Roundball Roundtable: Player Most Valuable


Joining us for this Roundball Roundtable are Joel Witmer of The Disappointment Zone and Bad Larry of Doome.

PC: I watched the Cavs-Pistons last night and was struck by something I thought I knew but didn’t know how much I should’ve known it: the Cavs are garbage without LeBron. When he went to the locker room and came back dressed like Trent Reznor, the rout was already on. This made me wonder if LeBron is truly the most valuable player. If he keeps playing like he’s playing, he will win the award but is he the player who, without him, the team drops the farthest? By this, I don’t mean a borderline team missing the play-offs by one game but the player who’s loss would cost their team the most wins. In your opinion, is LeBron really the most valuable player?

JW: Yes, the answer is LBJ. The margin between him and whoever is #2 isn’t close. Not only is he dominating statistically like few people in the history of the game (Oscar, Micheal) but the Cavs are fairly junk without him. While it’s true that the Cavs have one of the best front courts in the NBA, without James I do not see either Gooden or Ilgauskas being nearly as productive. Gooden, prone to being a space cadet, is kept in line by James.Ilgauskas, too old to carry the weight on offense, would have to do just that without James. Factor in the youth (Gibson, Pavolvic, Brown) and the aging vets (Snow, Marshall) and the albatross (Hughes) and it’s pretty clear that this roster is not in the least bit enviable. You cannot say the same for, say, the Suns (Nash) or the Spurs (Duncan) or the Mavericks (Dirk) or the Rockets (Yao) or the Celtics (KG). Once you work past that tier of players — the guys who tend to put up MVP-type numbers — the next tier of players all find themselves playing on a team with a more even distribution of talent. 

If they go out with a finger injury their teams will suffer but not collapse.The only guy who’s in a situation comparable to LBJ — superstar, gaudy numbers, weak supporting cast — is probably Kobe. But a) he risked completely alienating and harming his team with his temper tantrum, b) his gaudy numbers aren’t even close to LBJ’s gaudy numbers, and c) Lamar Odom. That pushes him down — way down — based on the MVP criterion we’re  discussing here. If anything you can’t cut your team off at the knees and then point out they’d be worse without you. 

I had to pick the guy to finish behind LBJ it would be Chris Paul. He’s having a monster season on a team that would be absolutely lost without him.He’s also doing it in a city where fan support is so weak (and for good reason) and where the specter of moving the franchise is so strong that it’s not difficult to fathom the team completely spiraling out of control unless they had someone like Paul running the show. He’s a stud.

BL: Value Myths. 1) The Tim Duncan (and steve nash?) myth: player reaps benefits of perceived flawless system, embodies/consumes the entire reality of everyone else on the team. This player trends toward whiteness/cerebral-ness. 2) the LeBron James (and Kobe? and iverson?)

Myth: player repells his entire environment, others, etc. This player’s team has either no system to follow, or one that is too complicated to function (triangle?) and thus loses the battle with star-power. This player is alienated, usually punished by the league but in rare cases rises above to win over popular opinion.

And then there’s Tracy McGrady, the NBA MVP. He can score 13 points in 12 seconds.

JR: Bad Larry misunderstood the question. We weren’t asking for the Most Overrated Player or the Biggest Choker in the NBA. We’re talking about the MVP.

The MVP is a three man race between Lebron James, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Lebron only won’t get it if he gets injured. Chris Paul is having a great season and one only needs to compare New Orleans from this year to last year to see what kind of impact he has. But the runner-up is Howard. D-Ho’s H improved his game over the off-season by adding more to his offensive arsenal and raising his free throw percentage. He has 13 double-doubles and averages of 22.5 points, 14.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots. Plus, his post presence is helping guys like Bogans and Turkoglu get open looks from the outside.

My runner-ups would include Tony Parker and ‘Los Boozer

PC: I’m glad one of you mentioned Dwight Howard. In a vacuum, there is no question that LBJ is the best player in basketball and assuming his femurs don’t explode under the weight that is global iconography,  he’ll be the best for a long time. But he’s not the MVP, at least not in the way this question defines MVP. The MVP so far is Dwight Howard and he’s deserving of our love and respect for it. He’s easily thebest player on his team and, more importantly, he’s the lynchpin of that team. Without him, no one discusses their chance to take the East. Without him, they’re a 35 win team.

JR already addressed his ability to spread the floor, provide interior scoring and work the glass at both ends. Those abilities are even more valuable in contrast to the other Orlando bigs. When Howard sits, who do you play? Do you go small and play Hedo or Brian Cook or Pat Garrity out of position at the 5? Do you stick Foyle down there, a guy who averages less than a basket per game, and hope he can block afew shots? Any option they could use would create nightmare match-up with almost every team in the East, virtually eliminating the current NBA leader in wins from playing in the spring.

The Cavaliers would miss LeBron like Poe missed Lenore but the Magic would miss Howard like the deserts miss the rain.

(Thank Dennis Miller for that last line.)

BL: But howard was on that same team last year and they weren’t as good.

Clearly Rashard Lewis has been the difference maker there. He needs to be in the consideration for MVP with T-Mac, Barbosa, Baron Davis and Beno Udrih, I mean, and Kevin Garnett.

JR: Lebron is still head and shoulders above Howard. No questions whatsoever. Howard hasn’t proved yet he can dominate the 4th quarter of games like Lebron can.

PC: Jamireo Moon was a Globetrotter and now he’s in the starting rotation of what looks to be a play-off team. Time changes everything.

I can’t argue against the fact that the addition of Rashard Lewis makes the Magic a better team. What I will argue is the loss of Dwight Howard would decrease the win total of the Magic more than the loss of any other player would decrease the win total of any other team. LeBron James has a Win Score per Minute through last night of .412 while Dwight Howard is working at a .457 clip. (I would have calculated their WP48 if I had time but this will do.) It seems that Howard is playing better for his team within his system than LeBron is doing with his but I’m open to the arguments of LeBron advocates: he’s taking more shots and is unable to rely on his secondary scoring options, he’s playing away from the basket which decreases his rebound opportunities, etc…

The difficulty in making the argument for James is that Mike Brown doesn’t play a rotation of Gibson-Pavlovic-Gooden-Ilgauskas and a fifth player so we can’t really tell how well they would perform as a unit or compare them to the Magic. Would a starting 5 of Gibson-Hughes-Pavlovic-Gooden-Ilgauskas win more games than a Nelson-Bogans-Turkoglu-Lewis-Foyle squad? I think they would. This is why I believe the addition of Dwight Howard to the Magic is more valuable than the addition of LeBron James is to the Cavs.

Explore posts in the same categories: Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, Orlando Magic, Roundball Roundtable

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