Friday, March 4, 2011

BDT Thought of the day (Mar 4)

Guess who my MVP pick is...No, seriously, guess.

Being a hardcore sports fan is about more than just watching games and cheering your team. It's about immersing yourself in the game and the many debates surrounding your particular point of view. We debate about teams, players, coaches, officials, and everything else in between. Those among us who are dorky enough (definitely me) debate contracts, metric stats, and even the merits of sideline reporters (useless wastes of time...please only hire Erin Andrews or comparable models!).


Despite the differences we share as sports fans, there is one indelible desire we all share; the desire for greatness. As kids, we dream about being like our favorite pro athletes. As adults, we've hopefully grown past that stage (still working on my jumper over here though), but the desire for greatness still remains with us in full force. We want to witness it and be a part of it. It's the reason we watch every single March Madness game, hoping for a huge upset at the buzzer. It's the reason we tune into Clippers games, wanting to see Blake dunk someone's arm through the hoop. It's the reason I still remember watching the Celtics complete a 21 point 4th quarter comeback in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals. It's the reason I remember watching Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open on one leg. We all want to witness something amazing.

Last night, I sat down on my couch and turned to TNT to watch the Miami Heat play the Orlando Magic. This wasn't necessarily a big game for either team given we still have a month and a half of regular season left, but it promised to be entertaining nonetheless.  Unbeknownst to me, I was presented with an opportunity to witness greatness! LebWade (my new name for Lebron/Wade) poured it on Orlando in the first half and the lead swelled to 24 early in the 3rd quarter. My hatred of Lebron and the Heat reaching a boiling point, I........

turned to TBS to watch the end of Anchorman (a movie I've seen over 20 times already btw).

That's right! You heard me correctly! I gave up on the game and turned the channel and missed my least favorite team in sports collapse in epic fashion! NOOOOO!!!!!! WHY?!?!?!?!?!? (I am now punching myself in the face)

Even though I missed the amazing comeback, it did spur me to look into something I've been kicking around since the All-Star break. A while ago, we talked about the MVP race on a podcast with Laney and Prince. Of course, 40 games into a season is WAY too early to figure out the MVP, but we definitely have a clearer picture now. For some reason, the media has already annointed Derrick Rose. Don't get me wrong, Rose is fantastic! The Bulls are a legitimite contender and Rose is the key reason why, but I just don't see the MVP thing. Statistically speaking, Lebron James is the obvious choice, but you already know how much I hate him...

For my money, the MVP is an easy pick right now and, for the life of me, I can't figure out why he isn't viewed as a legit candidate. It's Dwight Howard! Let's dig into the stats...

PER - 1st Lebron James (26.88)  2nd Dwight Howard (26.54) 3rd Dwayne Wade (25.3)
Value Added - 1st Lebron (553.4) 2nd Howard (529.4) 3rd Wade (470.00)
EWA - 1st Lebron (18.4) 2nd Howard (17.6) 3rd Wade (15.7)
Rebound Rate - 3rd Dwight Howard (21.7)
Def Rebound Rate - 4th Dwight Howard (30.4)

So, I know Prince is immediately going to jump in here and yell about Lebron being first in 3 of the major categories I listed. Yes, Lebron is ahead, I got it. First, there is an glaring disparity between 2nd and 3rd in the top 3 categories, but the difference between Lebron and Howard is fairly minimal. Second, LOOK WHO IS IN 3RD IN THOSE CATEGORIES! Lebron plays with two other studs while the 2nd best starter on Orlando ranks 80th! And it's Brandon Bass!

And this brings up the age old argument of what the exact definition of Most Valuable Player is. Is it the best player on the best team? Is it the best player overall? Personally, I never understood why this has to be so difficult. Let me go ahead and give you an example of what "most valuable" would look like. A team begins the year with an overrated roster (Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson? Maybe?) bloated with high expectations. They have one borderline great player who has shown serious limitations in the past (Dwight Howard? Maybe?) This team struggles early and the GM makes a couple panic trades, essentially blowing up the team. They trade away their frontcourt depth (Marcin Gortat?) their only good perimeter defender (Mickael Pietrus?), and their best trade chip (Vince Carter's expiring) for a group of underperforming jump shooters who don't rebound or play defense (Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas?). Borderline great player is left alone to take the next step in his development and carry the team on his back.

OK, you caught me, I was actually talking about the Magic! Seriously though, no team has gone through more upheaval than Orlando. No player has had to shoulder more of a load than Dwight Howard. No player has had to push himself to be better more than Dwight Howard. Want proof?

Howard's career averages are 18.1ppg, 12.8 rpg, 0.9 spg, 2.1 bpg, 58% FG.
Howard's season averages are 23.2ppg, 13.9rpg, 1.2spg, 2.3bpg, 60%FG.

Quite a difference...

