Sharfman: Dwight For MVP

By Noah Sharfman
April 4, 2011

ORLANDO – What makes a player an MVP candidate? Is it his statistical output? If the MVP is awarded strictly based on a player’s statistics, the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard has cemented his name atop the MVP race. Entering the month of April, Howard is averaging a career-high 23.1 points per game and 14.2 rebounds per game while also besting his record for steals in a season – and the Magic still have seven games left in the regular season to add to his totals.

However, Howard goes further than just averaging high numbers in scoring and rebounding, as he has accomplished many other statistical feats over the course of the 2010-11 season. This year, the Magic’s starting center recorded his sixth consecutive season with at least 1,000 rebounds and 100 blocks, the second-most seasons in NBA history with at least 1,000 rebounds and 100 blocks. Howard also became the youngest player in NBA history to amass 7,000 career rebounds, assuming the spot that was once held by four-time NBA MVP Wilt Chamberlin, and became the fifth youngest player to score 10,000 career points. Should he finish the season ranked in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding, blocks and field goal percentage, he would become just the 10th player in NBA history to finish a season in the top 10 in each of those categories.

But statistics are not the only factor that makes a player an MVP candidate. If the MVP is awarded based on a player’s importance to his own team, Howard has even more solidified his name atop the race for MVP. There is little questioning that Howard, a five-time NBA All-Star and the reigning two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is the Magic’s best player and anchor for the team both offensively and defensively. On the offensive side of the ball, Howard is the Magic’s lone low-post scoring threat and consistently takes on double and triple-teams from the opposing defenses. Howard has led the Magic in scoring in nearly 70 percent of the Magic’s games and has posted more than 60 double-doubles for the sixth consecutive season. Defensively, he is the NBA’s preeminent defender and a virtual lock for his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award while leading the Magic in rebounds, blocks and steals.

“To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody that impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose has been great…I think it’s a hard choice to make, but I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions as Dwight does.”

Unlike other NBA awards, the league’s MVP award is voted on by members of the media, and the success of the team is often taken into consideration when voting for each MVP candidate. But in fairness to Howard and the rest of the Magic, the team has not fallen short of expectations in the 2010-11 campaign. The Magic are slated to make the playoffs for a fifth straight year (and will have home court advantage in the First Round) and have posted 50-plus wins for a fourth consecutive season.

As has been the case in past years, there are standards by which the media votes for the NBA’s MVP. Last season, the media named a player in his seventh season MVP over the NBA’s leading scorer who was in his third season, as LeBron James bested Kevin Durant for the league’s top honor. Additionally, in the previous three seasons, the player who won the NBA’s MVP award also won the most Player of the Week awards in his conference. This season, Howard has earned the league’s top weekly honor an NBA-high six times entering the month of April.

If history is said to repeat itself, Howard figures to be among the media’s list of MVP candidates this season. But as the regular season winds down and the playoffs begin, individual accomplishments are far from Howard’s mind. In fact, the Magic’s MVP candidate only has one goal: “Win a championship. That’s it.”