NBA Reader Mailbag: MVP Race, 6th Man, & More

March 25, 2011

Our readers always provide us with good comments and questions. Here is our latest sample from this week's reader mailbag:

1. Kien,

Who is the biggest threat to L.A. this year in the West, the Spurs, the Thunder, or the Mavs?

Dennis B.
Reno, Nevada

A couple of years ago, I stated that for a team to have a good shot at beating the Lakers, it needs the following components: a speedy point guard who can penetrate, three-point shooters, a double-team commander, and a “Kobe-stopper.” That still holds true this season, as the Lakers’ core and style are still the same as they were back then.

With that in mind, out of the three teams listed, Oklahoma City would be the biggest threat to L.A. this year in the West.

They have a speedy point guard in Russell Westbrook, who gave the Lakers fits in last year’s playoffs. They have players who are capable of hitting the long ball in Kevin Durant, James Harden, Daequan Cook, and even Westbrook, who has improved his outside shooting this season. They have a double-team commander in Durant, the league’s leading scorer, again. And they have a Kobe-stopper in Thabo Sefolosha, who has consistently played respectable defense against Kobe Bryant.

Not only do the Thunder have all four key components, they also have the size to challenge the Lakers this season. Despite Serge Ibaka’s uncanny ability to erase opposing shots, Oklahoma City couldn’t really measure up last season against the likes of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom. But with the addition of Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed this year, the Thunder have a more formidable front line.

As for the other two teams, the Spurs have the four elements covered fairly well, but without a healthy Tim Duncan, their chances have dramatically diminished. The Mavericks have played well this year like they usually do, but of the four factors, they have two at the most.

2. Kien,

First of all, I like your work man. It seems this season there are a lot of quality players coming off the bench.  Who is your Sixth Man of the Year?

Roberto O.
Santa Cruz, California

Two words: Lamar Odom.

Almost no one considers him a sixth man because he has started so many games for the Lakers. However, if you go by the NBA’s eligibility for the award, a player only has to come off the bench in more games than he starts.

Odom has certainly done that this season, coming off the bench in 37 out of 71 games so far. That may seem a lot more than most other players who have won the award, but he’s still within the criteria. Also, let’s not forget that his natural role on the team is coming off the bench. Most of his starts this season have been because of Andrew Bynum being out of action earlier in the year.

Technicalities aside, Odom is arguably having the best season of his career.

He’s shooting a career-high 54% from the field. He’s also shooting the three ball at 38%, also a career-high. Not only is he averaging 14.5 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game, Odom has been the most consistent Laker this season, with an efficiency rating of +20.06. On top of all that, his versatility has always made him a match-up nightmare for most teams because he can play at the 3, the 4, or the 5.

But like with the All-Star game, Odom will probably be robbed of this award, which is a real shame.

3. Wassup Kien!

Who are your top 5 MVP candidates, and who should win?

Alfonso M.
Bronx, NY

In no order of preference:

Kobe Bryant
Dwight Howard
Derrick Rose
Dirk Nowitzki
LeBron James

Who should win? That depends on how MVP is defined. If you go with the best player in the league, Bryant should take it. He’s been the best player in the league for a long time. Sure, he’s older, slower, and lower (to the ground), but he has the best skill set of anyone in the game applied to a combination of unflappable focus and obsessive determination. There’s no one else in the league who could put you in a better position to win. Whether it’s a series, a game, or a single play, not many would bet against Bryant.

If you go with best stats, it should go to either Howard or James. Howard is having another monster year with 23.1 points per game, 14.2 rebounds per game, and 2.4 blocks per game. He is also shooting 60% from the field and has a player efficiency rating of +28.67.

Similarly, James is having another “Oscar” type year with 26.3 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, and 6.9 assists per game. This is also his second-best shooting season at 50%, with a player efficiency rating of +27.78.

If you go with the subtract-him-from-the-team definition, Nowitzki would best fit the bill. The Mavericks would be the most crippled team if you removed him from the squad. All the other teams have enough star power and/or team effort to survive the loss of their best player. The Mavericks do not have that luxury. Jason Kidd, the only other true star on the team, is way past his prime. And while the rest of the roster is made up of decent-to-good players, they’re all really just complementary components.

And if you go with the make-your-teammates-better definition, Rose should be the recipient. He is the best player on a Bulls squad that looks to end the regular season as the top team in the East, and the second-best team in the league. The rise in his game this season has also elevated everyone else on the team. And his leadership and willingness to take the game into his hands down the stretch has not only garnered faith from his teammates, but coach Tom Thibodeau as well.

By Kien Le
Staff Reporter for

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