic give up the 5th fewest amount of pts per game.

Defense isn’t the only place where Dwight is producing. He’s always put up nice numbers on the offensive end, but this year he’s really stepped it up a notch. His scoring is up nearly 5pts to 23.1 ppg, which is a pretty fantastic jump in production. He’s also been able to extend his range, upping his shots from 3-9 feet by 1.2 shots while increasing his shooting percentage from that range. Even with this jump, he’s remained as proficient as always from the field (60%). He’s even upped his rebound totals by .7 to 13.9 a game.

He even rates out well when looking at the team aspect of this all. There’s no doubt, at all, that his team would suffer drastically without him; they are, after all, built around his unique talents. His teammates are pretty good, contrary to some of the groundswell these days purporting them to be on the level of the 2001 76ers’ supporting cast, but they are not world beaters. Of the 4 MVP contenders I have ranked, I’d say his supporting cast is the weakest (with more weight placed on fellow starters than end of the bench).

The totality of Dwight’s season puts him in the driver’s seat, in my eyes, for the moment.  I still have to qualify my thoughts by saying for the moment. There’s a big ugly black mark on his resume; he has racked up an obscene number of technical fouls. He’s had so many that he tripped the automatic suspension barrier and had to miss Monday’s game. From here on out, every other technical earns him a one game suspension. His team is currently fighting for playoff seeding, so if he continues to get T’d up and continues to miss games, I’d have no recourse but to penalize him.

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February 17, 2011

The NBA All-Star Player Draft

by Jeeves

The NBA All-Star break is fast approaching (the Lakers, it seems, have been on break for a little while), which got me thinking, what would happen if the NBA had a player draft for the ASG, like the NHL did?

Before we get to how I think things would play out, here are some things to keep in mind.

The game, this year, is in Los Angeles, therefore, I’m choosing Kobe and Blake Griffin as the two captains. If the game was in say, Vegas again, I’d probably go with Durant and Lebron as the captains as they play the same positions and there’s the whole super humble vs super ego angle. Since it is LA, I thought it would be nice to have the two “home teams” provide the captains. Second, I’m working under the assumption that there’s something actually on the line here that would make all the players desperately want to win, other than just pride. Basically before the draft, everyone is programmed with Kobe’s pathological desire to win. I’m also giving Kobe top pick since LA is more his town than Blake’s…for now. Also, on the playground we always played the first captain gets the choice of first pick or second two.

Kobe – Pick 1 – Dwight Howard

Kobe knows that defense wins championships games. Dwight offers great defense and pretty damn good offense down low. Some probably think the pick here would be Lebron, but Kobe knows that he duplicates some of Lebron’s skill set.

Blake – Pick 1 – Lebron James

No brainer here. Lebron is the best player in the NBA in my books. This team also has the die cast for a sick display of dunking and alley-oops, which leads to…

Blake – Pick 2 – Chris Paul

There’s no point forward on this team. Paul will be the one throwing oops to Bron Bron and Griffin. The former undisputed top PG gets bragging rights in this draft, though I personally wouldn’t rank him first.

Kobe – Pick 2 – Kevin Durant

Kobe picks another wing scorer, one that’s young enough and humble enough to clash with him personality-wise on the court.

Blake – Pick 3 – Dwyane Wade

With Lebron in his ear, Blake chooses Wade to round out his starting back court. A Wade, Lebron, Griffin trio is a Big Three worth much more hype than the Big 2.5 of Wade, Bosh, Lebron.

Kobe – Pick 3 – Derrick Rose

Kobe goes with Rose to run the point. I think of this writing, Rose is the best PG in the league (a two legged Paul would be better, but since he only has one, it’s Rose). Rose provides the whole package at the 1. Drive and kick ability, a great mid range game, 3-pt range, pretty good defense, etc.

Blake –  Pick 4 – Pau Gasol

The Griffin’s need a center and Gasol fits that role beautifully. It’ll set up an interesting Kobe vs. Pau dynamic.

Kobe – Pick 4 – Dirk Nowitzki

Kobe goes with the stretch four option here. It’ll bring a nice dynamic to the team. Nowitzki can play in the post with Dwight or out near the 3pt line to open up driving lanes for Rose. Plus there’s no stopping he’s awkward fallaway. Dirk is secretly one of my top-5 favorite players in the league.

Blake – Pick 5 – Carmelo Anthony

Blake grabs a volume scorer to be the first man off the bench. He can come in at SF and allow LBJ to slide to PF or SG to create some matchup nightmares.

Kobe – Pick 5 – Al Horford

Blake gave Dirk and the Mavs some issues in their second meeting of the season, so they go with Horford who offers more defense than Amare and more athleticism than Duncan. This pick is a bit of a reach in terms of pure talent, but it’s a value pick.

Blake – Pick 6 – Deron Williams

Unfortunately there’s no Paul vs Williams battle. Williams provides size to perhaps bother Rose if he blows by Paul with consistency.

Kobe – Pick 6 – Rajon Rondo

He’s kind of made for All-Star games in the sense of his pass first mentality. When Team Kobe gets a bunch of scorers on the court, they’ll be paired with Rondo who’ll run the offense beautifully.

Blake – Pick 7 – Chris Bosh

The Miami trio are reunited in this scenario. He provides some good jump shooting and is already used to not being the top dog.

Kobe – Pick 7 – Paul Pierce

As much as Kobe would like to play the whole game, he’ll need to be spelled at some point. Pierce can slide over to SG as well as provide some good defense on Lebron. Team Kobe officially changes its name to Team Awkward Fallaways.

Blake – Pick 8 – Ray Allen

The Griffins jump on Ray’s ability to shoot the trey and prevent Allen and Pierce from pairing up again.

Kobe – Pick 8 – Kevin Garnett

The run of Celtics is complete. KG gets picked for defensive ferocity. The pick by need here would be Manu, but Kobe knows that he can sit on him as Blake doesn’t have a need for Manu.

Blake – Pick 9 – Amare Stoudemire

Amare gives team Blake a bit more size down low.

Kobe – Pick 9 – Tim Duncan

Value pick here. Duncan won’t necessarily need to play heavy minutes. Plus, he can take it to the bank.

Blake – Pick 10 – Russell Westbrook

I think the team of athletic freaks needs one more athletic freak.

Kobe – Pick 10 – Manu Ginobili

Kobe cashes in on the Ginobili pick. Can’t afford to wait any longer on him. Plus, he can take it to the bank, too.

Blake – Pick 11 – Kevin Love

Glue guy. Rebounding. Love and Westbrook perhaps get to relive some UCLA magic.

Kobe – Pick 11- Joe Johnson

Size and shooting on the outside…and the only guy left on the board.

So the teams look like this:

Team Kobe Starters:

Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose

Team Blake Starters:

Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul

Team Kobe Bench:

Horford, Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Duncan, Ginobili, Johnson

Team Blake Bench:

Anthony, Williams, Bosh, Allen, Stoudemire, Westbrook, Love