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dirno2000
03-16-2006, 04:49 PM
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

Sometimes, we tend not to notice the things that are right there in front of our faces. Take the NBA's MVP race, for instance. In one corner, we have the players who are compiling prolific numbers, but for teams that have been inconsistent: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson. In the other corner, we have players who don't look like a stereotypical MVP statistically, but whose teams have enjoyed great success: Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki.
Forget Shaq for a second. Dwyane Wade is the man, too.

And then, somehow largely omitted from the discussion, we have the one guy who is performing at an absurdly high level and doing it on a contending team: Dwyane Wade. Yet we've hardly heard a peep about his being the league's Most Valuable Player.


Everyone realizes he's a great player, obviously. But I'm not sure people realize just how great he has been this year. Wade ranks "only" fifth in scoring, so the tendency is to think he hasn't been on par with players like Bryant, James and Iverson offensively. Yet because Wade is so much more efficient and is such a good passer, he's actually been the most productive offensive player of the bunch.

For starters, Wade shoots 50.2 percent from the floor, the only player in the league's top eight in scoring to hit more than half of his shots. Additionally, he attempts 11.1 free throws per game -- only LeBron gets to the line more -- and drains 77.8 percent of them. As a result, his true shooting percentage (his shooting percentage adjusted for 3-pointers and foul shots) is 58.3 percent, which comfortably tops that of James, Iverson and Bryant and ranks even with Nowitzki's.

Second, Wade is far better at creating opportunities for his teammates. Fully 20 percent of the possessions he uses end with an assist, nearly double the rate of Bryant (11.9) and Nowitzki (10.4) and far ahead of Iverson and James, as well. As an added plus, he's also a better offensive rebounder than those four, which helps get back the possessions he loses because of his slightly higher turnover ratio.

As a result, Wade is on top of the charts in player efficiency rating, my measure of a player's per-minute statistical production, and it's not because of his defensive rebounding or blocks or steals -- it's because he's been a more productive offensive player than anybody in the league, even Kobe Bryant.

Wade is probably the best defender of the MVP candidates -- the only other one who can make a good argument is Kobe. Although no player of this caliber is asked to be a defensive stopper full-time, Wade was a second-team All-Defense selection a year ago and has performed well again this season. In fact, the Heat give up two fewer points per 48 minutes when Wade is on the floor -- even though his backup, Shandon Anderson, is in the league only because of his defense. More amazingly, Wade and Tony Parker are the only MVP candidates who can say this -- the teams of Bryant, Nash, Nowitzki, Billups, James, Iverson and Elton Brand all give up more points when they're on the court than when they're off it.

But a lot of people still won't vote for Wade, because of the "Where would they be without him?" factor. Their argument goes something like this: The Suns without Nash, or the Mavs without Nowitzki, or the Lakers without Bryant, would be much worse off than the Heat without Wade. Miami, after all, still has Shaq, while the other clubs lack another star of similar caliber.

I've got news for you: The numbers say they're horribly mistaken. Miami without Wade this season has been absolutely horrendous. It's a bit misleading to look at the Heat's record when he doesn't play, since Miami is 2-1. Instead, look at the games themselves. Miami's two wins without Wade came against perennial doormats Charlotte and Atlanta, by a combined total of three points. And the one loss? A 111-93 thrashing by Phoenix in which the Heat gave up 47 points in the first quarter.

But fortunately, we have much more to look at than those three games -- we have Miami's entire season to digest. And based on those numbers, Wade has as much positive impact on his team as any other player in the league. Thanks to 82games.com (again) we can see how the Heat have performed with Wade on and off the court, as well as how the other MVP contenders have done.

And in this analysis, Wade is far, far more valuable to the Heat than Nash, Nowitzki, Parker, Billups and Bryant are to their clubs. With Wade off the floor, the Heat have been outscored by an eye-popping 8.8 points per 48 minutes. To put this in perspective, a team getting outscored by that amount would normally go about 15-67.

Additionally, no other Miami player -- not even Shaq -- has an impact anywhere close to this. Even when O'Neal is off the court, the Heat outscore their opponents by 2.9 points per game -- in fact, with any other player off the court, Miami still outscores its opponents. But without Wade, they suddenly morph into the 2004-05 Bobcats. Only one other player -- LeBron James -- is even close to Wade in this category, and in LeBron's case it's as much a condemnation of the Ira Newble/Luke Jackson contingent as it is a stamp of his own quality.

So we have a compelling case thus far that Wade has been immensely valuable this season. But I know what argument comes next: Wade can't be the MVP because the Heat is "Shaq's team," right?


