Posts tagged ‘dwighthoward’

March 9, 2011

An Additional Opinion on the MVP Race: Dirk Nowitzki

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. Today let’s take a look at Dirk.

2.) Dirk Nowitzki

This was a tough call for me. The way I see it Rose and Nowitzki are both very close in the MVP race, at least in my eyes. The Bulls fan in me yells Rose, Rose, Rose, but if I am truly objective, I have to have Nowitzki at 2A and Rose and 2B.

The thing that immediately jumps off the page with Dirk is his shooting. He is hitting an astounding percentage of his shots. For the season he’s hitting 53% from the field and 42.5% from 3pt land which are both career highs. Amongst starters (say people who have played at least 40 games and average at least 30 minutes), he has the second highest shooting percentage of non-centers. That’s pretty absurd considering how many outside shots he’s taken. He averages 3.3 shots  from 10-15 feet and shoots 51% on them, 6.2 shots from 16-23 feet and makes an astonishing 54%, as well as 2.5 3-pointers a game. He truly is an offensive force at any spot on the court. He creates match-up problems every game which opens up shots for his teammates, especially in the pick and roll.

One of the main knocks about Dirk throughout his career is that he’s soft and not good at defense. This notion isn’t exactly true. He struggled a bit early in his career, but has always been a slightly above average defender. He’s not great and he won’t necessarily lock down your best post player, but he’s serviceable and certainly is not a detriment to his team. Defensive rating is a stat that tries to account for the number of points a player gives up per 100 possessions. The stat isn’t perfect, but it provides a tool to, at least, try and gauge these types of things. Dirk currently as a DRtg of 105. League average is 107 (and, obviously, the lower the rating, the better), which shows that Dirk is no Dwight Howard, but is still adding value on that end of the court.

Another way to analyze things is to look at Dirk’s time on the court vs his time off of it. According to basketballvalue.com, the Mavs are 18.00 pts per 100 possessions better with Dirk on the court. This represents the second highest total in the league, and accounts for both defense and offense. Also, looking at 82games 5-Man Unit breakdowns, you can see that the Mavs’ best offensive lineup includes Dirk, as does its best defensive lineup. You don’t even need advanced stats to see Dirk’s effect on the team. When he missed 9 games due to injury, the Mavs went 2-7. They lost to such lightweights as Toronto and Milwaukee. There’s the age old question of how much worse would the team be without (insert player). Though it represents a tiny sample size, it seems the Mavericks would be far, far worse.

It kills me to do it,  but Dirk, for now, gets the slight edge over Rose for the 2-spot in my rankings. The biggest deciding factor for me is just the pure efficiency with which Dirk scores. I’ll go into it in more depth tomorrow when I talk about Rose.

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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.