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Rushing to judge MVPs on stats only means three of the four Lakers shown here are in the running.
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Impatience not a virtue when it comes to assessing MVPs

By Steve Aschburner,
Posted Nov 5 2010 4:13PM

Here at The Race, members of the MVP committee expect instant gratification as much as the next impatient guy or gal.

Just the other morning, we were forced to wait an ungodly amount of time (probably 37 seconds) for our morning cup of Joe, while coping with a ridiculously slow Wi-Fi connection and sneering at the discarded, dead-tree news product lying on the next table, so feeble in its seven-hours-old attempt to report the outcome of a particularly close gubernatorial race.

It was a trifecta of pokiness, an interminable delay of our inalienable right to immediate satisfaction. For a moment, we were reminded of what life felt like back in the stone age of, oh, 1993. And, rats, even that moment of snarky reflection lasted too darn long! No wonder we live in a time of ... One. Word. Sentences.

We share this tale to assure faithful followers of The Race that we, too, are frustrated by the need to withhold final judgment on the NBA's 2010-11 Most Valuable Player until three-and-a-half months into, you know, 2011. We understand the impatience that had so many of you e-mailing -- the committee does not accept snail mail because it's just too darn s-l-o-w -- your desires for verdicts to be pronounced a week ago, when the season was three days old.


One game worth of data? Two games? Good enough for many of you. Let's go! Get on with it! What do you have against Monta Ellis anyway?! And where's Luis Scola?!

In the inaugural edition of the 2010-11 Race, the committee sought a balance between the NBA's quick starters and its proven contenders, guided by the maxim that cream rises to the top (and flukes eventually fall). The alternative approach -- being whipsawed back and forth, up and down, by a sample size of one or two performances -- just seemed too rash.

It also has some inherent problems that the committee has decided to demonstrate this week. But then, a lot of folks apparently like rash.

To show how limiting a rush to coronation might be, it seemed logical to apply standards typically used in MVP selection near the end of a long regular season to a league that has been open for business a whole 10 days.

First, we limited consideration to those players whose teams had winning records through Thursday's games. After all, MVPs don't come from clubs that are .500 or worse, right? There were 12 such teams.

Then the committee focused on the leaders in four statistical categories: Points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and player efficiency. MVP winners traditionally rank high on one or more of those lists. Of the players who sat among the Top 20 in those categories as of Friday morning, 25 come from the aforementioned dozen winning teams. Eleven guys appear on two or more, with 14 showing up just once.

But wait, more filtering is required. Over the past 10 years, every MVP winner finished not just in the Top 20 but in the Top 10 in at least one of those stats. Seven of them showed up on more than one list and the other three -- Dirk Nowitzki (2007), Steve Nash (2006) and Nash again (2005) -- ranked No. 1 respectively in efficiency, assists and assists.

So to satisfy the small but vocal "Who's The MVP Right NOW?" faction of readers, we applied that Top 10 standard to stats leaders from the 12 winning teams. That left us with a field of just 13 possible candidates. A limiting and unrealistic 13, neglecting several heavyweights -- notably from Miami -- who almost certainly will play themselves and their teams into consideration over their next 77 games or so.

But for a week, to show what can happen by overreacting to a few good performances, we're lining up our MVP picks only from the list of 13. And with all due respect to David Lee, Marcus Camby and Andre Miller, the committee just could not find room in its weekly list of 10. Better luck next time, after everyone has logged 17 days of 2010-11:

1. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Last Week's Rank - 3
Fresh off the 17th triple-double of his career -- 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against Sacramento Wednesday -- Bryant is on his way to a perfect season. No, really -- at their current pace, the Lakers will finish 82-0. Leading scorer on the only undefeated team in NBA history? This award would be unanimous. (You'd think that, so soon after an Election Day, people would understand how misleading early returns can be.)

2. Chris Paul, Hornets
Last Week's Rank - NA
If the Lakers don't go 82-0, the Hornets just might. If, that is, they can make it to 5-0 when they face Miami Friday night. When Paul assisted on 57 percent of his teammates' field goals in the season opener (16 of 28), it was the third time since the start of 2009-10 he had done that. Only five other NBA players achieved that, once each, in the same period.

3. Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Last Week's Rank - NA
Rondo set an NBA record for most assists in the first four games with 67. Then he added 15 against Milwaukee to push his record out to five games. At this pace, the Celtics point guard will wind up with the record for 82 games, too, destroying John Stockton's single-season mark of 1,164 set in 1990-91. Pro-rated, Rondo would finish with 1,345. Also pro-rated, Boston would go 66-16.

4. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs
Last Week's Rank - 5
Like Paul, Monta Ellis and Pau Gasol, Nowitzki ranks in the Top 20 in three of the four stats used for one of our cutoffs. He's also shooting a remarkable 60.3 percent on the strength of 22-of-28 accuracy in Dallas' first two games.

5. Monta Ellis, Warriors
Last Week's Rank - NA
Just when we might have figured that Ellis' flashy start to 2010-11 also was a little flukey -- he went from 46 points in the opener to 15 two nights later -- he fired back with 39 points Wednesday against Memphis. At 30.0 ppg, Ellis sits atop the scoring leaders -- but curiously, none of the past nine MVPs led the NBA in scoring.

6. Kevin Durant, Thunder
Last Week's Rank - 1
Media darling? The anti-LeBron James? That didn't matter much after Durant sputtered through a 6-of-24 shooting night against the Clippers in L.A. Wednesday. His field-goal percentage is at 37.4 percent now, and 28.6 percent from the arc, neither very MVP-like. Oklahoma City is playing at a 49-33 clip as well; no big deal when the Lakers or the Hornets might go unbeaten!

7. Dwight Howard, Magic
Last Week's Rank - 4
Two double-doubles in three games isn't bad and what Howard has done in just 27.0 minutes per game -- 20.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks -- is terrific. But at his current pace, he'll fall nearly 100 rebounds short of the 1,000 boards/100 blocks club he has belonged to the past five seasons.

8. Pau Gasol, Lakers
Last Week's Rank - NA
After ranking eighth in efficiency last season, Gasol is up to sixth in 2010-11. He hasn't scored fewer than 21 points in a game so far and has grabbed at least 11 rebounds in four of the Lakers' five games. If he and Bryant both top 20 points again Friday vs. Toronto, they'll be the first Lakers to do so through the season's first six games since Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West in October 1970.

9. Jason Kidd, Mavs
Last Week's Rank - NA
All he does at age 37 is take care of the basketball, delivering 47 assists into the hands of Mavericks shooters while committing only 10 turnovers in 136 minutes through four games. At that pace, Kidd will rack up a career-high 964 assists (his previous best was 808 in 2001-02) with his sixth fewest turnovers in a full season. He has passed for at least 10 assists in three of Dallas' four games, compared to 35 times in 82 a year ago.

10. Lamar Odom, Lakers
Last Week's Rank - NA
We thought Nowitzki was shooting sharply, until we realized that Odom -- 35-of-50 for 70 percent -- is the first NBA player to do that through the season's first five games since Charles Barkley went 43-of-60 to open 1991-92. And Odom's deadeye start includes 8-of-10 from 3-point range -- the Chuckster went 32-of-137 (23.4 percent) from the arc that season.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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