Consider Wade's scintillating effort against Detroit, for instance, when he scored Miami's final 17 points, including the game-winner with 2.3 seconds left, for one of their most important wins of the season. Down the stretch of that game, as in most Heat games this season, it was Wade and not Shaq who was Miami's go-to guy.

Certainly, that perception seems to be killing Wade's chances right now. That notion was mildly annoying a year ago, when Wade played far more minutes than Shaq and was nearly as effective but got zero MVP votes to O'Neal's 58. But this year it's a preposterous proposition.

Unfortunately, we in the media probably aren't helping. Shaq is the most famous guy on the team and certainly the most loquacious, so he's our go-to guy anytime we need a quote. And if he's the one who always has his face in the mike, it only galvanizes our perception that it's "his" team. (Actually, it's Mickey Arison's team, but let's not get technical.)

Even Washington coach Eddie Jordan, whose team Wade has repeatedly shredded to pieces over the past 12 months, succumbed to the idea recently. "I'll say it's still Shaq's team," he said after a recent loss in which Wade burned him for 40. "I think he is the senior guy who has won the championships. He allows Wade to do his thing late in games, but I'd say it is Shaq's team."

The second part of Jordan's statement is the most important, because it's so widely believed. Because players like Damon Jones and Udonis Haslem had career years playing alongside Shaq a season ago, many folks believe that Shaq's arrival is a tide which lifts all boats.


But in Wade's case that's not necessarily true. He played much better last season in games in which Shaq wasn't in the lineup, and while that trend hasn't held up this year, the overall picture from Wade's two seasons with O'Neal doesn't show a strong impact by Shaq. Wade has played 28 games without O'Neal in the past two years (including two playoff games last season), and in those contests he's scored more while shooting a slightly lower percentage (see chart).


That is exactly what we'd expect -- a higher scoring average because he's getting more touches, and a lower shooting percentage because he's getting more attention from the defense. Once you compare the two numbers, the idea that Wade needs Shaq in order to play at this exalted level doesn't hold water.

This should be obvious if you think about it. While face-up shooters like Jones, Haslem and Christian Laettner last season benefited from all the attention Shaq got in the paint, it actually hurt Wade. Wade's game is all about driving to the rim with his blazing quickness, and there's a lot less room for him to do his thing with the Big Fella (and whatever 300-pound oaf is matched up against him) taking up so much room in the middle.

So in looking at Wade's season, let's quickly sum things up:

He's been the best player in the league statistically, as shown by his No. 1 PER.
He's arguably had the greatest defensive impact of any MVP contender.
His team has been massively worse when he's off the court.
He's the only MVP candidate who is both putting up monstrous numbers and playing on a contender.

If I made a case based on just one of these factors, it wouldn't be terribly convincing -- there are many different ways to evaluate players, and often they can give you very different answers about who is the best. But when all the indicators point in the same direction, it gets pretty tough to ignore.

And let's face it: It was plain to see if we looked. Wade has been right in front of our eyes all season, but because his team isn't an unexpected surprise, and we already knew he was a star, we've been taking his tremendous season for granted.

For most of the season, that's blinded us to the fact that he's become the best player in the league and is far more deserving of the MVP award than any of the other candidates thus far anointed. Fortunately, it's not too late to rectify the mistake. We may not think of the Heat as "his" team, but for Dwyane Wade, this season certainly should be "his" MVP year.

NXperience
03-16-2006, 06:15 PM
Yes give the award to the player of the 5th best team who also plays in the eastern conference ... yes he had a great year but to pick him in front of Nash or Dirk and maybe even Parker would be a joke.

bernardos70
03-16-2006, 08:09 PM
And in this analysis, Wade is far, far more valuable to the Heat than Nash, Nowitzki, Parker, Billups and Bryant are to their clubs. With Wade off the floor, the Heat have been outscored by an eye-popping 8.8 points per 48 minutes. To put this in perspective, a team getting outscored by that amount would normally go about 15-67.

So the Heat's inept bench is the reason why he should win MVP over Dirk?

dude1394
03-16-2006, 08:32 PM
At least the guy makes a case for it, pretty good one as well it seems to me. If his team were within...oh I don't know 7 games of the top spot maybe. :)

He'll probably get one and deserve it but Hollinger is off on this one, but it's a solid case, certainly as solid of one as billups/kobe imo.

jayC
03-16-2006, 09:39 PM
Billups has so much help. The Pistons do have four all-stars.
Wade is a great player, but the Heat didn't do anything without Shaq. Kobe has been great,but the Lakers are mediocre.

