Well, it appears Steve Nash has worked his Canadian magic on the voters once again. Reports are circulating that Nash has won the MVP for the second consecutive season, boosting hopes for runty white guards all across North America.
I thought it might be interesting to compare Nash with LeBron James, who I consider to be the league's true MVP (with Kobe and Billups right behind). Specifically, let's look at that mystery called "most valuable." Every story you read in the next few weeks will center on how Nash boosted a team without Amare to a strong record, almost as if his surrounding cast was a bunch of stiffs straight out of the NBDL. But what if LBJ's teammates are worse; doesn't he deserve some credit as well? Here's a quick look at the two rosters:
Cleveland: Ilgauskas (15.6, 7.6 reb)
Phoenix: Marion (21.8, 11.8 reb)
Clearly, Marion is the better player, as he averages nearly as many blocks as the taller Ilgauskas, while grabbing an extra 1.5 steals, fewer TOs, and more points per shot.
Cleveland: Hughes (15.5, 4.5 reb)
Phoenix: Diaw (13.3, 6.9 reb)
A tougher call here. Diaw has never played this well in his career, so Nash has to get some credit for that. But the question is: Who’s a better player? Hughes.
Cleveland: Gooden (10.7, 8.4 reb)
Phoenix: Bell (14.7, 2.5 3’s per game)
Again, a tough call. Bell’s Roland Rating is +.1, Gooden’s is -.4, which is essentially a toss-up. Interestingly, Bell’s stats are virtually identical to his previous campaigns, with the exception of him chucking up way more 3’s than ever before. I’ll call this one even.
Cleveland: Snow (4.8, 4.2 assists)
Phoenix: Leandro Barbosa (9.3, 3.4 reb)
I had to mix this up a bit, as Barbosa isn’t really the 5th-best player, but it would be silly to match up Snow with Tim Thomas. Still, he is statistically superior to Snow.
Cleveland: Flip Murray (13.5, 2.8 assists)
Phoneix: Kurt Thomas (8.6, 7.8 reb)
Again, no way you’d ever deal Murray for Thomas, unless Murray’s nickname reminds you of Flip Wilson and you’re looking for that whole nostalgia thing.
Cleveland: Donyell Marshall (9.3, 6.1 reb)
Phoenix: Tim Thomas (11, 4.9 reb)
An interesting comparison. Both were top 10 picks, both have been considered something of a disappointment in their careers, although Marshall has been a consistent contributor throughout his tenure, while Thomas has been a salary cap menace to many teams. I think the majority of NBA GMs, in a world where the cap did not exist, would take Thomas.
That’s enough of the comparisons, as no one cares whether I think Anderson Varejao is better than Eddie House. The important point is that in four of the six comparisons, the Suns’ player was better, and in only one match-up was the Cavs’ player definitely superior (Hughes).
So, the result is that LBJ’s cast is easily worse than Nash’s, Amare or no Amare. And yet, James, who led his team to 50 wins is somehow less valuable than Nash, who led his team to 54? James, who scored 1,000 more points than Nash is less valuable? James, who averaged more steals and fewer turnovers than the “ultimate point guard” is less valuable? I don’t buy it.
I’m convinced that 20 or 30 years from now, basketball geeks will look back at these two trophies, look at Nash’s stats, and utter a collective, “Huh?”