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The great debate part 1: Who’s the NBA’s MVP this year?

By Tony Pizza

In a spelling bee, his name might stump most eighth graders, but if someone wants to know how to spell Dirk Nowitzki’s name, he or she will have to look no further than the name inscribed on the 2007 MVP trophy.

Now, if the MVP award were suddenly transformed into the MGP (Most Gifted Player) award, Kobe Bryant would be a shoo-in finalist every year. If the MVP award were suddenly named the MVD (Most Valuable Distributor) award, Steve Nash would take the cake. But because it is still the MVP award, Nowitzki will be the winner this year.

To prove this point, I’m going to take a logical approach. Throw scoring titles, assist averages and buzzer-beating shots out the window; those are arbitrary numbers when it comes to talking about something as subjective as predicting the league MVP.

Nowitzki is the biggest reason the Mavs are the best team in the NBA. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a great cast of players assembled around him, but he makes each one of those players better, and not by distributing the basketball or drawing quadruple-team defenses and then throwing up impossible turnaround shots.

With the exception of maybe Carmelo Anthony, Nowitzki is the hardest player to match up against in the league. If a team decides to throw an undersized player on him, Nowitzki will eat that guy’s lunch in the form of turnaround and fade-away jumpers from the low block. If teams decide to try and match his size, Nowitzki draws the big guys to the perimeter and will either beat them with his nimble foot speed or unclog the middle for the rest of his teammates.

Don’t think for one second that Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Howard and Jason Terry don’t improve exponentially with open lanes to maneuver through.

This isn’t to say that Nash or Bryant don’t open up similar opportunities for their respective teammates, but these guys are replaceable.

Let’s pretend for a second that Bryant went down with some season-ending neck injury and Zen master Phil Jackson somehow hypnotized David Stern into letting the Lakers borrow Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Anthony or Tracy McGrady for the rest of the season. Can anyone honestly tell me the Lakers would have significantly different results?

The same is true for Nash. All the Suns need is an unselfish guy who can distribute the ball and hit three-point shots every once in a while. Does that mean Scott Skiles or Kenny Smith would deserve an MVP nod if either of them were the Suns’ starting point guard this year?

Put Jason Kidd, Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Tony Parker in Nash’s place, and the Suns don’t drop off, either.

The point is, these guys fill roles they have to fill to make their teams good. This makes Bryant and Nash great players, but they are not MVPs.

The same cannot be said for Nowitzki. No 7-footer can work the perimeter like Nowitzki does, and then get back and play a solid brand of defense, as well.

If the name Mehmet Okur just popped into your mind, stop. Find a tack hammer and then smash one of your pinkie toes, because Okur is to defense as Greg Ostertag is to sure hands.

If none of this reasoning has convinced you of the truth, then allow the following fact to rock your boat.

The Mavericks are on pace to become just the 6th team in NBA history to eclipse the 67-win plateau. When Michael Jordan’s 1991-1992 and 1995-1996 Bulls teams did that, he won the MVP. When Larry Bird’s 1985-1986 Celtics team won 67 games, he won the MVP, as well. And when Wilt Chamberlain’s 1965-1966 Philadelphia 76ers and 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers teams won 67 and 69 games, respectively, guess who was MVP? Yep, Chamberlain was. So if you ask me why I think Nowitzki will win the MVP, I answer, “Who am I to mess with history?”

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