If the mavs finish with 60 plus wins Dirk should be the MVP.

dude1394
03-16-2006, 10:28 PM
To be honest I don't see anyone who's even close to being an MVP candidate this year besides Dirk and Nash..

Dirk and the mavs should finish easily within 1 game of the top record, I don't see how anyone else gets it. EXCEPT...we are talking the NBA here.

Dtownsfinest
03-16-2006, 11:12 PM
I mean the guy isn't too far fetched. I think all he's saying is don't forget Wade in the discussion of MVP talk. Does anyone disagree with that? Especially with Lebron and Kobe being candidates? The real candidates are Dirk, Kobe, Billups, Parker, and Nash. I could see any of those 5 winning but I have a strong feelings its Nash's to lose. The media loves him wayyyyyy too much. If the Spurs take the West I think they also take away Dirk's chances on winning MVP.

dude1394
03-16-2006, 11:18 PM
I was listening to the Hardline today and was flabbergasted by the unmitigated lovefest going on between Greggo and Reiner about Dirk.

It was the most effusive I think I've ever heard them for an athelete (at least in a while).

Some comments:
- Dirk plays his ass off every night.
- His intensity is way up since last year.
- We have all been taking him for granted, he just brings it.
- He's just really special. He does it all. Scores, rebounds, blocks, offensive rebounding, blocked shots.

They also went on a rant about how the national media's knock on dirk is that he doesn't play defense but for some reason Nash gets some sort of pass on it.

I was shocked to be honest, especially hearing it from Reiner as he's always Mr. Negative.


Oh I must add, the lovefest extended to Avery as well. Certainly I believe that Dirk is being pushed by Avery to be a better player. In fact they were saying that no one played as hard for Nelson as they do for AJ. I'm not sure about that, it was a different type of playing hard, they were one fly up the court, run it down your throat team for nelson.

u2sarajevo
03-16-2006, 11:56 PM
Dirk for MVP....

Okay, now what I really wanted to post about :p.....

Greggo's back on air? Did he explain what the problem was? (I've been out of town for a week, and don't get back home until tomorrow).

Dtownsfinest
03-17-2006, 12:24 AM
I was listening to the Hardline today and was flabbergasted by the unmitigated lovefest going on between Greggo and Reiner about Dirk.

It was the most effusive I think I've ever heard them for an athelete (at least in a while).

Some comments:
- Dirk plays his ass off every night.
- His intensity is way up since last year.
- We have all been taking him for granted, he just brings it.
- He's just really special. He does it all. Scores, rebounds, blocks, offensive rebounding, blocked shots.

They also went on a rant about how the national media's knock on dirk is that he doesn't play defense but for some reason Nash gets some sort of pass on it.

I was shocked to be honest, especially hearing it from Reiner as he's always Mr. Negative.


Oh I must add, the lovefest extended to Avery as well. Certainly I believe that Dirk is being pushed by Avery to be a better player. In fact they were saying that no one played as hard for Nelson as they do for AJ. I'm not sure about that, it was a different type of playing hard, they were one fly up the court, run it down your throat team for nelson.

There are times when the Ticket is so bad I have to turn it to ESPN 103.3. I've been doing this a lot lately.

chumdawg
03-17-2006, 12:27 AM
Dirk for MVP....

Okay, now what I really wanted to post about :p.....

Greggo's back on air? Did he explain what the problem was? (I've been out of town for a week, and don't get back home until tomorrow).He's addicted to Vicodin. Every once in a while he has to go detox.

u2sarajevo
03-17-2006, 12:29 AM
That's nice. Gordo assured us it wasn't for rehab, or any addictions.

:(

Thanks chum

chumdawg
03-17-2006, 12:31 AM
Oh, U2, I could be wrong. I'm just forwarding some mindless speculation, without regard to the man's character. Kinda like the Hardline does almost every day.

dirno2000
03-17-2006, 12:57 AM
He said it was a medical procedure that went horribly wrong but he wouldn't go into details so we're free to speculate.

Murphy3
03-17-2006, 10:17 AM
Yeah....he said that it didn't have anything to do with rehab ..or anything like that.

The speculation is that he had some issues with his new breast implants.

Thespiralgoeson
03-17-2006, 11:44 PM
Ah, vicodin...

sike
03-27-2006, 04:08 PM
Yeah....he said that it didn't have anything to do with rehab ..or anything like that.

The speculation is that he had some issues with his new breast implants.
rumor has it that he's hell bent on out jubbing, Jub.

sixeightmkw
03-27-2006, 04:17 PM
They need to tell us what happened. Even he said he would tell everyone what happened once he got back in D Magazine online.