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RACE TO THE MVP
0226bosh1608.jpg
The Raptors' Chris Bosh isn't in a big hurry to play second banana to another MVP-type player.
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

Note to Bosh: Superstar solo acts have better shot at MVPs

By Steve Aschburner, for NBA.com
Posted Feb 26 2010 11:25AM

While waiting to see whether and where Zydrunas Ilgauskas asserts himself in the wholly owned subsidiary of this weekly endeavor -- The Race to The MVP (Most Valuable Pickup edition) -- let's look at some numbers as they pertain to the big-boy race here.

And in this case, we're not talking about basketball statistics. We're talking simple math. As in, what's better: One star or two?

At All-Star Weekend in Dallas, Toronto's Chris Bosh was asked on an ESPN Radio show about the widespread assumption that he not only would be leaving the Raptors as a free agent this summer, but that he would select a team based on where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade land. The thinking behind that view was that two stars always are better than one, which is why the New York Knicks, for example, cleared a staggering amount of cap space last week.

Not so fast, though. Bosh said he already had given some thought to that possibly mistaken notion.

"I was just looking at what people say and it's like, 'Chris is going to go here and play with him, or this, this and that.' I'm like, 'Wait a minute,' " Bosh said. "I feel like I should be built around. And maybe that's just my ego talking, but I feel that I'm a very good player in this league and I'm only going to get better. So ... maybe we should be getting somebody [in Toronto]."

Interesting. Maybe it was Bosh's ego talking. He at least showed self-awareness by suggesting that. Maybe he had just tired of hearing outsiders predict his fate and dictate his thought process. Maybe he believes in the Raptors' and general manager Bryan Colangelo's long-term vision. Or maybe he just wanted to throw a bone to worried fans in Canada.

What Bosh needs to remember, though, is that the one-superstar strategy is better for winning MVP awards than for winning championship rings.

It's possible to do both, certainly, if a championship team's best player is undeniably better than its No. 2. The Race has a murkier time of it with team leaders of similar value. Think back to Boston's 2008 title team -- it was nearly impossible to choose from among Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen as a head-and-shoulders-superior MVP candidate. And appropriately, none of them won; Garnett's Defensive Player of the Year Award was a lower-profile acknowledgement of his contribution in hitching up the Celtics' defense.

You can make a case now that Atlanta and Portland are seen more as ensembles than as star-driven teams, though Brandon Roy and Joe Johnson might be firsts among equals. That's how the Detroit Pistons got so deep into the postseason through most of the 2000s without a Maurice Podoloff trophy winner.

Now consider the Denver Nuggets, as Chauncey Billups -- the engine of those Pistons teams -- continues to build a case for MVP consideration while playing alongside a seasonlong candidate in The Race. Does Billups' play detract from Carmelo Anthony's worthiness? Does the presence of a helpful fellow All-Star lead inevitably to split votes and diminished MVP chances for the other guy?

Good questions. We've got about a month and a half to figure them out, as we plug teammates into spots in The Race for the first time in a while.

1. LeBron James, Cavs (45-14)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5939.029.97.18.51.61.0.502.352.772
Last Week's Rank - 1
While 33 points, nine rebounds and six assists couldn't get it done at Orlando Sunday, James' 36 points, seven boards and nine assists did grind down the Celtics in Boston on Thursday. It came two days after his 20 points, 13 assists against New Orleans, with a two-game winning streak making up for the Cavs' little skid.

2. Kevin Durant, Thunder (33-23)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5640.029.87.62.91.40.9.479.381.882
Last Week's Rank - 2
Into each MVP candidate's life, some rain must fall: Durant's streak of 25-point games ended at 29 when he shot 3-of-12 over the final three quarters at San Antonio on Wednesday, had a potentially pivotal attempt down the stretch blocked by Manu Ginobili and settled for 21 in the Thunder's loss. The Race does not penalize for blips, though, not this deep into the season.

3. Dwight Howard, Magic (39-19)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5835.318.713.51.61.02.8.607---.611
Last Week's Rank - 4
In the victory at Houston on Wednesday, Howard (30 points, 16 rebounds, 11-of-11 FG) became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in March 1969 to reach 30 and 15 without missing a field goal. "I don't think this is just a stretch, I think his game has matured," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's changed the way he plays now. He's not forcing his way to the basket. If you take away his move across the middle, he'll counter." Scary.

4. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (43-15)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5338.627.95.44.61.70.3.463.330.816
Last Week's Rank - 3
The Lakers went 4-1 while their leader nursed a sprained left ankle. Now they're 1-1 with him back. File this for playoff reference: Bryant averaged 16.3 points on 40 percent shooting and went 2-of-13 from 3-point range in four meetings (2-2) with Dallas.

5. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets (38-19)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4438.029.16.33.41.20.4.463.359.839
Last Week's Rank - 5
Anthony scored 27 in Denver's victory at Golden State but he trailed a certain teammate by 10. The committee notes but isn't too worried that the Nuggets' forward has scored 30 points or more "only" three times in his last 12 games, compared to eight such outbursts in his previous 11.

6. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs (37-21)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5737.724.87.62.50.91.1.474.345.905
Last Week's Rank - 8
Sure, Nowitzki had help in the form of Jason Terry's 30 points in the victory Wednesday over the Lakers. But it still was the Mavericks' fifth consecutive triumph and, with Nowitzki scoring 31, it was his 13th such performance of the season and first since Jan. 18.

7. Chauncey Billups, Nuggets (38-19)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4833.620.23.06.21.20.1.436.435.902
Last Week's Rank - --
Billups led Denver at Oakland with 37 pints, two shy of his career high, and had nine assists, six rebounds and a game-altering four-point play. Not unlike the 37, eight and eight he had against the Warriors back on Jan. 20. Denver is 22-4 when Billups scores at least 20 points, and his floor leadership is more vital than ever with George Karl's health absences.

8. Chris Bosh, Raptors (31-25)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5336.424.511.42.30.61.1.525.375.790
Last Week's Rank - 6
Bosh was iffy heading into Toronto's game vs. Cleveland on Friday, which would make it four games missed with an ankle injury. At 2-1 while he's out, the Raptors could strengthen Bosh's MVP standing by losing again -- but that's as counterproductive as the one-superstar theory.

9. Deron Williams, Jazz (37-20)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5137.218.44.210.01.10.2.474.361.788
Last Week's Rank - 9
Speaking of teammates who make teammates better, it's less important whether Race member Williams is fueling Carlos Boozer's recent tear or whether it's the other way around. It's happening and Utah keeps winning.

10. Steve Nash, Suns (36-23)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5833.617.63.311.20.50.2.513.426.936
Last Week's Rank - 10
With back and abdomen issues, Nash gets 11 points, 17 assists and then 20 points, 13 assists in victories over Sacramento and Philadelphia. No one's bumping him off this final perch this week after outings like that.

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