C- Amare Stoudamire
Yep, it’s true. Amare Stoudamire really does need to be on my first team All-NBA. He’s averaging 25 and 9 with .590 shooting on a steady diet of jump shots, finger rolls and dunks compared to Dwight Howard’s 20 points,14 ½ boards and .599 from the floor. The 2 point FG% is .601 to .599, with Amare taking 200 more shots.
Howard began the season so well it’s taken me a while to come around to the notion that his efforts really have tapered off and his team success has been nice but not striking.
Everyone suggests that Amare’s development has been enhanced by the arrival of the Big Cactus but I don’t think it’s been about a position switch since he takes the same shots (just more) as before. What really seems to have changed is simply that STAT doesn’t need to be as conscious of Shawn Marion’s scoring ego. Shaq’s been there and done that. The difference it’s made has been the capper for me especially as it’s come in the middle of an amazing conference battle.
F- LeBron James
One of the best statistical seasons ever produced by a small forward. Or anyone else for that matter. Simply extraordinary and in many years, LeBron’s numbers would have been so overwhelming as to garner lots of MVP love despite the mediocrity of the team.
I’m starting to get a little scared for LeBron. He’s probably only got another year or two before people start giving him grief about team success. Yes, he’s been to the Finals but if the Cavs bow out to the Wiz (more on that tomorrow) then there’s a good chance last year’s run will be regarded as a fluke instead of an opening salvo.
F- Kevin Garnett
This is the basketball equivalent of Barry Larkin winning the NL MVP in 1995. Larkin did all the things necessary to make a talented team a winning team. That’s what KG has produced this year. And despite some of his ‘worst’ stats at 19 and 9, his presence and value has been clear and meaningful all year. He will likely be the runaway Defensive Player of the Year and I have to give he and Doc Rivers credit because I’m sure there was at least some consideration given to making KG a legit 20-10 guy again this year. It certainly would help the revitalization of Boston Celtic basketball if it’s newly acquired star player transforms the team into a title contender with the league’s best record while receiving an MVP. They make movies out of season’s like that. Well, at least they would now.
G- Kobe Bryant
Kobe has used this season to dispel nearly every doubt that persisted about him. I don’t think that’s been enough to make him the most valuable player in the league but if he’s not a unanimous first team all-NBA selection I will be shocked.
Lots has been written about whether or not this should be Kobe’s MVP year and I will not be surprised if he wins it. This may be his best opportunity. He’s at the top of his game but has lots of miles on him. His team has tons of talent but does not seem to have a playoff ready psyche (it’s toughest players are clearly the starting guards) and as we saw this year, the playoffs matter regarding the next year’s MVP. (Dirk had another brilliant season but he’s not even been in MVP conversations.) If the Lakers falter in Round 2, Kobe will be hard pressed to win MVP next year.
I will be excited to see how Kobe responds to playoff pressure this season, especially since the Lakers are substantial favorites and he’ll start games guarded by weak, much shorter defenders. Kobe could easily average 45+ against the Nuggets and that temptation to excel individually could be striking, particularly in games in Denver.
G- Chris Paul
He’s the guy. Count up the stats however you’d like. Acknowledge that the Hornets did not finish first in the toughest conference in recent memory. Suggest that yes, he has an All-Star player on the front line in David West. Defensive liabilities? Sure.
But really, c’mon, this is the guy who turned the Hornets from playoff contender to title contender. Who posted one of the 5 best seasons ever for a player under 6’ 3”. Who made basketball in New Orleans relevant and dispelled virtually any notion that the Bayou might be the next Seattle.
Kobe is the guy many are suggesting be the league MVP this year but I have yet to see a compelling argument for him for this season. His stats are great but not overwhelming. The Lakers are first in the West but didn’t separate themselves from the competition. My previous indecision dissipated when I realized that I believe the Lakers’ regular players are substantially better than the Hornets’. Just go down the rosters and decide which player you’d prefer, the Laker or Hornet. The overall quality of Paul’s season combined with what he had to work with as a team makes him my choice for MVP by a comfortable final margin.
*corrected as of 4.20