NBA Futures: League MVP
by Drew Mangione - 10/30/2006
If you grew up a basketball fan in the 80s and 90s, playing in backyards and suburban playgrounds, you probably knew him. He wore that annoying No. 23 jersey and never let the fact that he had lacked the fundamentals get in the way of him thinking he actually was MJ. The good players strained to put him in his place, but like a hemorrhoid, that just opened up his opportunity to flare up at the worst times. But in the end, he didn't usually win; he just chipped at your pride enough to talk a big game.
Well, that experience has not been exclusive to playground hoops. Since Jordan started burning up nets in the NBA, good players have often had to deal with someone labeled the next MJ because he wore 23 or had a couple of spectacular plays. The media played him up more than the guys with actual skills, but in the end he self destructed or had an otherwise respectable career always tarnished by disappointment.
No one has dethroned Michael.
Now, with the NBA embarking on a seventh decade, we have a new standard. We, the fans, finally have an heir apparent. In fact, we have two: Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. These two young horses don't play like they're trying to be carbon copies of Jordan. And by being themselves they might make Kobe Bryant, who has been crafting the MJ act since dominating at Lower Merion in Philly, look like the hemorrhoid now that he can't lean on a Shaq in his prime.
Kobe has never won an MVP because better, more team-oriented players-Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash-deserved it more. In 2006, the MVP is a two-horse race and more than two-thirds of the league's GMs seem to agree with that. Dirk Nowitzki was the only other player given a chance. By the way, 82.1 percent of those GMs said they would start a franchise with Wade or James over any other player in the league.
Here are a few predictions for the 2006-07 season:
Most Valuable Player:
1) LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers (3/1)-The young phenom should follow MJ's career path, winning his first MVP in his fourth season. However, unlike the former Chicago Bulls superstar, the kid from Akron should win his first division title as well. If he doesn't, it opens the door for only a handful of others.
2) Dwayne Wade, G, Miami Heat, (5/1)-The Finals MVP has caught the league's attention and it doesn't seem like he'll let up any time soon. He's poised to win the Eastern Conference again, but may not have the numbers to overcome the King James PR machine.
3) Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks (7/1)-He wouldn't be the first foreign-born MVP (Olajuwon, Duncan and Nash) but he would be the first European. It's amazing what a little defense will do for your image.
Others favorites: Kobe Bryant, G, Los Angeles Lakers, (4/1), may have a hard time making the playoffs, let alone winning a division, making it hard to win an MVP with the win-oriented media; Tim Duncan, F/C, San Antonio Spurs, (15/2), appears to have lost a step, but if he comes back strong, he already has the credibility among voters; Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets, (8/1), earned a lot of respect in the World Championships, but he needs to improve on both sides of the court; Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns, (8/1), has already won two, could a Canadian win three straight?
Long shots: Dwight Howard, F, Orlando Magic, (75/1), is the next big thing and could get some votes if he steals the division away from Wade's Heat; Elton Brand, F, Los Angeles Clippers, (22/1), may be the best player everyone forgets, and that amnesia might be the only thing keeping him from serious contention.
(All odds courtesy of Bodog sportsbook.)