Let’s put this in perspective—Dwyane Wade is only getting shafted out of the 2009 NBA's Most Valuable Player Trophy for one reason, and one reason only: his team is only going to finish 2 or 3 games above .500 for the entire season. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Lakers, LeBron and Kobe’s teams (did I even need to say that??) are sitting more than 50 games above .500, basically implying to many voters and fans that they are more deserving of the award.
In terms of MVP criteria, wins is an extremely important determinant in deciding who actually should receive the award. It is that way, and I believe it should be that way.
At the same time, in order to evaluate an individual award in a team sport, I would like to think that you have to take into account the situation being presented to the player to truly determine whether or not they proved “Most Valuable” in the league, or if a portion of their value is credited to the team around them (and if so, how much).
With all that said, let’s cut to the chase…
Kobe has Gasol, an all-star post player, a $60 million center, a 3-time champion point guard, and an array of young talent around him. He has a team of veterans who all have (at minimum) reached the NBA Finals. He won the MVP Trophy at long last a year ago, and he’s returned this year to similar brilliance, albeit in the form of lesser numbers. 60+ wins, admirable. But expected.
LeBron James is the best player in the league. If that were the argument today I’d be on the wrong side of it writing this article—that much I’ll admit. But from his past we’ve seen that his unselfishness in an even vote should actually work against him in the MVP voting. That is, he is the best player in the league right now because his supporting cast this year has been exponentially better. Surround him with below-average shooters and a loafing center and he is forced to do things he’s not yet great at. Surround him with the best shooting center and backcourt in the league, along with a stifling defensive plan from his coach, and he’s an unstoppable force, and the owner of the league’s best record.
And Dwyane Wade? Well, it’s been quite a different road for Wade this year. Despite numerous personal and professional difficulties, he has managed to fight through the season in a way that has impressed voters to give him a peek for MVP. Of course, his actual “peak” seems to be 2nd or 3rd place.
Well here’s a case for DWade. It’s no “LeBronisReallyReallyReallyReallyReallyReallyGood.com,” but I’d like to think that there are a few things people should take into account before letting the Heat’s near-.500 record dissuade…dis-Wade (yes, awful pun) them from voting for #3 for the Heat.
Carrying two rookies
LeBron’s point guard? An all-star. Kobe’s? 3-time NBA Champion
Wade’s? A rookie.
LeBron’s 2nd fiddle? When it’s not Mo Williams, he can kick it to the man in the middle, “Big Z.” Kobe’s 2nd fiddle? Again, he’s got a man (or two, really) in the middle in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum…and Lamar Odom.
Wade’s 2nd fiddle? A rookie…a rookie who didn’t start this season until 3 Miami starters were lost to injury.
Seriously, LeBron’s two rookies are his 11th and 12th men! Kobe’s rookie Sun Yue has seen less than 3 minutes of action in 10 games this season.
Wade’s two rookies? Are his starting point guard and sixth man! Need I say more?
The focus of defenses
Because of his team’s lack of experience (and talent of any kind at the center position), Wade has had to fight for everything he’s gotten this season. 7.5 assists on a young team means he is really setting them up in good situations to score. 30.2 points on a young team implies that even while being the complete focus of a defense, he is still able to get what he wants and dictate the game to the other team. Maybe 30 and 7.5 isn’t much when Shaq’s in the middle, but it sure as heck is when the O’Neal in the post is a mummified Jermaine instead. Sorry Kobe, your twin tower duo of Gasol and Bynum definitely take you out of this one. You’re the focus, but not the ONLY focus.
Some people can’t even get out of the bed in the morning going through what Wade is currently going through in his life. He’s in the midst of an ugly, ugly divorce with his high school sweetheart, and even with his business being out in the streets, in the midst of a defamation lawsuit against his own wife, he’s been able to thrive and excel above the rest this season. And if he’s…”ailing” in the way his wife suggests he is, then he’s really putting in an incredible season. Not to make light of his situation, just…yeah, basketball and burning in the britches just don’t go together.
