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Race to the MVP Mailbag: When a team is just too good

By Rob Peterson,
Posted Dec 11 2008 3:45PM

What a week. Carmelo Anthony scores 33 -- in a quarter -- Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade are named players of the week for their respective conferences and on the first play of the Raptors- Cavaliers game, LeBron James takes off from just inside the free throw line and dunks with two hands. Try that some time.

Yes, that was completely random, but so is the e-mail this week. Let's hop in ...

Could it hurt LeBron's MVP chances if his stats are lower than usual? The Cavs' massive blowouts have him with insanely low minutes per game compared to any other year. Can a team winning by too much hurt an MVP's value?

R2MVP Rob: Excellent, excellent question. It's something I struggle with every week, especially with LeBron, Kobe Bryant and the Boston Three Party. The Cavs, the Lakers and the Celtics are such good teams that it's hard to say, "Yeah, that guy is the sole reason for this team's success."

The Celtics are especially tough considering much of their overall success relies on something that doesn't play heavily in an individual award: team defense. Of course, Kevin Garnett is the linchpin for Boston's success. His intensity, his energy and his insane length drive that defense. The Celtics wouldn't be nearly the team they are without Garnett. Doesn't that make him most valuable on that team?

Maybe, but what about Paul Pierce, who takes -- and makes -- a majority of Boston's big shots. Or Ray Allen, who has played out of his mind lately. Or Rajon Rondo, who's improving each game at the point?

A big part of choosing the MVP is the stats. Here are Garnett's big three numbers: 16.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Here are his digits for his MVP season in 2004: 24.2, 13.9 and 5.0. He also averaged 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game that season. On the surface, which looks more valuable? Sure, it's 2004. But, again, the Celtics wouldn't be the Celtics this year without Garnett playing defense like he is.

That leads to another question: In trying to determine the MVP, should we reference the past? Some readers think we should, especially when it comes to a certain No. 24. I get a lot of mail like this: "You didn't think Kobe was MVP when he had all those 50-point games ..." I'm paraphrasing and properly punctuating, but you get the drift.

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Or as Jay from Thailand says: "Seriously man, put Kobe up there. I am not watching too many games as I live in Bangkok. What more can you ask from the guy? I remember when his stats were way better and you all complained about how he wasn't playing team ball. Now his stats are slightly down and the Lakers are one of the best teams in the NBA. LeBron has plenty of years ahead of him. Give Kobe the champion some respect man."

That's why I struggle with LeBron and Kobe every week. Their numbers are down compared to last season. But LeBron's Cavs are so good he rarely has to play in the fourth quarter. And Kobe's Lakers are as deep as they've ever been in his time in L.A. These guys are spreading the statistical wealth.

This my first time writing and I just want to say I think Kobe should be number one not now but at the end of the season because he clearly has a better team and has made it this way. (Odom and Bynum wouldn't thrive in Cleveland). I think LeBron has overtaken Kobe in overall individual play but the MVP award is for a team player and Kobe has turned into a team player and not to mention he's more efficient than LeBron. If Dirk won it a few years ago because of his team then Kobe should definitely win this year.

P.S. Props for putting Devin Harris in the Top 10. He's playing phenomenal this year.
-- Josh

R2MVP Rob: Thanks for the props, Josh. Who knows? Kobe may be MVP again this season. It's not out of the realm of possibility. Again, it's the delicate dance between art and science, and more often than not, both are trying to lead.

I had an idea that may help to improve the already great R2MVP article that you produce. My idea should help to improve the stats section of the R2MVP article. Underneath the line that shows what stats that a player has (PPG, RPG, FG%, etc.) have a line that shows the correlating rank in the league for each player for that stat. As well as looking at the players wholesale contributions on the court I do like to look at the stats and I find it a little painful to look at each stat you have highlighted to see where it falls in line with others around the league. I am sure others out their feel the same way. Thanks and I hope this helps.
Steve in Alaska

R2MVP Rob: Steve thanks for the kind words. We're still working on the formatting, but this is an idea we should consider. If I forget, don't hesitate to remind me. My wife has to remind me about everything all the time, so I'm used to it.

C'mon Rob you can do better than 4th place for the monster center having monster games and winning all the time. He deserves more credit than that. D. Howard for MVP. You're a little too biased. I think you like Kobe or LeBron there on top. Wade is having better stats than those two, carrying Miami on his shoulders. Thanks.
-- Rowell

No, thank you. Rowell, I'm not biased, though I've stated many times that I like Dwight Howard. I don't think he's fully formed as a player yet, especially on offense. That may be a contrarian view, but I'll hold it until he gets his offensive numbers up a bit. That's just me.

You seriously want to leave Dirk Nowitzki out of the Top 10 in the MVP race? Let's go ahead and compare his stats with other similar players in the Top 10. Dirk: 25 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.4 apg, shooting .457 from the field, .420 from 3-pt land, and .92 ft, 2-time Western Conference player of the week. Duncan: 20.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, .510 from the field, no need to talk about 3's, whopping .697 ft, team has same record as Mavs. Pierce: 18.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, .403 from the field (seriously?), .828 ft, Celtics have a great record but that can hardly be attributed to Paul alone. I realize Dirk has won the award before and he probably won't, and probably shouldn't, win it again. But leaving him out of the race is an insult. Especially when you include players like Paul Pierce, who are definitely All-Star players but are not having MVP seasons.

R2MVP Rob: Short preview for tomorrow's rankings: Dirk's probably inched his way nearer to the Top 10. Shhh. Don't tell anyone. Oh, and it doesn't matter if he has won it before, hasn't won it before or if he did or didn't brush his teeth before bed last night. That doesn't matter. This season matters.

What is AI still doing outside of the list of MVP's????

R2MVP Rob: Because Allen Iverson is not the player he once was. That, and the Pistons are 7-9 since his arrival.

About your search for a magic formula for MVP, hope this will come handy. In my opinion the MVP should have great stats and his team should be winning, and that's it. Pretty simple isn't it? But when there are some players [who do both], there is a small problem, how to decide which one is the ONE. The magic formula should consider the stats and the team record. So it should be like this: MVP = stats x record.

But stats are not only points, boards and dimes, there are also TO, missed shots and so on so the stats should look something like that: STATS= PTS + REB + AST + STL + BLK - TO - PF - missed shots. I would also add blocks against (BLKA) which would be - and Fouls against (PFA), which would be +, but I couldn't find those stats on So the formula should now be: MVP = (PTS+REB+AST+STL+BLK-TO-PF-MS) X TEAM RECORD.
Ivan in Slovenia

R2MVP Rob: Ivan goes on to compare my Top 10 to his, and strangely enough, every player I have in my Top 10 is in his Top 10. (For the record, I don't use a statistical formula -- Ivan's or anyone else's.)

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