Tebowing the long haul
all the way to the title
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: TX, USA
THE SUBJECTIVE INTANGIBLES THAT SWAY VOTES
Sympathy Votes. In some years the perception arises that a player’s excellence has been overlooked over the years and thus deserves extra consideration for an MVP award. By this standard, Karl Malone beat out Michael Jordan for the award in 1997, with the rationale being that “Jordan has already gotten his share of MVP honors.’’ Jordan was the league’s best player, had the best year, and played on the best team, but Malone took home the MVP award primarily because Jordan had been awarded 4 in prior years while Malone had none.
This year the sympathy votes will go to Shaquille O’Neal. “He has been the dominant player in the league for many years but only has one MVP award to show for it - so we owe him one’’ is the thinking that has been expressed.
Leadership. The vague concept of leadership will be mentioned, but among these four finalists it will not add or subtract a thing. Nash, Nowitzki, Duncan, and O’Neal are each considered to be the leader of their team and the key player that drives them to wins.
Difference maker. If you take this player off this team, how far would they fall? Isn’t that the best measure of value, in deciding an MVP winner? You will hear that idea expressed in discussions about the MVP, and this year two players will benefit from it.
Shaquille O’Neal was traded to Miami this year, for 3 good players. His addition has vaulted Miami to dominance in the East, despite losing those 3 players.
Steve Nash signed with Phoenix as a free agent before this season, and the Suns have risen from mediocrity to become the top team in the league. In addition, Nash was injured during the season and missed 4 games in mid-January that the Suns lost, adding to the perception that he has been indispensable to the Suns success this year.
Games missed. Getting injured and missing a sizable part of the season costs votes. How can a player be the most valuable, if he was not on the floor?
Tim Duncan has battled ankle problems all year and only played 62 games. It appears he will miss the rest of the regular season, meaning his contribution will be limited to 75% of the Spurs’ games, and that will lower his chances in the MVP voting.
Finishing the season strong. The MVP voting occurs as the season ends, and the freshest images in the voters minds are those from the last month of the season.
Tim Duncan is off the floor. His value is noticed as the Spurs lose more frequently without him - but the fact that he is not playing also is underscored.
Phoenix, Dallas, and Miami are all playing well.
Myths. In every area of life, myths get spread that are not supported by facts. In voting, perception equals reality. Steve Nash’s MVP support this year will be bolstered by perception that is fueled by myth that has been recited repeatedly in the media.
Nash joined a Suns team that won 29 games last year, a fact that is often cited. The assumption is that Nash made it into a big winner. What is overlooked? Quite a bit.
Last year the Suns actually had a fairly good team - a team that had made the playoffs the prior year and was considered to be up and coming. But they ended up losing a ton of games for several factors. One was the loss of Stoudemire, who was hurt and missed a 1/3 of the season. Even more importantly, they pulled off a midseason trade that junked their season, sending their two primary ball handlers to NY to free up cap room, in exchange for next to nothing. Before Stoudemire’s injury and the trade, the Suns were a talented team, played at a .500 pace, and showed great potential. With first the loss of Stoudemire and then the loss of their ball handlers, their record didn’t reflect their talent.
The return to health this year of Stoudemire, plus the addition of ANY credible ball-handler, was going to make them better no matter what.
Furthermore, Nash was not Phoenix’ only addition in the offseason. The Suns also signed Quentin Richardson in free agency, whose numbers (averages of 15.4 pts, 6.2 rebs, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals) have been as strong as those of Nash this year.
The myth of Nash’s unmatchable value to Phoenix exploded into the media when he was injured in mid-January this year and the Suns lost 4 in a row without him. What is overlooked is that at the time they had also lost their backup PG to injury, so in Nash’s absence they were down to their 3rd option. Also, the games they lost were all against playoff teams, and 3 were on the road.
Who gains most from the intangibles? We think it is valid to cast a vote factoring in intangibles such as leadership and games played, but we deplore the votes driven by sympathy and myths. In our view of the intangibles, we give Shaq 0.5 points for being a difference maker, and we subtract 0.5 points from Duncan for missing 1/4 of the season. If we are reflecting the real voting, we also have to add another 0.5 to Shaq for the sympathy factor and 0.5 to Nash for the myths that will influence voters.
In the real voting, from what we have discussed to this point in both stats and intangibles, we see a slight edge towards Shaq and Nash. However, on our ballot, so far we would have essentially a 4-way tie.
THE BIGGEST INTANGIBLE - WILL IT BE OVERLOOKED?
There is one final factor that might get little discussion, yet to us should be near the top of the list. In making their team a winner, who had the least help? That factor, once included, forces us to our original premise: Lone Star Dirk should be the MVP this year.
In Phoenix, Nash has been complemented by both Stoudemire and Marion - each of whom are so good that some think they rather than Nash should be the MVP for the entire league. Duncan has been accompanied by Ginobili, an all-star and one of the league’s best in every analysis. Shaq also has an all-NBA caliber running mate in the person of Wade.
But Dirk? If you take a poll of fans and media as to the 2nd best player on the Mavs, you will find out quickly that there is no consensus whatsoever. His main help has varied from week to week, and even game to game. There are lots of contributors here and there - a cast of thousands, as the saying goes. But there is no second banana for Dirk to rely on each night.
In former years in Dallas, there was a big 3 of Dirk, Nash, and Finley. This year, Nash is gone and Finley’s game has declined. In spite of that, the team has gotten even better: Dirk has put this team on his back, and overcome those losses. With the loss of Nash, the PGs who are needed to set up Dirk have been inexperienced - so Dirk has fueled the team while they learn. In fact, Dirk only has 2 players alongside him from the Dallas team that went to the Western Conference Finals 2 years ago - and instead of falling to the bottom, they are rising to the top. In Dallas, it isn’t a group of 2 or 3 players that has keyed this team’s ability to win - it is all about Dirk.
Interestingly, the lesser ability of Dirk’s surrounding cast is a concept that is supported by the numbers. Beech’s +/- analysis measures the success of a team without a particular player on the floor, and is often overused. But an interesting number pops out at us. When Nash, Duncan, or Shaq sits, their team still plays about even with the opposition - meaning they would still be around a .500 team without them. When Dirk sits, the Mavs lose almost 10 points per 48 minutes - which would make them one of the worst teams in the league.
OUR FINAL TALLY
Any of our finalists may win the actual MVP award this year. But in our view, we think the facts should make it go as follows.
Nash has had an outstanding year, but he plays no defense, and much of his resume is built on myth rather than fact. Duncan has been the best player on the team when he has played - but his missing 1/4 of the season drops the Spurs in the standings and drops him from the top as well. Shaq has made the Heat dominant in the East - but his stats aren’t as good as Duncan or Dirk, and his accomplishments this year are in the weaker conference.
That leaves us with Lone Star Dirk as our choice. His ability to carry this team to the top without a 2nd star is the deciding factor in our minds. Behind Dirk, our ballot would read (in order) Shaq, Duncan, Nash. For others, Dirk’s one “flaw’’ on his resume will be the fact that the Mavs record is 5th in the league at this point. If the Mavs can fashion a long winning streak in April, and move up to a record near or better than the Spurs, the rest of the league may also agree that Lone Star Dirk is this season’s Most Valuable Player in the NBA.