King’s Speech: 2011 MVP Candidates

I know it may seem a little early for this, but with the season winding down and the trade deadline behind us, I couldn’t think of a better time to do this. That’s right, it’s time to breakdown the MVP candidates for the 2010-2011 NBA regular season!

At this point of the season, the cream rises to the top, and the list of candidates becomes surprisingly thin. So who are these players? I’ve narrowed my list down to three. I cannot realistically see anyone besides these three players winning the MVP. It may shock you to learn, that all three candidates come from the same conference, and that all three play different positions. While I am leaning towards one guy on this list more than the others, websites such as ESPN seem to disagree. So, without further ado, here are the three MVP candidates.

One more thing, you might need to keep THIS page handy, if you aren’t too clear on advanced stats, such as PER, Wins Shares and other advanced stats. Just scroll through that page if you are ever confused on what a stat means.

CANDIDATE NUMBER THREE: DWIGHT HOWARD

(Image from Sports Illustrated)

Yes, the big man in Florida is finally getting some love! It looks as if Howard as finally learned some offensive moves, as he’s averaging nearly five more points than last year. After a flurry of mid season trades that were supposed to make Orlando into a contender, they still seem stuck in the middle of the pack, with teams like Atlanta, or New Orleans, as teams that are very good, but not great. They are 22-13 since the trade. That’s good, but not quite great.

The main part of why the Magic are still in contention at all, is because of Dwight Howard. The offense runs through Dwight now, as he averages 2 more field goal attempts (13.8) than the next person on the team, Jason Richardson (11.8). He also shoots a higher percentage from the field than anyone on his team (59.7%). And of course, he rebounds and scores more points than anyone on his team (13.8 rebounds per game and 23.2 points per game respectively).

Now let’s compare him to the league. He’s sixth in points per game in the Eastern Conference (tenth in the NBA) and first in rebounds in the Eastern Conference (second in the NBA). But for this piece we need to go deeper. We need to look at more than just points and rebounds, this is 2011 for crying out loud! We have advanced stats now!

So this year Dwight Howard is second in Player Efficiency Rating. He has the second best Defensive Rating, and is first in Defensive Win Shares. He’s also fourth in Win Shares and second in Win Shares per 48 Minutes. So between his PER and his Win Shares, I determined that Dwight is the third best candidate for the MVP award.

CANDIDATE NUMBER TWO: DERRICK ROSE

(Image from Sports Illustrated)

I know I used advanced stats to explain Howard’s case for the MVP. Derrick Rose is a different story. If you’ve watched any Bulls games this year, you would know how important Rose has been to the team. The former Rookie of the Year has been very important to the 40-17 Bulls. He is also among the top ten in the league in many stats.

The Bulls have been in the top three of the Eastern Conference for the greater part of the season. Although they have struggled with injuries to key pieces like Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, they have been one of the most consistent teams in the league. This consistency is largely thanks to Derrick Rose’s stellar play. The Bulls have only recently been playing at full strength, and even still, they lack guards who can play the game at a high level. They’re starting Keith Bogans remember. Derrick Rose’s consistency is one of the reasons why the Bulls have been able to prevail amidst these injuries, and weak points on their roster.

There aren’t many players who mean more to their team than Derrick Rose. Just look at the list of backup point guards for this team. Take away Rose from the Bulls and they would likely be a lottery team. That’s why Rose is valued as an MVP candidate by so many bloggers and analysts. He is just so valuable to the Bulls. He might not be the best player in the league, he might not even be the best point guard in the league, but he is having an outstanding year and he is irreplaceable to the Bulls, which is why he is my runner up this year.

CANDIDATE NUMBER ONE: LEBRON JAMES

(Image from Sports Illustrated)

What a surprise! The leagues best player is also the top MVP candidate, and he’s playing at the level we have expected from him. Considering that he now plays with arguably the best shooting guard in the league in Dwyane Wade, and a very good power forward in Chris Bosh, it actually is fairly surprising that his play has not suffered due to having to defer the ball to these other superstars. But he is who we thought he is. This is what we have come to expect from LeBron night in night out. 26, 7, and 7. That’s LeBron in a nutshell. Still not convinced LeBron is having a dynamic season and deserves to be MVP? Check his stats!

So yes, LeBron is averaging less points than ever. In fact he’s averaging the lowest point per game average since his Rookie of the Year campaign in Cleveland. That number? 26.2 points per game. Second best in the NBA. He’s also averaging the lowest field goal attempts per game EVER in his illustrious career. That includes his rookie year. His rebounding and assists are both above his career averages, at 7.5 boards per game, and 7.2 assists per game. He has also been named an All Star, and won Player of the Month honors for December.

LeBron sports the greatest Player Efficiency Rating so far this season, the fourth best Offensive Win Shares, second best Defensive Win Shares, second best in Win Shares, and fourth best in Win Shares per 48 Minutes. If that doesn’t convince you then actually watch a basketball game. Watch a Heat game. I’ve had the privilege of seeing around fifteen Heat games so far this season on TV. LeBron is still the best player in the NBA. Don’t listen to what anyone tells you, or what people who hold “the Decision” against him may try to say about him. LeBron is as good as ever. Will that translate to a championship this season? Jury’s still out on that. But that’s why this is the regular season MVP award.

Was I completely off base? Are you one of the people out there who actually thinks Kobe Bryant deserves this award? Hate LeBron? Love him? Let me know about it in the comments section!

Want more thoughts on the Association? You can follow us on Twitter (@theblakelovell, @thatsthedagger, @SerenityNowDDL) or head on over to our brand new Facebook page to get all the latest news and stories from STS!

Also be sure to check out James Holas and Andrew Lynch’s pages Fully Clips and Sun-N-Gun.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.