Also, check out his monthly splits in 2011!
January
24.9ppg, 14.7rpg, 1.3spg, 1.8bpg, 62.3 %FG
February
26.6ppg, 14.8rpg, 1.4spg, 2.0bpg, 60.6 FG%

HE'S ALSO SHOT OVER 60% ON FREE THROWS DURING THE NEW YEAR!!!

Prince may never agree with me, but that's ok...he's an idiot. No player has meant more to his team than Dwight Howard, and I don't think it's even close. Offensively, he's finally pushed himself to the elite level we always wanted him to be at. Amidst a team full of streaky jump shooters, he's the only post option. Defensively, well, he's absolutely all they have! A team with JRich, Hedo, JJ, Jameer...wow those are bad defenders! Dwight Howard means everything to that team on both ends of the court and he is, without a doubt, your MVP. For now...

13 comments:

  1. when we did our MVP podcast I did say that lebron and dwight were my top 2 candidates for the award, and I still feel that way. I agree with you about rose, he’s having a great season but I don’t see him as MVP. I didn’t expect dwight to up his offensive stats the way he has over the last few months, and by the end of the year I might pick him as mvp. You know I overvalue dwight howard, you have accused me of it ever since his rookie season, and I don’t hate lebron like you do so I feel that I have a more unbiased opinion. You even say in the article that you can’t pick lebron because you hate him.

    When picking the mvp I don’t like just picking the best player on the best team, it doesn’t make sense to me. I look at it as if the player were removed from the team how detrimental would it be? Because of this I think that the Estimated Wins Added metric is very important. Right now it’s so close between lebron and dwight that I really don’t think you can easily choose between them right now. I know that dwight does more than what his stats show (since none of his teammates play defense he is altering shots all game) so I may be able to be persuaded into picking him eventually.

    Lastly, in response to people as kids/adults who dream about being pro athletes.....WE JUST WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!!

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  2. All stats, no matter how elaborate have their flaws. The one major problem with basketball stats is they can't accurately capture defensive value. With the metric stats so close between Lebron and Howard, this has to be taken into account. Also, Miami's record against top competition and Lebron's continuing inability to close out big games is a major problem. No points in the 4th quarter last night! And, of course, my major point was that Lebron gets a huge boost from playing with stars around him. Replace Lebron with a lower tier player like Rudy Gay or even Andre Iguodala and you still have a top 5 team in the East. Even if you replaced Howard with a player like Pau Gasol, the Magic are in the lottery!

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  3. I know your article is by and large about MVP, but I'd like to throw something out there in response to your very first paragraph. I think that being a hardcore sports fan might still be too big a category to define. I might contend that under the umbrella of "sports fan" lies categories, and while they look different, their passions for sports are equal. For instance, one might dive headfirst into how a team is run-this business aspect of sports, and seeing how management meets athletics. I'd say you and prince are both prime examples of this, where I prefer not to spend my time there. If I go into all the categories, this will become an article itself, but I just thought I'd throw that thought out there. Compelling thoughts about MVP, though.

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  4. Sure, there are different categories of sports fans, but I couldn't disagree more about the passions being equal. A true passion for sports or anything for that matter breeds a desire to learn more about it, to understand more about it. It doesn't mean that a casual fan, who is content to watch some games and know the best players, is inferior to a hardcore fan. However, it does mean their passion isn't as strong as someone who spends considerable time learning about every intricacy of sports they can get their hands on. This simply can't be argued. If I said I had a passion for playing golf, but I never spent money on golf equipment and I played 3 times a year, would you think I was truly passionate about it? Going further, if you told me you were passionate about your relationship with a girl, but you never talked to her on the phone and you saw her once a week, should I really believe you are passionate about the relationship? That's my long, drawn out point. True passion results in tangible evidence. It doesn't make anyone superior/inferior to anyone else, it just means their priorities lie in different areas.

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  5. All of that to say; you are describing casual sports fans. I was talking about hardcore sports fans. They aren't the same, their passions aren't equal.

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  6. I see your point-I guess I phrased myself poorly...obviously there is the same correlation in sports as in the rest of life where you get out what you put in...this is why in the history of our fantasy sports things, my best finish is 2nd-I simply don't put in the time preparing that some of you other guys do. Maybe this is just me being a hardcore intuitive, but I do still think there's an unquantifiable passion for a sport as well. My sport of choice is baseball (I know, I'm sorry) and while last year I didn't have the opportunity to make it to a single game, I don't think this was a reflection on my passion for the game. I guess my whole thought is, there's a section of hardcore fandome that is just as interested in binding oneself to a team and seeing the things that the stats won't show.

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  7. My reason for my position is my sister...You can ask Prince and he will testify to the fact that she spends tons of time looking up stats and whatnot, but it's just to be able to talk the talk...she doesn't actually understand sports at all. Because of that, I have to at least someone divorce the ratio if time spent "studying" to passion for the game.

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  8. Don't you apologize for being a baseball fan Bloomy! You stand your ground!!!!

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  9. Spoken like a true old person...

