Friday, August 13, 2010

2011 NBA MVP Predictions (that you hopefully don't find silly)

Forgive me for the long title, but I read ESPN's MVP forecast today (see link below) and it made me feel like basketball writers nowadays are writing with the same perspective as fans.

Basically, Kevin Durant is being handed the MVP just because LeBron is on the Heat. The assumption is that LeBron's decline in statistics and voter perception will be enough to plummet him two spots down from his reign as MVP.

As much as I love hearing "MVP Kevin Durant"...let's be serious. This isn't so simple. Here are my thoughts on the topic, and hopefully they won't be identical to whatever the ESPN SportsNation poll says, because that's what the writers must be using to start their polls...and they're always wrong!



Cool. Got that out, now let's begin!


#5: Derrick Rose

Why he could lose: 49-or-less wins, minimal jump in stats
Why he could win: He's ready to take the "Durant" leap, his team is capable of winning 50+ games

Derrick Rose is my dark horse candidate for this season. He's got speed and quickness, which he's noted for, as well as an improving midrange game, which is taking some notice. What isn't regarded is that he may be the most driven point guard in the league. He went 120-12 in high school, achieving a state championship (where he hit the game winner) and a #1 national ranking his senior year (Sports Illustrated). Went to college, made the national championship game, lost but performed well on the big stage. Now two seasons into his NBA career, Rose is only 21 years old, yet after seeing a 4-point jump in his scoring average from his rookie year, there could be an even bigger jump as he heads into his third year.

He's on a better team. He's driven to become a better player. People wanted Wade or LeBron to go to Chicago to have Rose as a sidekick, but the reality is, this kid may just be good enough to HAVE a sidekick rather than be one. We've only scratched the surface. Did we think Kevin Durant was going to be in MVP discussions in his 3rd year? Nope. But the same thing drives them both, and after their Olympic experience together this summer, it will be interesting to see how they both respond.

(UN)educated guess/Most likely outcome: 53 wins, 26.1 points, 8.2 assists

#4: Kevin Durant

Why he could lose: Team isn't dominant, numbers similar to this year's, fatigue from Olympic run
Why he could win: Win increase, potential to average 32-plus for the first time since Kobe/TMac

No doubt about it, Kevin Durant is talented. 30.1 points as a 21-year-old is flat-out impressive. Of course, he averaged 26 as an 18-year-old in college, so it's not entirely surprising.

Can he win the MVP? Yes,'s challenging. For starters, he can't do anything he did this year--he has to do more. More than 50 wins, more than 30 points. That's how the voters usually are. If your current season really didn't do much more than your last season (unless you're the reigning MVP), you won't be waltzing into this award.

Durant will see a different level of defense this year. Last season he became an all star, but this entire season he will be gameplanned for and treated like one.

(UN)educated guess/Most likely outcome: 55 wins, 29.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4 assists

#3: Dwight Howard

Why he could lose: Number of shots/number of moves are both waaay too no one really cares to vote for him, ol' goofy self
Why he could win: Numbers + Defense + Hakeem(!!!)

NO all star last season took less shots per game than Dwight Howard last season (10.2).

Of course... NO all star had less than offensive 1 move last season other than Dwight Howard (yes, he's even behind Gerald "Crash" Wallace).

And that's the sum of it. If Dwight actually learned one move in his summer excursion with The Dream, heaven forbid two, and gets 5 more shots per game, he's the MVP. With averages of 18 & 13, he's a few more possessions away from 26-28 points and 15 rebounds, to go along with his improving shot blocking numbers and all-around imposing defensive presence.

But he is fighting 6 straight years of offensive...suck. Voters tend to hold that against him. So we'll see.

(UN)educated guess/Most likely outcome: 59 wins, 24 points, 14 rebounds, 3.41 blocks

#2: Kobe Bryant

Why he could lose: Injuries, regular season slippage due to age
Why he could win: His name is Kobe Bryant

Don't drool when this makes your mouth drop open, but I'm about to compare Kobe to Jordan.

Just once. Don't think it'll be a habit.

Jordan won 72 games in Chicago in 1996. Jordan didn't win 72 in 1997. MVP that season? Karl Malone.

Considering we've seen Kobe play some transcendant basketball for him in the past two years, I don't see the 2010-11 regular season being his greatest masterpiece. He's getting older, and the energy he has to have just to survive another playoff run may require additional rest (fewer minutes, fewer games) in the regular season. The Lakers won 65 games in 2009, and slipped 8 games to 57 in 2010. Were they a worse team? No, Kobe Bryant played 9 less games. It really is that simple.

Of course, he's still Kobe Bryant, so if the Lakers win 55+ games as expected, and he averages 27 points or so as we've seen him do the past few seasons, he could still walk away with the trophy. Former MVPs and current champs are the only guys who can do what they've done before and get the title. People argue that LeBron's statistical decline opens the door for Durant, but I would argue that if anything, it leaves the door open for Kobe to get his second MVP trophy.

(UN)educated guess/Most likely outcome: 54 wins, 26.8 points, 5 reb, 7 assists

#1: LeBron James
Why he could lose: If his assists/rebounds are less than 8, if the team wins less than 55 games
Why he could win: Win potential + Steve Nash Corrolary

Please indulge me as I get my Sports Guy on and introduce a Corrolary.
Here are my four leading ideas that pushed LeBron up to #1 for me:

- While the media dumps on guys when they screw up, their overcoverage of the screwups also inadvertently gives them the exposure they need to get more votes

- Chris Bosh can only get what is given to him. He's not the star of this show.

- Wade is the oldest, and requires the most rest and care.

- This is DEFinitely not the most talented team in the league; their success hinges more on LeBron even more than his last two Cavaliers teams.

- Steve Nash won the MVP with numbers that were NOT dominant.

The last, I think, is the most important point. IF the Heat outperform every team in the league this season, voters will be looking to ask "CAN we give this award to LeBron?" History and past votes have some sway in these discussions, and the fact that a two-time MVP averaged 15.5 points one season and 18.8 the next means that the voters have prior evidence that he doesn't have to average 29 points or more to get it back.

Also with Nash, most MVPs are players that have been on a single team for their entire careers (See: Olajuwon, Jordan {you BET I'm ignoring Raptors/Wizards years, lol}, Malone, Duncan, etc.). One of the biggest arguments for Nash's MVP candidacy the first time around was the win swing, from 29 wins in Phoenix without him to 62 wins in his first year. Of course, the Heat are expected to be much better with LeBron, as the Cavs are slated to be much, much, much worse. That swing will also play in his favor.

Who knows how this new Heat team goes. What I do know, as a Mavericks fan, is that many great playoff teams don't give a flying CRAP about the regular season, so just being motivated is enough to dominate. It's how they got to 67 wins...and went home in the first round. I think considering his recent tweet about taking down names, LeBron is motivated. He wants this thing to work more than anything, and the biggest "Eff you" along the way to winning a championship would be to take home the MVP trophy in Wade County.

Once the reporters, who got off his lap to wag their fingers at him, return to their seats...I think that's what's going to happen.

(UN)educated guess/Most likely outcome: 64 wins, 23.8 points, 9.1 assists, 7.6 rebounds


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