Monday Morning Point Guard
No matter how crowded the bandwagon has gotten over the past few weeks; no matter how many times he makes a play that makes you say, "Oh no, he did not;" and no matter how many times he makes your eyes pop out when you look at the box score, Dwyane Wade is not the league's most valuable player this season. He shouldn't even be in the top three on the ballot.
Now, before anyone starts to go ballistic, let me answer a few questions you might have: Am I hater? Sometimes, but not in this instance. Has Wade at least made it a three-man argument for the NBA's best overall player with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant? No doubt about it; he's right in the mix and depending on the night, he's on top. Should Wade be considered for MVP? Yes. Hasn't what he has accomplished for the Miami Heat this season made him worthy of the league's top individual honor? In perhaps any season but this one.
Wade, the league's leading scorer this season, has come back from serious knee and shoulder injuries and lifted the Heat out of a 15-win abyss and into the Eastern Conference playoff picture in one season with some truly extraterrestrial performances this season. I recognize Wade's brilliance, that American Airlines Arena is his "house," and that no player -- James and Bryant included -- has put up more ridiculous numbers since the all-star break.
In his past 15 games, Wade is averaging 34.6 points, topped 40 points six times and even scored 50 points twice. Last week, Wade had two of his best games of the season -- when he had 48 points, 12 assists and one unbelievable, running, buzzer-beating three-pointer in a double-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls; and when he had 50 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and a behind-the-back crossover dribble against Andrei Kirilenko in a triple-overtime win against the Utah Jazz.
Oddly enough, I came to the conclusion that Wade cannot win the MVP award Saturday afternoon while sitting at home on my couch, watching Wade slice and dice the Jazz. During that game, it hit me: It's a shame that Wade has been so awesome this season, because all that he will get is a pat on the back.
The MVP remains a two-man race. I'm not attempting to discredit or belittle what Wade has accomplished, but there simply is no way that he can catch James or Bryant. And, to me, Wade might even be fifth on the ballot behind Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, who are quietly having historic seasons and play on better teams. If you think I'm crazy, ask yourself where Orlando or New Orleans would be without Howard or Paul, respectively).
This might sound strange coming from me, since it was only three years ago when I lobbied like crazy to get Bryant the MVP award over Steve Nash. My argument back then was the award should've been Bryant's because he had put together one of the greatest scoring seasons in NBA history (35.4 points per game) and led a sad-sack Lakers' roster into the playoffs with 45 wins in a highly competitive Western Conference. (Bryant also scored 81 points in a game, something we may never see again, which I felt was the defining moment of the season.)
Wade has put up equally startling numbers, especially when you factor in his assists (7.7), steals (2.4) and blocks (1.4). I also realize that the Heat would be right there with the Washington Wizards -- or worse -- if Wade had missed any significant time this season.
So, what's the difference? Why can't I make the same impassioned argument for Wade that I made for Bryant in 2005-06?
Well, first off, every year is different. And, three years ago, there really was no clear-cut front-runner for the MVP award. The best player on the best team in the NBA could've been any member of the Detroit Pistons' starting five; James, whom I had second behind Bryant, averaged 31.4 points, 7 rebounds and 6.6 assists on the 50-win-but-distant-second-in-the-Central-Division Cavaliers; and Nash got the award -- despite averaging a ho-hum 18.8 points with 10.5 assists -- mostly because Phoenix won the Pacific Division with 54 wins without Amare Stoudemire.
Bryant, to my surprise, finished fourth in MVP voting.
This year, the best player on the best team is James or Bryant, who have been equally spectacular and have their teams -- the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers and the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers, respectively -- on pace to win 66 games. And while Wade is doing more with less, James has kept his Cavaliers motoring along despite serious injuries to starters Delonte West and Ben Wallace and Bryant has kept the Lakers cruising with center Andrew Bynum out since late January.
Wade is also up against history, because other than Moses Malone (twice) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, no MVP in the past 34 years has won the award without winning 50 or being on pace to win 50 games. (By the way, Miami would have to finish the season 14-2 for Wade to do that.)
I'm not of the belief that a player has to win at least 50 games to be the MVP. I think the MVP is the reward for individual greatness while division championships, conference championships and NBA championships are the reward for team greatness (which explains why I supported Bryant in 2006). But Wade cannot move to the front of the line when James and Bryant are having marvelous individual seasons and their respective teams are having identical success.
And, to be honest, the MVP shouldn't go to anyone but James. Bryant has 16 games to change my mind on that one.
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