SB Nation's MVP: Do You Even Need To Ask?

(Ed. note: switching up the order here... Ending with Rasheed would just be wrong.)

Least Valuable Player? Rasheed Wallace

Nothing about what we are seeing now should be considered a surprise.  Just looking at his body of work, and in particular the last year or so in Detroit, we should all have known what to expect from Rasheed Wallace (too many 3's, talented but doesn't make best use of those talents).  So most Celtics fans went into this with eyes wide open. 
 
With that said, his talent and past success was also seen as an opportunity.  We hoped that he would be re-energized by the chance to play alongside other veteran stars with a chance at a title.  We hoped that he would see the opportunity to finish off his career on an high note and make one final push for the title.  Even if we got nothing from him in the last 2 years of his contract, if he worked out well this year, it would all be worth it.

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None of that has happened thus far.  In fact, there's a perception (be it fair or not) that the opposite happened.  Instead of the team infecting him with a winning attitude, he may have infected the team with a lackadaisical attitude.  That's not really fair to pin on any one person but it explains the angst directed at 'Sheed.
 
Of course all will be forgiven if he really can "flip the switch" in the playoffs and justify the Celtics "CTC (cutting the check)" for him.  But if he doesn't, all he'll be hearing is "ball don't lie" from the Garden faithful.

—SB Nation's Boston Celtics blog, Celtics Blog

2. (tie) Dwight Howard (1 Vote)

Even though half the game of basketall is spent on the defensive end, somehow the only defensive criteria for MVP has become "Above average?" Well, on my ballot I'm adding in a category that reads "Dominant," and Dwight Howard is the only player on the MVP short-list that can claim absolute dominance on both ends. If you pull up any page of league statistic leaders, you won't find LeBron or Kobe's face under even a single category, but Dwight's smile headlines blocks, rebounds, and field goal percentage. 

Look, the job of the center might not be glorious; there aren't many game-winning shot opportunities for D12. But there is a reason every GM is prepared to take a dominant big over a dominant scorer. Gimpy Jameer, Vinsanity, Matt Barnes, and Shard make up a mediocre to bad defense without Dwight Howard, but are the #1 defense with him. And if making up for Vince Carter's laziness doesn't make you an MVP, I don't know what does.

—DJ Turtleface, Straight Outta Vancouver

2. (tie) Kevin Durant (1 Vote)

Listen, nobody's saying LeBron James isn't the MVP. By any definition of the award--most outstanding or most valuable to his team--LeBron rates off the charts. But the argument for Kevin Durant is symbolic, if nothing else. So with that in mind...

When Kevin Durant's "on," he's the most unstoppable scorer on the planet. It's not about his insane true shooting percentage or his high efficiency numbers; to understand why Kevin Durant's one of the five best players in the league, and second most valuable this year, you just have to watch for those five to ten minute spurts when he's completely unstoppable. We saw this even when he was a rookie, and again last year, but this year, it got taken to a whole 'nother level. Where we used to get glimpses of what he might be, this year has been a prolonged look at what he is.

And as Durant's "dominant spurts" became more frequent, the Thunder went from a "plucky young team" to one of the more dangerous teams in the league. Not necessarily every night, but a lot of nights. And that's all Kevin Durant.

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This season, he became larger than life, and lifted his team to another place.

And it'll only get more eye-popping from here. Kevin Durant may not be the MVP this year, but putting him next to LeBron James is no coincidence. He's in that category now. And if you don't believe me, remember those glimpses of dominance his rookie year. Think back to some of those ridiculous stretches he would have last season. And think about this year, when he'd be superhuman for a game or two in a row. If you pay attention to Kevin Durant's evolution in the NBA, his unstoppable stretches are getting longer and longer. What used to be a few minutes on a higher plane has turned into a few games. Pretty soon, a few games of dominance is going to turn into a few months, or a season-at-a-time.

Pretty soon, the race for Best Basketball Player on Earth is going to have a second horse. It's appropriate to have Durant here not because he's close to LeBron; nobody is. Here's here because of a great season, but moreso, as a warning to the rest of the league. Pretty soon, nobody will be close to either of these guys.

—Andrew Sharp, SBNation.com

(Ed. note: Of course, when the whole argument for Kevin Durant centers on, "He's going to be in LeBron's category soon," well, that speaks for itself. LeBron James is the greatest player on earth, and that's the end of it. Nobody can argue. So with that in mind, we'll have two explanations here. First from our Orlando Magic blog, theoretically LeBron's biggest rivals, and then also from our Cleveland Cavaliers blog.)

LeBron James (24 Votes)

One of the several no-brainers on this year's ballot, James is far and away the best player on the planet. There shouldn't be any debate here, but there will be, as Tim Povtak--who has an MVP vote--said he won't cast a ballot for James due to his decision to sit out the last several games of the regular season. As of this writing, he's posting 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1 block per game on 60.4% True Shooting. He's led the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating for each of the last 3 seasons, and he's once again led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the league's best record.

—SB Nation's Magic Blog, Orlando Pinstriped Post, part of their End of Season Awards

"What can really be said about LeBron's season that hasn't been already?  LeBron is the best player on the best team —long considered a major reason to give someone the MVP Award in the past. For James, however, his ‘Value' to the Cavaliers goes much deeper. He's not the scorer Kobe is, or even Kevin Durant, because he chooses not to be—that's not what the Cavs need from him.  On some night he's the facilitator. On other nights he focuses on defense and rebounds.  Whatever the Cavaliers need, LeBron gives them - and most night he's the best player on the floor in any given discipline.

Perhaps nothing defines this more than a stretch of games in late January/ Early February when the Cavaliers were down to their last PG. Mo Williams and Delonte West were both out with injuries. Daniel Gibson - more of a 2-guard himself—was pressed into starting at the point with LeBron backing him up, especially at crunch time. While LeBron would prefer not to be the PG, he did it, and most nights was the best point guard on the floor. 

In the 9 games both West and Williams were out, the Cavaliers went 9-0 with LeBron averaging 10 assists per game.  LeBron did this while leading the team in scoring in 8 of those games. That is the value of LeBron James. He can play anywhere on the floor, fill any role. That's why James will easily win his 2nd consecutive MVP Award.

—SB Nation's Cavaliers blog, Fear the Sword

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