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RACE TO THE MVP
0204-dwyane-wade-608.jpg
There are some key points to remember when comparing the MVP cred of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

No cheap shot here: If D-Wade isn't MVP of his own team ...

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Feb 4 2011 11:56AM

There is no conspiracy afoot in the NBA to deny Dwyane Wade the recognition and acclaim he is properly due or to thwart his hard work toward what conceivably, someday, might be his first Most Valuable Player Award.

But if there were, Dwight Howard surely would be a co-conspirator.

Howard's hard foul of a fully airborne Wade at the rim Thursday night, in the third quarter of what became Miami's 104-100 victory over their Southeast Division rivals, sent Wade crashing to the hardwood, landing on his back. It was business as usual from Howard, who vows similar treatment to anyone who attacks him and his basket. But it was symbolic, too, for what The Race has been accused of doing to Wade so far in this space.

And what, come to think of it, some of Wade's most staunch defenders have done in return to The Race: Wham! Slam! Bam!

The emotions have run hot in mail both snail and digital. One critic cited an Internet entry that frames Wade's lack of appreciation thusly: "LeBron is at most five percent better than Wade. But Wade gets at most five percent of the national recognition that LeBron does."

Another Wade supporter cites the Miami Heat shooting guard's ability to keep up, statistically, with his new dominant teammate at small forward as a sign that Wade deserves equal consideration for MVP. This reader makes the additional point that, if Wade and James were playing on different teams, separately, their production would put them 1-2 in some order atop The Race from season's start to finish.

At various points since Halloween, various visitors to this site have railed, moaned or otherwise lodged complaints that there is some great bias against Wade that not only kept him from proper MVP consideration in seasons past but is working against him now in overdrive to minimize his contributions in 2010-11, either out of some general disdain for the Heat, their threesome of stars and the way Wade orchestrated the summer signings or out of a particular disrespect for the Marquette alum himself. To which The Race, summoning as much careful thought and steely nerve as Colin Firth as King George VI, steps up en masse to the vintage microphone and states unequivocally ...

"Nah."

Here are points to remember regarding Wade and his MVP candidacy:

• Every member of this committee graduated from the same Milwaukee university as Wade. If anything, there would be a bias in his favor, along with occasional appearances in the MVP Top 10 rankings by Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward.

• James statistically has been the better player -- and not by a teensy amount. He is averaging 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and shooting 48.2 percent from the field, 36.5 percent from the arc and 76.9 percent from the line. He ranks second in the NBA in efficiency (27.7), and has 20 double-doubles and three triple-doubles. Wade's corresponding numbers are 25.4, 6.7, 4.1, 49.8 percent, 30.4 percent, 72.9 percent, 24.07 efficiency, six double-doubles and no triple-doubles.

• James is separating himself from Wade more recently. He increased his scoring average in each of the season's first four months: 20.5 ppg in October, 24.6 in November, 25.2 in December, 30.6 in January. And he's currently averaging, uh, 51.0 in February after Thursday's performance at Orlando. Wade, according to the same splits: 21.5, 21.6, 27.9, 28.8 and, with Thursday's small sample, 14.0.

• Miami is 17-7 when James leads the team in scoring, 17-6 when Wade does so. When James tops 30 points, its record is 12-3; when Wade does that, Miami is 12-4. But James has led the Heat in scoring 24 times, in rebounds 10 times and in assists 38 times. Wade has done it 23 times, 15 times and 11 times, respectively.

• In terms of the big picture, James' arrival is the most obvious change from a year ago. Now the Heat is 35-14 after 49 games. Then it was 24-25. One guy is the reigning two-time MVP. The other guy finished third in the balloting in 2008-09 and fifth last year. His previous bests were sixth (2006), eighth (2005) and 12th (2007). If Wade was going to win an MVP award as his team's brightest star, he had seven seasons to do so. James had seven seasons, too, and got it done twice.

Wade is a marvelous talent, spectacular athlete, terrific leader and pretty nifty team architect. He is a future Hall of Famer, a perennial All-Star and one of the top four, five, six or seven players in the game, depending on the week. But he isn't the most valuable guy on his own team, which means he's not even in the Top 5 among candidates for MVP balloting.

