In our third installment of the MVP tracker, we take a look at how the regular season MVP candidates are performing in the postseason so far and ranking them amongst each other. Given the fact that we are dealing with small sample sizes, it’s quite possible that perhaps one game or two might shake up the rankings from one night to the next. Things seem pretty set at the top for the moment but there is still the possibility of someone having a huge night that could propel them into at least the top 5. But before we get to the rankings, we have to give out the “Karl Malone What Are You Doing” Award.
For those that are unfamiliar with it, Bill Walton said those exacts words as Karl Malone refused to foul Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals because he had five fouls (Bulls were letting the time expire with a one point lead and the shot clock turned off). Click here and race to the 3:35 mark and enjoy.
Carmelo Anthony was the winner of the award the first time we doled it out because of his terrible shot selection late in Game 1 against the Celtics. The winner this time: Manu Ginobili.
In Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Ginobili caught the ball with about three seconds left and down three points as he was running along the right baseline towards the three-point line; as the double team approached him, instead of passing the ball then and there or simply firing from deep, he did a hesitation dribble move, spun around, almost lost the ball and then passed to a teammate as time expired. Watch it all unfold here, just race to the 2:20 mark.
Manu, you are the proud winner of the “Karl Malone What Are You Doing Award”. And now, on to the MVP tracker. This time, in reverse order.
9. Amare Stoudemire
Stoudemire started off the playoffs strong, taking the ball right at Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal. Mind you the back spasms have completely limited his mobility and in turn his effectiveness. After lighting up the Celtics for 28 points and 11 rebounds in Game 1, STAT’s numbers have taken a huge dip in games 2 and 3. His averages in those two games: 5.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 block per game on 23.5 percent field goal shooting. He’s giving it his all, but sadly it just hasn’t been enough to help out the Knicks.
8. Dirk Nowitzki
Disco Dirk has been a solid performer during these playoffs thanks in large part to his scoring late in games. Although his shooting numbers have been subpar so far, he has been getting himself to the line with great frequency to put up points on the board.
7. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s level of play so far this postseason is pretty much on par with what Kobe has done throughout his career except for one thing: he is now doing less. His teammates have reached the point where they can now carry the load and not always look for him to come bail them out. Consequently the scoring is about the same but his assists are a bit down. As the team advances in the playoffs though, the Black Mamba might have to assert himself a bit more and thus climb through the rankings.
6. Dwyane Wade
Wade had largely been reduced to the role of spectator in the two games in Miami but came out with the eye of the tiger for Game 3 (in Philadelphia no less). His Game 3 line read: 32 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, two blocks and one steal.
The performance served as a reminder that Wade is indeed one of the best players in the league and that he just never ceases to amaze with his wide array of skills.
5. Derrick Rose
Rose detractors will tell you that he shoots too much, turns the ball over far too often and shoots a poor percentage, and thus that he is overrated. We can concede all of these points, but then again it is awfully tough to argue that Rose is not a truly great player. Every Bulls game in the postseason so far has come down to execution in the last few possessions; and no one has been better than Rose with the game on the line in the playoffs so far.
Whether it’s by taking the ball into the paint and scoring himself or setting up Kyle Korver for a clutch 3-point shot, Rose has consistently carried his team down the stretch of games and broken the hearts of the Pacers time and time again.
4. Kevin Durant
One could make the case that Durant has been the second best player in the Western Conference’s playoffs. His scoring has been consistent, he has shot relatively well from the field and has manufactured a plethora of free throw attempts. In addition, he has avoided turnovers and also raised his assist total in every game.
His defense is a work in progress (Nene’s multiple dunks on him can serve as witnesses in court) but he is still improving on that end and more importantly trying to compete defensively. Durant is contesting shots and even get himself in a position to block a few. Fans keep hoping for the Thunder and Lakers to meet up in the Western Conference Finals, and with the way he’s playing right now, they might just get their wish.
3. LeBron James
Question: does LeBron James know his natural position is small forward? His numbers against the 76ers seem to indicate the contrary. He has done a terrific job of scoring, rebounding, setting up teammates and defending point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards so far in the postseason.
Part of the reason that Miami will be a tough team to beat is because James can match up with just about almost any player in the league; whereas few teams have a player capable of matching up with LeBron.
2. Chris Paul
Andrew Bynum, Nene Hilario, Lamar Odom and Kevin Durant. What do all these players have in common? They are all frontcourt players that are above 6’10, and thus tend to get several shots close to the basket. And why does this matter? Well on top of playing like the best point guard in basketball right now, Chris Paul is also shooting a higher percentage from the field in the playoffs than all of them.
1. Dwight Howard
While there seems to be a growing concern about the Magic’s ability to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando, D12 has been arguably the best player in these playoffs so far. Between the incredibly efficient scoring, the impressive rebounding and his stellar brand of defense; it’s tough to argue otherwise.
Howard is leading all players in the 2011 playoffs in minutes, scoring and rebounding and is also second only to Zydrunas Ilgauskas in field goal shooting. He might not be getting any consistent help from his teammates, but his performance alone has kept the Magic competitive against a Hawks team that is just playing better basketball right now.