The basketball blogosphere is abuzz with our latest group project. (OK, not really, but I like to use the word abuzz - too bad I don't blog the Hornets.) The guys at BrewHoop organized a bi-weekly blogger poll, ranking the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year candidates in the NBA. BrewHoop hosted the first installment two weeks ago. And now, right here at ClipsNation, we've got Version 2.0.
Before we get into the results, meet our panel of distinguished judges. Participating this time around were the following renowned bloggers in addition to myself:
- Tom of Sactown Royalty
- Ben of Third Quarter Collapse
- Josh of 3 Shades of Blue
- David of 20 Second Timeout
- Seth of Posting and Toasting
- College Wolf of TWolvesBlog
- Ricky of Sixers 4 Guidos
- Mike of Bullets Forever
- James of Green Bandwagon
- Jeramey of The Bratwurst
- Tom of Indy Cornrows
- Kevin of ClipperBlog
- Tom of Celtics Blog
- Alex of Brew Hoop
Votes were compiled on a simple 10-9-8 etc. and 5-4-3 etc. basis. Points are listed, with first place votes in parentheses. The following lists are composite rankings which take into consideration the votes of all 15 panelists based on the above scoring system. Thanks, voters!
My comments are first, followed by selected comments written by other contributing bloggers.
Most Valuable Player
1. Dwight Howard. 136(5). Last week - 2.
LeBron James has the best numbers. Kevin Garnett is the best player on the best team. But Dwight Howard currently has the combination of stellar numbers and team success that the voters really go for. Yes, Orlando has lost 4 of 5, but they're still 17-8, and the mini-slump is hardly Howard's fault: he's averaged 23 and 16 in December. Imagine if this guy shot better than 60% from the line!
(College Wolf, TWolves blog) "KG has the wins without the stats. Lebron has the stats without the wins. That leaves Dwight Howard as my number one choice, as he's got both in spades."
2. LeBron James. 127(6). Last week - 1
The defending Eastern Conference champs are struggling at 10-14. But they struggled a lot more while King James was sidelined with a sprained finger, losing 6 straight without their leader. His numbers are simply unreal - leading the league in scoring AND eighth in assists, while also averaging over 7 rebounds a game. The last guy to average 25, 7 and 7 for a season? I have no idea, but it was probably somebody pretty good, dontcha think? (OK, so Jordan did it once in his career in 88-89, and Bird once in 86-87.)
(Alex, BrewHoop) "How about this little stat: James, the NBA's leading scorer, has led the Cavaliers in assists every game he's played in this season. Not even Chris Paul, Steve Nash, or Deron Williams can make that kind of claim."
3. Kevin Garnett. 125(4). Last week - 3.
The best player on the best team will always garner attention. Although his numbers have tapered off a bit, it's largely due to the fact that the Celtics simply haven't been pushed much in the last two weeks. In fact, the C's have won 9 straight, all by double digits. As a result, KG's minutes have fallen to under 32 per game in December as compared to over 37 in November. He's still a statistical monster, but he's the rare player who does the things that show up in the boxscore AND the things that don't. He's the best defensive player on the best defensive team in the league right now. Things will get tougher for Boston at some point, and KG will be there when they do.
(Tom, CelticsBlog) "His individual stats might not be as great as some years, but the most important stat is 20-2 and that is all that matters."
4. Kobe Bryant. 82. Last week - 5
The second leading scorer in the league, he's playing 10% fewer minutes than he has since Shaq left town, and the Lakers are 13-9. He seems more willing to play with his teammates, as opposed to playing next to them, and the Lakers are a better team as a result. Rest assured, it's still his team, and he's still the one they'll turn to in crunch time - but he's not dominating the ball the way he has in the past, and the entire team looks more confident as a result. And he didn't even have to go to Pluto.
(Dave, 20 Second Timout) "LeBron, KG and Howard have gotten most of the early MVP headlines but Kobe is having a major impact at both ends of the court."
5. Chris Paul. 76. Last week - 4.
I'm sad to say I have not seen Chris Paul play this season. I was out of town when they played the Clippers, and New Orleans doesn't really get a lot of national TV exposure. Too bad. But all you have to do is look at the standings to know that the Hornets are 15-9, and then look at their roster to know who is leading them. We knew he could penetrate and dish - and 9.6 assists per game is good for third in the NBA. But he's also leading the NBA in steals at 2.7 per game, and his scoring is way up (over 21 per game on the season and 27 in December). And importantly, his shooting percentages are up across the board - field goal, three point, and free throw percentages are all at career high levels.
(Mike, BulletsForever) "New Orleans is still humming along at 15-9 in the Western Conference, and Paul's health is the main reason why. He's stabilized their offense after it was criminally bad without him last season. Here's to hoping his career mirrors Isiah Thomas' more than Kevin Johnson's."
6. Steve Nash. 70. Last week - 6.
The guy who won the MVP in 05 and 06 is as good as ever at the age of 33. Of course he's leading the league in assists at over 12 a game. (He's also leading the league in wacky lisping super-villain voices.) But look at the shooting percentages - 52% from the field, 46% from three point range, an eFG% of 60%, 95 percent from the line... are you kidding me? I'm completely convinced that he could lead the league in scoring if he wanted or needed to. It goes without saying that he makes the Phoenix offense work.
(Ben, ThirdQuarterCollapse) "We're so used to the Suns being good that we tend to overlook Nash. He's recorded at least 10 assists in 19 of the Suns' 24 games. Absolutely incredible."