That's not a conspiracy. Or even a hard foul. That's just logic. Here are this week's rankings:

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls (34-14)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4737.924.64.68.21.00.7.445.379.824
Last Week's Rank - 1
Why was Derrick Rose still on the floor at the end of Chicago's blowout of the Clippers Wednesday? Ask coach Tom Thibodeau. But one legit reason was Rose wanting to make up for the bitter end of the teams' previous meeting, when he missed a free throw to tie in a 100-99 December loss. The Bulls point guard is cleaning up everything this season.

2. LeBron James, Heat (35-14)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4738.326.67.27.31.50.6.482.365.769
Last Week's Rank - 3
To cap a 4-0 week, in a huge Florida tussle on the NBA's version of Monday Night Football (most of the league is idle and likely watching), James had a near triple-double (51 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, only five players in league history matched or surpassed. Only he and Michael Jordan have worked at those heights in the past 39 seasons.

3. Dwight Howard, Magic (31-19)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4836.322.313.61.21.22.2.578.000.577
Last Week's Rank - 2
Howard averaged 25.5 points and 16.3 rebounds this week. But the Magic lost three of four and their strongman center looked awfully outnumberd by Miami's bigs Thursday night. Imagine if he and his team have to go through Boston in May.

4. Kevin Durant, Thunder (31-17)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4439.829.36.82.81.10.9.472.350.884
Last Week's Rank - 5
The committee loved Durant's efficient 43 points on 14-of-19 shooting Wednesday vs. New Orleans. It was Durant's fifth game of 40 points or more this season and the Thunder is 5-0. He has 17 such games in his career, joining Shaquille O'Neal (21) and LeBron James (17) as the only guys since 1985 to have that many in their first four years.

5. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (34-16)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5033.625.45.15.01.30.1.462.304.824
Last Week's Rank - 4
You know how in those "Black Mamba" teaser commercials the scary opponents throw the referee into an abyss? That is Bryant's mode vis-a-vis the other Lakers after five losses in nine games. He averaged 31.8 this week and had two straight games with at least 10 assists. But L.A. is 19-8 at home after seasons of 34-7 and 36-5 at Staples.

6. Chris Paul, Hornets (32-19)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
5135.116.64.09.62.60.1.487.453.904
Last Week's Rank - 6
Laudable consistency is only going to take a fellow so high in The Race. Paul's carefully managed minutes have kept him healthy and might keep him fresh for the important stuff this spring, but a 1-3 week was capped by the loss to the Thunder, when New Orleans had 18 assists on its 37 field goals (five by Paul).

7. Dwyane Wade, Heat (35-14)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4536.725.46.74.11.41.0.498.304.729
Last Week's Rank - 7
Missed last weekend's game vs. Detroit with a sprained right wrist and had his streak of 30-point games snapped with 14 points Thursday at Orlando (5-of-12 shooting). He's shooting 64 percent from the foul line since Jan. 13.

8. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs (33-15)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
3934.523.26.92.50.60.7.525.412.877
Last Week's Rank - NR
Nowitzki either was been feeling better or willed himself back into form -- probably both -- with 72 points and 21 boards in a 3-0 week for Dallas. Each victory was by 10 or more points as Nowitzki did his damage in carefully managed 33 minutes each night.

9. Russell Westbrook, Thunder (31-17)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4836.122.45.18.51.90.5.434.245.851
Last Week's Rank - NR
If Kevin Durant is OKC's ice, Westbrook is its fire. This is more Justice League than Batman-Robin now, with Westbrook alone in the NBA in averaging at least 22 points, five rebounds and eight assists. His triple-double vs. Washington (35-13-13) was his third of the season.

No. 10 (tie): Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Raymond Felton, Zach Randolph
Yes, it's a group entry and yes, it's a feel-good gesture to the guys most snubbed by the coaches in selecting the All-Star reserves. All of them -- the Timberwolf, the Trail Blazer, the Knick and the Grizzly -- played well enough in the season's first three months to earn trips to Los Angeles. So the committee wanted to give them a little love, especially to Minnesota's big Love, if only for a week.

Dropping out: Amar'e Stoudemire, New York (No. 8 last week); Deron Williams, Utah (No. 9), and Manu Ginobili, San Antonio (No. 10).

Honorable mention: Ginobili; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Joe Johnson, Atlanta; Josh Smith, Atlanta; Stoudemire; Williams.

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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