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  10. I realize that stats dont tell the whole story. That's why I brought up dwight altering shots. When a guy drives against the magic he knows that dwight is down there waiting to block the shot, and he causes guys to miss whether he gets a hand on it or not.

    I dont think that your next point about the Heat not winning against top teams should factor into the MVP decision. I think I have brought this up before, but how do you feel about the MVP going to a player on a losing team? I dont think that an individual player should be thrown out of the discussion for MVP just because his team does not play well.

    Lebron was terrible in that 4th quarter against the magic, but dwight didnt bring the magic back in that game. J-rich, arenas, and a few others caught fire from 3 and the magic came storming back. As a team they hit 16 3's. Plus, I cant look at one game and pick one guy over another.

    I know that lebron has not been a clutch shooter at the end of games, but when he is put on the FT line in tight games he has been one of the best in the league. I remember seeing in that Boston game that when a game was within 5 points in the final mintues lebron was 20-20 from the line...then of course he missed one against boston. Dwight on the other hand can be seen as a liability in tight games because of his poor FT shooting. Teams will take their chances with him at the line, so I don't see a good argument for dwight in late games situations.

    I really dont know what would happen if the heat and magic would exchange the players like you said in your post. Gasol can still be a beast and I'm not sure that it would put the magic in the lottery.

    Obviously Lebron and dwight are both amazing assets to their team, and i think that they show it in different ways. I would say that lebron makes the players around him better, and that dwight kind of makes up for the mistakes of his teammates. Lebron is a great passer and can get a guy the ball when he is open, while dwight can cover for you on defense and get offensive boards when his team misses. So I guess whatever you think is more valuable. There's still plenty of games left though, and I'm looking forward to talking about this at the end of the year.

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  11. So, I actually think you make some legitimite points here. Dwight can be a HUGE liability in end of game situations. That's one of the reasons I pointed out his improved free throw shooting. Still, improved or not, 60% isn't good.

    Sadly, I have to agree with you on your point about Miami's record against top teams. You're right in calling me out on this because I have been adament that the MVP isn't a result of team success. However, there has to be some consideration for Lebron's poor statistics in clutch situations. I brought it up not as a result of one game, but as the result of 60 games worth of evidence. You and I talked about his inability to hit big shots and I don't understand why you won't knock Lebron for it. He is the guy who is supposed to take and make those shots and he's unreasonably bad in late game situations. That isn't a team fault, that is a Lebron fault.

    Finally, I have to strongly dispute your assertion that Lebron has made his teammates better. Without a doubt, this was one of Lebron's biggest successes in Cleveland. He was able to make mediocre players look like capable NBA rotation guys. Don't assume, because of his past success in this area, that it's still true. Lebron has successfully frozen Wade out in 4th quarters, and demanded to be their crunchtime star despite his failures. Lebron has refused to take advantage of mismatches in the low post. Big picture, Wade and Bosh were both better last year without Lebron. I'm not talking about statistically, because I know it's easier to rack up numbers when you're the man. I'm just basing that on what I see. They are not as good as they were last year. Moreover, the crappy role players (the same type that Lebron turned into gold in Cleveland) are playing like crappy role players. I'm not knocking Lebron for that...I'm just going to give him credit for something that isn't true. You can't say Lebron is making his teammates better and then say the Heat are underperforming at the same time. Those two don't go together.

    On the other hand, Dwight Howard is definitely making his teammates better. Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson are able to perform because Howard takes all the frontcourt attention away from them. The perimeter defenders are able to gamble because they know Dwight is back there to clean up the mess. The shooters are able to bomb away and get extra possessions because Dwight is there to get the offensive rebound. Like I said, if you replace Howard with Pau Gasol, you have a lottery team. Don't believe it; look at the old Memphis Grizzlies teams before Gasol went to the Lakers.

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  12. I will voice one opinion on the MVP discussion, though you won't find a hill that I'll die on amongst any of the top three candidates. I do have one knock on Bron though...I think that I have heard more this year about Miami's lack of roles than I have ever heard about a single team's chemistry ever...ESPECIALLY now that they're losing late in games. As a non-quantifiable support, I'd like to assert that Lebron/Wade's lack on closure as to who will "be the guy" that gets the ball when they NEED to score has actually hurt that team so far. Too much talent would be a good problem to have...if there were such a thing as a good problem, but because the presence of Bron and Wade might actually hurt the team in some situations, I think it's a race between Dwight and D-Rose.

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  13. Totally agree! It seems odd and telling to me that neither Lebron nor Wade has stepped up as a leader. I think that's one of the deeper points you're getting at with your comment on roles. Putting a team together doesn't necessarily mean throwing the most talent together possible. You have to have the chemistry aspect of it down too. Think back to that amazing Lakers team with Shaq, Kobe, Malone, Payton...they lost to a clearly inferior Pistons team because of the chemistry and distractions. I guess I always felt like Wade was a good leader and I find it somewhat disturbing that he hasn't asserted himself a bit more.

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