7. Carlos Boozer. 52. Last week - 7.
As a Clipper blogger, I get a little depressed talking about Carlos Boozer. The best power forward from Duke is supposed to be Elton Brand. Instead, Brand is rehabbing his Achilles tendon, and Boozer is putting up scoring and rebounding numbers that Brand can only aspire to. Almost 25 per game and better than 57% shooting, while pulling down almost 12 rebounds per- he's the only player in the NBA in the top 5 in scoring and rebounding (he's 4th in each category).
(College Wolf, TWolvesBlog) "Just killing it this year. Has stayed healthy and is putting up ridiculous numbers. Also, he's tied for second in the league in double-doubles with Chris "Caveman" Kaman."
8. Tim Duncan. 38. Last week - 8.
OK, so his numbers are at career lows in basically every category. Of course, that's partly because his minutes are also at a career low, under 32 per game. But he's still Tim Duncan. He's still (arguably) the best player on the defending champs, who also happen to be 18-5 (and they were 15-3 when he twisted his ankle). So he's an MVP candidate. That's just how it is.
(James, Green Bandwagon) "I know he's been hurt. But I'm not sure any list is real without him."
9. Manu Ginobili. 26. Last week - 9.
The REAL best player on the Spurs. He's got the fourth best PER in the league, and is averaging 20 points per game in fewer than 30 minutes per game - which is just unheard of. The first two games that Duncan missed, all he did was put up back to back 37s in wins over 06 Western Conference champ Dallas and 07 Western Conference Finalist Utah. This is what is sometimes referred to as stepping up.
(Josh, 3 Shades of Blue) "Timmy goes down and the Spurs keep rollin? A lot of it has to do with the career year Manu is having, posting new highs in points, rebounds and assists."
10. Caron Butler. 13. Last week - N/A.
When Gilbert Arenas went under the knife, Washington's season was supposed to be over, right? Well, no one told Caron Butler. Shooting over 50% from the field, and a revelatory 44% from the arc (where did that come from?), his eFG% is over 53%. More importantly, the Wizards have done better without Arenas (10-5) than they were with him (3-5). When both Butler and Arenas were hurt last year and the Wizards fell apart, we all assumed Arenas was the key injury - looks like we were wrong.
(Mike, Bullets Forever) "Hey, weren't the Wiz supposed to suck without Gil?"
Also receiving votes: Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, Chauncey Billups, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Baron Davis, Michael Redd, Josh Howard, Tracy McGrady, Chris Kaman, Yao Ming, Al Jefferson.
Rookie of the Year
1. Kevin Durant. 73 (13). Last week - 1.
Essentially anointed ROY before the season began, the Sonics are doing their part by providing the minutes (33 per game) and the shots (17 per game) to ensure that he'll put up numbers. Under 40% from the field, almost twice as many turnovers as assists, barely more rebounds per 40 than teammate Delonte West... these are all things he needs to improve on. But it doesn't mean he's not the ROY. Interestingly, all the voters were pretty lukewarm in their comments about Durant - but they all grudgingly voted for him.
(College Wolf, TWolves Blog) "Really, no other rookie compares statistically at this point in the season."
2. Al Horford. 53 (1). Last week - 2.
Only 15 players are currently averaging 10 or more rebounds per contest. When one of those 10 is a rookie, well, you notice that. Unfortunately for Al, he probably got more national attention for an unintentional hit that put TJ Ford in the hospital last week (thankfully TJ is out of the hospital and could be back on the court in a week). He's playing almost 32 minutes per game for the 11-12 Hawks - the only rookie contributing as much to a potential playoff team.
(Tom, IndyCornrows) "Still love Horford's game and so do the Hawks."
3. Yi Jianlian. 34. Last week - 4.
Yi scored a career-high 22 in the Bucks win over the T-Wolves on Saturday after going for 18 against Orlando a couple games before. Importantly, the Bucks won both of those games, after losing 8 of their previous 9. It's clear the Bucks need Yi to become a key contributor and it's starting to look like he could do it.
(Mike, BulletsForever) "Larry K. needs to play him more."
4. Juan Carlos Navarro. 24. Last week - 5.
Navarro looked awful in the game against the Clippers this week - 2 for 8, 8 points and 0 assists. The next night he scored 27 against Orlando. He also has a pair of 28 point games this season. A 27 year old rookie and a member of the reigning world champion Spanish national team, he's not going to let a bad game bother him. In that regard, he's only a rookie in the technical sense.
(Ben, ThirdQuarterCollapse) "He just torched the Magic for 27 points, so maybe I'm overrating him just a bit. But his offensive game is polished. Given its point guard situation, I'm wondering if Washington regrets trading Navarro, even though keeping him would have meant dipping into the luxury tax."
5. Jamario Moon. 11. Last week - 3.
The feel good story of the NBA this season, Moon's productivity on a deep Toronto team is nothing short of amazing. The Raptors go at least 10 deep - but it is this refugee from the CBA/USBL/NBDL/WBA who is second on the team in minutes per game. Only Chris Bosh plays more - that tells you something.
(Josh, 3 Shades of Blue) "This season's "out of nowhere surprise", Moon is proof that hard work can make dreams a reality."
Also receiving votes: Glen Davis, Daequan Cook, Sean Williams, Nick Young, Jeff Green, Corey Brewer, Luis Scola.