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Once again this season, Dirk Nowitzki is proving he's one of the premier players in the league. He's a perennial All-Star power forward whose ability to score has always been consistent because he shoots such a high percentage from the field, on 3-point attempts and at the line.He's got to be the best big man shooter of all time. Add to that that he plays hurt, he's a great team player and as great a clutch shooter as there is in the league. He is quite a weapon.
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For me, there are three major factors to consider in an MVP race, and if you're comparing two guys, two out of three takes it (all of this assumes we're talking about the best player on a team): role, efficiency in performing that role and the success of the team.And yeah, LeBron James is the MVP this year, and it's really not all that close at this point. Frankly, I think Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade are the only other people who votes could legitimately go to if the season ended today. Just quickly: • In terms of role on team, only Wade creates more points than LBJ, and it's by a two-point gap, with Wade playing many more crunch minutes, which are huge in terms of numbers. Add all that to what LeBron does on the boards and on the defensive end. • When you look at plus-minus, it's LeBron, CP3 and everyone else, with those two accounting for a positive value of 23.2 points per 100 possessions. When LeBron is off the floor, the Cavs are a minus-9.6 team. That would make them the worst team in the league. The second-best player on the team was dumped by the Bucks this offseason, and the Bucks weren't lighting the world on fire when Mo Williams was their second-best player. The Cavs' starters alone have missed 51 games this season. And this is the team with the best record in the NBA. • In terms of efficiency, LeBron is on pace to set a PER record, and he's got Kobe and Wade beat fairly handily in terms of TS percentage, with a turnover rate better than Wade's and, on a per-possession basis, his assist ratio is better than either of theirs. • In crunch time, LeBron's numbers are better than anyone else's. (In "clutch" situations, he averages what would extrapolate to 53.2 points, 13.5 rebounds and 12.1 assists, and averages 53 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3 and 85 percent from the line.) And more importantly, the Cavs are the second-best fourth-quarter team in the league and have been absolutely phenomenal in clutch situations, losing only two games by three points or less. (On two controversial referee decisions: the back-to-back alley-oop fouls and, yes, the infamous "crab dribble" game.) This is the team with the best record in the league, and it's almost entirely because LeBron is having an absolutely superhuman season in every imaginable facet of the game. I think that four players this season are having seasons that could have won an MVP award in previous years, and I think LeBron is head and shoulders above that pack. He's been that good. To read more from Krolik, check out his TrueHoop Network blog, "Cavs: The Blog."
TrueHoop The play of the NBA on Thursday night was Rudy Fernandez ending the third quarter with a nifty baseline drive to catch a Sergio Rodriguez pass and then swoop in for a little reverse. Only the quarter wasn't exactly over. Phoenix inbounded for the final tick, Fernandez picked off the pass and nailed a 3. It was the chalupa shot -- it took the Blazers to 100 points, and the whole place just went insane. After it happened, it occurred to me that Fernandez seems to have a particular skill in scoring at the end of quarters. That baseline drive to catch a pass from Rodriguez ... I've seen that before. I e-mailed Haralabos Voulgaris, who has his own massive database of just about everything you could imagine that happens on an NBA court, to see if he could confirm that Fernandez has scored a lot at the end of quarters. A few minutes later he replied with all kinds of fascinating data, which he has given me permission to share. This is his list of 2008-09's highest scorers (through Thursday) on plays that initiated within the last 24 seconds of any quarter (with desperation heaves filtered out and totals over 1.1 bolded): 1. Chris Paul: 98 points on 92 plays (1.07 points per offensive action.)
