Off The Markley » Los Angeles Lakers /off-the-markley Redeye Blogs Thu, 22 Mar 2012 06:00:55 +0000 en hourly 1 Best NBA Playoff Picture, MVP Race in Years /off-the-markley/2011/03/10/best-nba-playoff-picture-mvp-race-in-years/ /off-the-markley/2011/03/10/best-nba-playoff-picture-mvp-race-in-years/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2011 06:16:29 +0000 stephenmarkley /off-the-markley/?p=519 Continue reading 'Best NBA Playoff Picture, MVP Race in Years']]>

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE, US PRESSWIRE / March 6, 2011

I’m now one of those idiotic people who is trying to live without a TV or cable. This is obviously the way to do it now with Hulu and Netflix and illegal downloads omnipresent, but the one problem is sports, which I’m learning as the NBA season winds up.

Without a doubt, this is a new golden age of professional basketball. The individual talent, the level at which the top teams are playing, the excitement of a playoff race that will likely come down to a handful of games at season’s end all combine to make this one of the best basketball seasons in a long time.

This could also turn out to be one of the best playoff seasons in a generation. In the east, you have three excellent teams in the Celtics, Heat and Bulls. Yet the Magic have proven they can’t be discounted in a seven game series, and now one of those teams will have to face the Carmelo-juiced Knicks with veteran point guard Chauncey Billups (a PG who knows how to win a title is no small addition, although I hardly heard anyone mention Billups in the hoopla surrounding that deal).

If I were Chicago or Miami, I would be working the skin off my hands to get to that second seed and play Philadelphia’s talentless concoction rather than the Knicks (and we’ll get back to Miami and Chicago in a second).

Over in the west, the Spurs are way out in front, but basically know one thinks they’re going to the finals. They didn’t help their cause this past weekend by dropping a horrendous game to the Lakers at home, and even though Kobe et al are running 6.5 games back right now it is a well-worn axiom of the NBA that the team to beat is the team that won the ship the previous year. Until the Lakers are lying dead with a Spur, Maverick, or Celtic foot on their broken throats, I would not blame anyone for taking the Lakers.

As distasteful as I find him, Kobe Bryant is one of those hyper-competitive players who can turn it on in the playoffs after a season of letting his team coast. The real question in the West is how the fifth, sixth, and seventh seeds pan out. Right now Denver, Portland, New Orleans, and Memphis are all in the mix, but if I were a top team, I would not want to play the Blazers in the first round. LaMarcus Aldridge, it turns out, is a stud, they stole Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats for nothing at the trade deadline, and they just came off impressive-as-hell wins in Orlando and Miami the other night. Teams that peak so beautifully this late in the season are always dangerous.

Finally, you have one of the most interesting MVP races in years, basically boiling down to LeBron James and Derrick Rose. I think you put Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki in that conversation, but at the end of the day, it’s gotta be either James or Rose. From a statistical point of view, they are both having impressive-as-hell seasons. Rose is just under 25 points, with 8 assists and 4 boards per game, while LeBron is throwing down a respectable 26, 7 and 7.5.

In my estimation–and despite my bitterness toward the former King of Ohio–LeBron is still the best player in the world. The MVP, however, isn’t just about the best player in the world. Otherwise, you’d never have guys like Steve Nash or Charles Barkley winning the award. It’s about the best player on a top team that allows that team to achieve regular season wins that it wouldn’t otherwise. That’s a mouthful, but it’s also a careful calculus. Basketball isn’t football where you just hand the MVP to the best quarterback every year.

And Derrick Rose has turned the Bulls into a powerhouse. If they finish ahead of Miami, and a team of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh can’t win more games than a Cavs team of just James, how exactly does one make the case that LeBron is the most valuable player in the league? The Cavs went 61-21 last year for the league’s best record. The Heat will not be able to match that record.

Which is why I say, if the Bulls finish ahead of the Heat, as it seems they will, the MVP has to belong to Rose. If, somehow, the Heat manage an end-of-season run to vault ahead for that second spot in the East, give it to LeBron with an eye-roll.

Whatever the case may be, who wants to volunteer to let me come over and watch the NBA playoffs on their TV for a couple months?

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