By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Nov 26 2010 10:25AM
For many members of the Race to the MVP committee, weighing and ranking the candidates for the award each season is a task best suited to the black boxes. As in, those mysterious machines that can process all sorts of incompatible data, sift through the various individual vs. team accomplishments, measure it all against the competency of each player's supporting cast and spit out unassailable results.
For others, though, the process is far simpler, more checkers than chess:
1. Identify the NBA's best teams. (This generally is pretty easy to do, since the info is readily available near the top of the league standings each morning.)
2. Identify the best players on those teams. (About as easy as step No. 1, based on stats and known chemistry attributes).
As a practical definition of an NBA MVP, "the best players on the best teams" approach is fairly sound. Where it sometimes hits a snag is when the clubs near the top so spread out the workload, or are so deep, that we're left with an ensemble effort rather than a star vehicle.
The San Antonio Spurs have presented that challenge to The Race for much of the 2010-11 season's first month. At 13-1, no NBA team has been better. With 12 consecutive victories, no NBA team currently is hotter. The Spurs have won big, they've won small, they've won fast, they've won slow. But they haven't had that one dominant superstar performer owning the score sheets on a night-in, night-out basis. Which doesn't lend itself to easy MVP consideration.
Most folks who know the Spurs, though, and watch them closely will tell you -- as many told the committee electronically the past couple of weeks -- that swingman Manu Ginobili is the proverbial straw that stirs San Antonio's drink. The 33-year-old Argentinian is having a terrific season individually, with his highest scoring average ever (20.8 ppg) as a full-time starter logging a career-high 33.1 minutes.
Yet Ginobili trails 20 other NBA players in scoring and, unlike a lot of MVP candidates, doesn't lead his own team in other traditionally revered stat catgories. Point guard Tony Parker tops San Antonio in assists, efficiency and total points-rebounds-assists, but ranks 11th, 19th and 25th respectively in the league. Big man-in-decline Tim Duncan is the Spurs' top rebounder but he's 15th overall. And 12th in double-doubles.
Then there are the other key components of San Antonio's perfect-for-November success, such as wingman Richard Jefferson, burly DeJuan Blair, exacting head coach Gregg Popovich and a well-defined and disciplined bench. It's business as usual, as usual, in San Antonio and that tends to keep the experts' highlight markers capped when trying to single out specific heroes.
That supposedly was going to be the problem out of Miami this season, with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade muddying the MVP waters for each other like twin jet engines propelling a supersonic Heat squad. So far, not so much. Atlanta had a little of that going on early, with no single player posting typical MVP numbers.
But the Spurs are the best team in the league right now and Ginobili is the best overall player -- most impactful player, to be sure -- on their roster at the moment. For the record, his highest finish ever in actual MVP voting came in 2007-08, when he placed 10th while starting in just 23 of his 74 appearances for San Antonio. But he's higher than that now, while landing on this list for the first time this season:
Dropping out: Rajon Rondo, Boston (6 last week), Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (7).
Honorable Mentions: Rondo; Durant; Amar'e Stoudemire, New York; Al Horford, Atlanta; Joakim Noah, Chicago.
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