2. Dwyane Wade: 88 points on 106 plays (.83)
3. Brandon Roy: 82 points on 68 plays (1.22)
4. Andre Iguodala: 76 points on 77 plays (.99)
5. Devin Harris: 71 points on 70 plays (1.01)
6. Lou Williams: 70 points on 70 plays (1)
7. Nate Robinson: 68 points on 83 plays (.82)
8. Vince Carter: 65 points on 66 plays (.98)
9. Kevin Durant: 64 points on 56 plays (1.14)
10. Jason Terry: 64 points on 56 plays (1.14)
11. LeBron James: 64 points on 82 plays (.78)
12. Richard Hamilton: 61 points on 54 plays (1.13)
13. Kobe Bryant: 60 points on 68 plays (.88)
14. Raymond Felton: 58 points on 74 plays (.78)
15. Jarrett Jack: 57 points on 56 plays (1.02)
16. Jamal Crawford: 55 points on 56 plays (.98)
17. Paul Pierce: 55 points on 49 plays (1.12)
18. Baron Davis: 54 points on 70 plays (.77)
19. Ben Gordon: 52 points on 56 plays (.93)
20. Randy Foye: 51 points on 67 plays (.76)
21. Manu Ginobili: 51 points on 48 plays (1.06)
22. Rudy Fernandez: 51 points on 46 plays (1.11)
Chris Paul just missed that cut, but at his size, and with that volume -- everyone knows he's little, and everyone knows he's going to take the shot -- he clearly has a special ability to elude the defense. Also it occurs to me that the Thunder, Sixers, and Blazers all have surprisingly good end-of-quarter scorers. Brandon Roy is something special -- highest efficiency in the list, and among the higher volumes. Kobe Bryant and Roy both have 68 plays, but Roy turned them into 82 points, instead of Bryant's 60. Worth noting, though, is that Roy clearly tends to make his move earlier than some. Very few of his plays ended in the final three seconds, which I know because Voulgaris also sent over a similar listing, sliced and diced to show plays that ended in the final three seconds of a quarter, and Roy was nowhere on it. The points per play were lower in that list, as the clock is clearly a good defender. And the standouts here were mostly guys who play alongside superstars -- perhaps they have a better chance of getting open? Jason Terry (27 on 27 plays), Roger Mason (24 on 24), Jeff Green (21 on 21), Andre Iguodala (31 on 32), Kevin Durant (18 on 19) and Fernandez (18 on 19). Superstars were less efficient: LeBron James has 33 points on 42 plays, Chris Paul 31 on 49 plays, Dwyane Wade 25 points on 46 plays (the lowest efficiency of the 19 biggest scorers in the last three seconds), and Kobe Bryant 18 points on 30 plays. Also interesting is that plenty of good teams, including Orlando, Denver, Houston, Phoenix and Utah, have nobody on either of these lists.
To read more from Abbott and the TrueHoop Blog Network, click here.
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LeBron's 29 points helped the Cavs defeat Dallas in the teams' last meeting, in the second week of the season. Can the King have similar success on Sunday and stretch Cleveland's win streak to 12?
Patrick (Dallas): I think the point about Tony Parker is that he is now the #1 guy on that team, at least offensively. Duncan is the rock and anchor on defense, but Parker has quietly become the #1 option on offense. Adande: I still think a healthy Ginobili is more vital to that team on both ends of the floor. They didn't have a chance against the Lakers last year because he was hobbled, and won't have a chance this year if he can't go full speed.
mike newark ohio [via mobile]: what do you think about the cavs thinking about bringing big ben off the bench, and you dont buy boston doesnt care about home court do you? Adande: Don't see anything wrong with bringing Ben off the bench. And as much as the Celtics might say it, making extra road trips takes its toll, especially when the three most important players are in their 30s. I remember the Lakers having to hit the road for the second and third rounds in 2003, and by the end they were wiped out. One thing that would help is at least the Celtics wouldn't have to go through two time zones.
Andrew (Ohio) [via mobile]: JA, can we please put to rest the idea that anyone else should be the MVP this season besides LeBron. Have you seen his 28, 9, and 9 he has put up during the cavs win streak! Adande: At this point it's not even LeBron's to lose. It's just LeBron's • Read the rest of Adande's chat
The NBA Today crew discusses some of the craziest happenings of the NBA season, and Jason Smith talks to Marc Stein about the trade made at the deadline and why a pregame routine, like those of Shaq and LeBron, is a good thing.