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Rajon Rondo's MVP credentials could be hurt by his fellow Boston All-Stars.
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Less is more when it comes to MVPs from the same team

By Steve Aschburner,
Posted Nov 12 2010 1:28PM

The problem with superlatives is that, by definition, you can't have two "mosts," "bests" or any other adjective that might end in "-est." If someone within a defined group is the best at something, someone else in that group can only rise as high as second-best. Which, if you think about it, really is an oxymoron, whether you're talking about the smartest, swiftest, tallest, prettiest or richest. Or, for that matter, their opposites.

That's a big reason we rarely have seen instances of two Most Valuable Players on the same NBA team at the same time.

We're not talking about co-MVPs in a team sense, mind you -- that often happens, two players contributing differently yet equally, as judged in some informal or Solomon-splitting-the-baby way by folks reluctant to make tough calls. No, we mean two actual NBA MVP award winners on the same roster. Not in the same year, obviously, but at all. Period.


Here at The Race, we can think of only six fellows who were named MVPs while playing alongside someone who already had won that honor. Working backward, with the hardware-bearing teammate in parentheses, they would be: Tim Duncan (David Robinson), Magic Johnson (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Larry Bird (Bill Walton), Moses Malone (Julius Erving), Abdul-Jabbar (Oscar Robertson) and Bill Russell (Bob Cousy).

In most of those six cases, there was a little torch-passing going on, with a past MVP yielding some status and role to the newly minted one. When both players are in or near their primes, the more likely result is that MVP voters favor one or the other and neither wins the award.

In the last decade, it has been rare that two players from the same team have finished in the Top 10. Only three times has a team produced both the MVP winner and a Top-10 finisher: Phoenix's Steve Nash won in 2006 and 2005, with Shawn Marion finishing 10th and Amar'e Stoudemire ninth, respectively. In 2004, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett won the Podoloff Trophy and Timberwolves guard Sam Cassell tied for 10th with two other players.

The best two teammates have done in MVP competition over the past 10 years was Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant from 2001 to 2004. Twice Shaq was deemed more valuable by the Most Valuable voters: He finished third with Bryant ninth in 2001 and third to Bryant's fifth the following season. But Bryant flipped things in 2003, finishing third to O'Neal's fifth. And in 2004, it was Bryant fifth, O'Neal sixth.

Given that the Lakers won titles in two of those years and reached the Finals three times, either O'Neal or Bryant might have deserving MVP winners. But teamed up, presumably benefiting from another elite player's help, they slipped down a little in the final tallies.

Why does this matter now, early in 2010-11? Because the dynamic could be in play for several MVP candidates who, looking right or left in their locker room, will see a teammate who already has been there, won that. Miami's Dwyane Wade is playing alongside the defending two-time MVP, LeBron James. Lakers forward Pau Gasol continues to be viewed by many as a sidekick to the still formidable Bryant in L.A. And Boston playmaker Rajon Rondo has Kevin Garnett on one side of him and O'Neal on the other in the Celtics' dressing room, a double dose of past MVP winners (both, to differing degrees, ready for some torch-passing).

The other seven guys on this week's list, good or bad, aren't dealing with the same MVP shadows:

1. Chris Paul, Hornets (7-0)
Last Week's Rank - 2
Now the NBA is down to one unbeaten team and Paul primarily is responsible, with his play and with his leadership. His stats weren't breathtaking in victories over Miami, Milwaukee and the Clippers, though he did get the compliment of seeing the Bucks' 6-foot-8 Luc Mbah a Moute assigned to him as Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles sought ways to cut down on Paul's passing lanes and otherwise pester him. "The goal is to not let him get in the paint," Skiles said. "But that's every team's goal."

2. Deron Williams, Jazz (5-3)
Last Week's Rank --
What did Williams do this week, besides boosting himself close to Paul in MVP consideration the way those two split so many best-PG debates? He had 30 points and seven assists against the Clippers, 21 and 14 at Miami and 30 and 14 at Orlando. Utah wound up with two victories in overtime, two on a dreaded back-to-back in Florida and all three as the result of terrific comebacks. (Special mention in the MVP teammate category: Paul Millsap averaged 31.3 points and nine boards, while shooting 61 percent in the three games.)

3. Pau Gasol, Lakers (8-1)
Last Week's Rank - 8
Gasol is averaging 2.5 fewer points than Bryant but he has a big lead in rebounds (11.8 to 5.4) and is even leading his backcourt pal in assists (a team-high 4.4 to Bryant's 4.3). The Western Conference's player of the week in Week 2, Gasol is averaging two fewer shots than Bryant but one more "make," thaks to 52.9 percent shooting (Bryant is at 42.2). And while he sputtered in the loss at Denver Thursday (6-of-17), the lanky Spaniard still finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds.

4. Rajon Rondo, Celtics (7-2)
Last Week's Rank - 3
In about 82 minutes against the Miami Heat, spread across two meetings, the Celtics point guard has passed for 33 assists with only six turnovers. His overall ratio is nearly as good -- 134 to 35 -- and he has set up 15 or more Boston baskets six times in nine games.

5. Derrick Rose, Bulls (4-3)
Last Week's Rank --
If not for Gasol, this could have been an all-point guard Top 5. Rose ranks fourth among all NBA players at 37.0 in combined points, rebounds and assists. He is as vital to the Bulls as Paul and Williams are to their clubs, had Chicago winning the games it was supposed to in advance of a grueling road stretch and ? save for his 45.5 percent shooting decline -- shows the results of a busy but dedicated summer.

6. Kevin Durant, Thunder (4-3)
Last Week's Rank - 6
The league's leading scorer always is going to attract MVP votes. But Durant's efficiency isn't strong -- he ranks 23rd, 10 spots behind Elton Brand and five behind Roy Hibbert ? and his assists average is the lowest of his career. He has passed for more than four in a game yet.

7. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (7-1)
Last Week's Rank - 1
Bryant needed 32 shots (making 11) to get there, but in the loss at Denver he scored a season-best 34 points and became the youngest player to reach 26,000 in a career. His 32 years, 80 days beat Wilt Chamberlain by 34 days.

8. Dwight Howard, Magic (5-2)
Last Week's Rank - 7
Howard is scoring at a career-best pace and, with 58 percent accuracy on his field goals, is on track to outshoot himself from the foul line for the fourth time in seven seasons. But eight guys have had more double-doubles so far. Also, Orlando's last three opponents shot a combined 48.4 percent, which would rank among the league's worst. That isn't what Orlando or their two-time Defensive Player of the Year have come to expect.

9. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (5-2)
Last Week's Rank - 4
It's not that Nowitzki played himself down in the rankings, it's just that last week was a special case with very strict criteria. Nowitzki this week sparked the Mavericks to victories over Boston and Memphis, and even on his 6-of-14 shooting night vs. the Grizzlies, he had a double-double (12 points, 10 boards) in less than 30 minutes.

10. Monta Ellis, Warriors (6-3)
Last Week's Rank - 5
Truth be told, the committee was prepared to slot in Dwyane Wade here until his almost listless performance against Boston Thursday night. He followed up games of 26, 28, 29 and 39 points with just eight as the Heat seemed stumped for way to get Wade and James going simultaneously. Ellis, on a downer night for Golden State (brutal loss at Chicago on tail end of road back-to-backs), still got his (24) for the 6-3 Warriors. Luis Scola, Al Horford or Millsap all might grab this rung if they keep playing as they have with sufficient team results.

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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