“With the playoff seeding set, the biggest race in the NBA now – besides the one where they play for the Larry O’Brien trophy – is the MVP battle. The past three seasons, the MVP races have been very close. This year, much like last year, the race is narrowed down to two real contenders: two-time reigning MVP Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki (sorry Kobe and LeBron fans).””
With the playoff seeding set, the biggest race in the NBA now – besides the one where they play for the Larry O’Brien trophy – is the MVP battle.
The past three seasons, the MVP races have been very close. This year, much like last year, the race is narrowed down to two real contenders: two-time reigning MVP Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki (sorry Kobe and LeBron fans).
It’s very hard to argue against Nash’s importance to the Suns, but Nowitzki has had a better season and is my pick for the MVP this year.
1. New Dirk = more wins
Nowitzki has made the ultimate sacrifice this season. He let his statistics take a hit for the betterment of the Mavericks. And it has worked.
Dirk is taking less shots per game than last year (17 per game down from 19) and less 3-pointers. The Mavs need him to score more points near the basket because of the slew of talented perimeter players they have. The Mavs offense, which is always dangerous, is now even more devastating because of Dirk’s willingness to defer to other scorers.
The Mavs have won six more games than last year heading into yesterday’s game. That may not seem like many games, but it’s the difference between having the best record in the NBA and the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
2. Putting the D in Dirk
Nowitzki’s transformation has not been limited to the offensive end. Dirk’s noted defensive toughness vaulted the Mavs to the Finals last year and has carried over into this season. As a team, Dallas is allowing just 93 points per game, fifth-lowest in the NBA. Coach Avery Johnson – the architect of the defensive revolution in Dallas – stresses team defense. The system does not work if the post players, Nowitzki especially, are not willing to help perimeter players when they get beat.
Nowitzki has also improved his one-on-one defense. According to 82games.com, a basketball statistics Web site, Dirk is only allowing his counterpart 13 points of production (not necessarily points scored), while he produces 30.2. Considering the amount of talented power forwards in the West, 13 points is very good. Nash, on the other hand, produces 25.7 and gives up 16.1.
3. In the clutch
Nowitzki is often overshadowed by Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade, when it comes to the Who would you want in the clutch? debates, but he should garner more respect.
The Mavs are 25-8 in games decided by five points or fewer this year and Nowitzki has produced in this very situation. 82games.com defines a clutch situation as less than five minutes to go in regulation or overtime with neither team leading by more than five points. In these situations, Dirk is shooting 47 percent from the field and is 48-of-53 on free throws. If you average Dirk’s performance in the clutch over a full game (48 minutes), he would average 46.4 points per game (38 for Nash).
Dirk also has only committed five turnovers in the clutch this season. I wonder why the Mavs won so many close games this year?
4. Winning the numbers game
Dirk’s statistics, while less than what they have been in the past, are still better than Nash’s. Dirk is 11th in the league in scoring (24.6 points per game) and 13th in rebounding (8.9). He only takes 17 shots per game, which is fewer shots than any of the top 13 scorers in the league.
He also has a more well-rounded game than Nash. If you take both players’ league ranks in field goal and free throw percentage, blocks, steals, rebounds, assists and points and add them, Dirk’s total number is 240, while Nash’s is 381. Neither number is bad, but Nowitzki’s is much better (remember, the lower the number the higher the ranking).
For those thinking that Dirk takes way more shots than Nash, consider this: Dirk averages .99 points per shot while Nash averages .86 points. And Dirk only takes four more shots per game than Nash.
5. More wins
The main statistic of any team sport, however, is wins. And Dirk’s team has more than any other team in the NBA. He is the best player on the best team in the league, which does not necessarily make you the MVP.
I look at the team’s record much like the MVP race. While 60 wins is very good, it’s not as good as 66 (or 67). Nash’s resume is good but Dirk’s is just a little better.
“” #1.1362072:1473699949.jpg:Dirk color.jpg:Dirk Nowitzki should garner the MVP award that has eluded him.:MCT”