What Kobe couldn’t do
Some people may say, “What’s the difference between DWade this year and Kobe not getting the MVP award in ’06 and ’07?” Well I’ll tell you my opinion. Although Kobe carried his team in those low-to-mid 40 win seasons, he also LOST his teams some games in those seasons, by jacking up shots and sometimes taking his team out of the game. This season, DWade has 7 games in which he took 30 shots or more. Conversely, he has 12 games in which he scored more than 40 points, and his team went 9-3 in those games. This means that in even his highest scoring games, Dwyane was playing efficient, under-control basketball. Kobe had a combined 27 thirty-shot games in ’06 and ’07. And while some of his biggest efforts came in wins, some of his worst efforts more than cemented losses for his young team. Kobe in those seasons struggled to find the balance in being an elite scorer and leading a young team to victory—a balance Wade has mastered this season.
What LeBron can’t do
LeBron, like Kobe last year, has seen the positive effect of having a great team behind you. And not just great in terms of talent, which is the team surrounding Kobe; no, LeBron’s team is great because it is designed perfectly for what he can do.
Ideally, with Wade you would want a big point guard, a three-point specialist, a rebounding post, and a scoring post. What he actually has is a small point guard, a rangy defender (Moon), Haslem for rebounding, and a dying, decrepit Jermaine O’Neal (did I mention he’s also mummified?). 1 for 4…
…but he took that 1 for 4 and made it to the playoffs. Even though the team wasn’t that talented. Even though the team isn’t built around his strengths. Wade deserves a heap of credit for clawing his way through a tough eastern conference with a team that is in rebuilding mode (more on that later).
I guarantee…LEBRON JAMES COULD NOT HAVE LED THIS MIAMI HEAT TEAM TO A BETTER RECORD THAN DWYANE WADE HAS. AND ONE OF MY MAIN REASONS FOR BELIEVING THIS IS…
The Michael Beasley factor
Michael Beasley is the #2 reason Wade should be MVP. Sounds strange, but I’ll explain. Beasley is a scoring machine, and he was if not THE most talented player in his class, he was second only to Derrick Rose. But Beasley came into the league with questions about his work ethic, his character, and whether or not he had the drive to fulfill all of his potential.
He couldn’t have run into a better teammate than Dwyane Wade.
I mean, literally. Kobe would’ve “Kwame Brown’d” him and LeBron would’ve catered much too much to his carefree and boyish nature to get him at his best.
Wade, on the other hand, came into this season with something to prove. He also came into this season understanding that he would be leading a young team, and that he would have to show his leadership from start to finish. His attitude and professionalism have more than set a mark for Beasley to follow. In addition, while Coach Spoelstra held Beasley, clearly the teams 2nd most talented player, on the bench for much of the season, Wade never complained. Instead, he picked up the slack, let Beasley learn the lessons about defense and rebounding that he needed, and pushed forward. Now Beasley is in the midst of a stretch in which he has posted at least 20 points and 13 rebounds in his past 3 games. He’s closing the season showing the focus and patience that the coaching staff only dreamed he’d show when they contemplated drafting OJ Mayo with the 2nd pick last year. You can’t help but admit that playing under Wade’s tutelage has helped Beasley to hone his game in a very short time. He might've single-handedly molded a future all star for his team.
Kobe, LeBron: Raise your hands if you had a mid-season trade? Anyone?
Yes, how quickly we forget, Shawn Marion wanted OUT of Miami. As if that weren’t enough, they got a bag of bones named Jermaine O’Neal for him (ok sorry Jermaine, I’ll stop). And although Kobe had to deal with the loss of Andrew Bynum for much of the season (whose knee HE actually took out—giving him an LVP vote from me, lol), neither he nor LeBron had anything close to the chemistry disruption that was the Heat-Raptors trade. I would never presume that keeping Shawn Marion for the entire season would’ve made them have a better record, or that an entire year with the…I mean, with Jermaine O’Neal in the post would’ve made them a 50-win team, but you at least have to admit that Wade’s focus has had to be at an otherworldly level this season to keep a young team on task through all the adversity they faced.
The Miami Heat were not even expected to be a playoff team at the start of this season.
Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto, Washington, and even Milwaukee and Charlotte, were expected to be better than the Heat. Yet somehow they sit as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Heat this season defied many of our expectations, much thanks to their MVP, Dwyane Wade.