October 31, 2011
Assuming that the National Basketball Association actually does tip off at some point during this calendar year, one player will be crowned its Most Valuable Player.
Derrick Rose: Derrick Rose, the NBA’s youngest ever MVP could win another award at the end of this season. He put up career highs in scoring and assists, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists. The only weaknesses in his game last season were his inconsistent jump shot and the corresponding low field goal percentage (career low 44.5% from the field) that came with missing open shots. These shortcomings were exposed by the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals when the Heat played basically a box-and-one zone with LeBron James against him. Rose was shadowed by James and met with a strong double-team when he tried to burn past him. This forced Rose to shoot both contested and uncontested shots in order to score. He shot almost 25% from the field in the series. With an extended summer of shooting drills and the better decision-making that comes with experience and studying tape, Rose could have a better 2011-2012 season than his MVP season. Having a more efficient season could bolster his numbers and ultimately win him his second MVP.
Odds: 12 to 1
Kobe Bryant: Kobe, “The Black Mamba” is still one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA, and he too already has one MVP. Bryant is getting a bit older and more injury prone, however he continues to improve his game in each off season. He conditions better than most NBA athletes, and he focuses his attention on different areas of his game after each season. Two years ago, he refined his footwork by working with Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the most graceful and efficient posts in NBA history. Last year, he focused on his positioning with good results. But, 2011 was filled with injuries. If he is healthy, Kobe Bryant is one of the NBA’s most complete scorers. He has a defined short, mid, and long range game. His scoring has dipped slightly for the last five seasons even though his average is still above 24 points per game. If Kobe can raise that scoring average on a team that is among the leaders in the NBA in wins, he may win his second MVP.
Odds: 8 to 1
Dwayne Wade: Dwayne Wade penetrates into the paint better than any other player in the NBA, and surpassed LeBron James as the leader and the best player on a Miami Heat team that reached the NBA Finals last year. He averaged 25.5 ppg. during the regular season which is slightly below his points per game average of the past few years, but that was a result of the arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Though his numbers dipped in the regular season and in the first two rounds of the Playoffs, in the Finals, Wade upped his scoring, field goal percentage, and rebounds to 26.5 , 54.6%, and 7.0, respectively. At the end of Finals games, the basketball was in his hands and he usually delivered. A season with averages that are slightly higher than his 25.4 point per game career averages and the best record in the NBA could garner the first regular season MVP award of Wade’s career.
Odds: 7 to 1
LeBron James: LeBron James is one of the most physically imposing basketball players in the NBA, and possibly the most physically talented player in NBA history. He is 6’8″, 260 pounds and as agile as a shooting guard. He is has two NBA MVP’s and a lot to prove this season. He was grossly outplayed by his teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in the NBA Finals last year. LeBron disappeared in the fourth quarter of at least three Finals games and again failed to secure a ring in his second trip to the championship round of the playoffs. He was hindered by his inability to effectively post smaller players to get easy scores and his inconsistent jumper. James is unstoppable in the open court, difficult to contain when facing the basket, but inept with his back to the basket despite being bigger and more athletic than everyone that guards him. James has a limited number of moves in the post, but scores and passes well there despite the public assessment of his game. He scores among the top 15% on the right block and in the top 4% on the left one. And allegedly, James has found his way to camp with Hakeem Olajuwon this year to work on his footwork and post moves. If LeBron learns to post well, no one will be able to guard him. Add in a reliable jump shot and he could be the only three-time MVP award winner of his generation.
Odds: 6 to 1
Dwight Howard: Dwight Howard was the most dominant big man in the league in 2011. He spent the summer of 2010 working with Olajuwon on a solid jump hook and counter moves. Yes, Olajuwon is apparently the go-to guy for everything post-related, and Dwight had the best scoring season of his career averaging 22.9 points per game on 59% field goal percentage after tutoring under him. Last year Howard finished 2nd in rebounding, field goal percentage, and MVP votes. He shot more free throws than anyone in the league and won his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award. And, if his offense progresses to 25+ points per game, he may win his first MVP.
Odds: 4 to 1
Kevin Durant: Durantula is the best pure scorer in the NBA. He also has a complete offensive arsenal, equipped with long, mid, and short range game. He has a smooth release with great touch on his jump shot. He is deadly in the post with long limbs, good footwork, and an assortment of flip shots. He is great on the wing because of deep range on his shot, excellent ball-handling, and an explosive first step. Durant’s offensive game has no real flaws and he is improving as a basketball player every year. He is the reigning scoring leader in the league and his team, the Oklahoma Thunder, are poised for another outstanding season. This gives him an advantage over most of the field. Durant scored 27.7 ppg. last season. With a little more assertion at the end of games and a higher scoring average, Durant will be the Most Valuable Player in the National Basketball Association.
Odds: 3 to 1