As we near the home stretch, it's time to start handicapping the field for the NBA MVP Award.
Valid arguments can be made for LeBron James
, Kobe Bryant
, Chris Paul
and to a lesser extent, Dwight Howard
. Amare Stoudemire
needs to factor into this discussion as well. And if you want to simply look at the numbers, this quintet deserves the most accolades.
But what about the intangibles? Which player has had the biggest effect on his team?
From this perspective, Kevin Garnett
deserves plenty of consideration for helping to guide the Celtics from the worst record in the East last year to the best record in the NBA this season.
Will he win it? Considering he missed a good chunk of the season with an injury, he's having his worst season statistically in over a decade, and he plays less then 34 MPG, I don't like KG's chances once the voters start to cast their ballots.
But has a single player meant more to his team than The Big Ticket has to the Boston Celtics?Paul Pierce
, who's lived through the nightmare that has been the Celtics' existence in the past couple of years, is convinced.
"The whole face of the Celtics turned around when the trade happened with this guy. Everyone talks about MVP, and they talk about numbers, but this guy has changed the whole culture around here."
Is The Truth speaking it?
Well, Garnett did his thing again Wednesday night, stepping up with 30 points to help the Celtics end a two-game skid by hammering the Suns 117-97.
KG pulled down a mere three boards – that's just eight rebounds in the past two games for the guy who has won the last four rebounding titles – but he helped in other ways with six assists, two steals and two blocks.
While we ponder whether Garnett – the only one of the main candidates who has won it before – can garner another MVP Award, let's take a tour around the NBA on the Wednesday that was…
- Tracy McGrady's concerns about his shoulder seem unfounded now after he enjoyed a fine night on Wednesday. T-Mac's shooting woes continued (9-for-25), but he shook off his shoulder and ankle injuries and just missed a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He's playing heavy minutes (40.4 over the past five), but has responded nicely, averaging 22.2 PPG with 7.0 APG and 6.8 RPG. McGrady got off to a fine start this year, but then plodded along for a few months, dealing with injuries over some of that stretch. With Yao Ming sidelined, however, T-Mac has stepped up his effort down the stretch, averaging 23.3 points, 6.3 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game during March. McGrady's overall value has slipped this season, however, as his touches have dropped for the second straight year, and his perimeter game in particular has taken a hit. T-Mac hasn't put up this few (4.5) 3-point attempts per game since 2001-02 when he was with the Magic.
- I have been quite remiss this season as I have yet to give it up for Mike Dunleavy. But hey, what can I say? The dude deserves some big-time kudos. Last night, he turned in another spectacular night at the office, flashing some all-around skills with 33 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 44 minutes, with five three-pointers, seven assists, six rebounds, a steal and a block. It'll do. Dunleavy is putting up 22.4 PPG with 4.8 APG in the past five as his breakout season just keeps hitting new levels. He's actually playing slightly less than he did after arriving in Indy mid-season after last year's massive trade, but his outside game this season has been off the charts. Relative to his fantasy draft position, Dunleavy has been one of the top steals in the NBA this year.
- The Cavs are expecting to get Daniel Gibson back from his ankle injury on Saturday, but will likely be without Ben Wallace (back) for the weekend action. The Cavs have lost two straight, so getting Boobie back will be a nice shot in the arm. But with Big Ben remaining out of action, Anderson Varejao, who had a double-double last night, should continue to start. Wallace's absence has more or less coincided with Zydrunas Ilgauskas' recent scoring bonanza. Big Z kept pouring it on last night with 29 points, while adding 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, confirming his status as a must-own player.
If the Chris Kaman
owner in your league gave up on the Clipper big man, you better pounce fast. The former mountain man is back after missing the last nine games with a back woe, and he came through with 16 points last night. He only managed five boards and failed to block a shot, so it's going to take him a while to regain his full game, but Kaman's return will likely spell the end of what little value Josh Powell
: Paul Pierce
scored 27 points Wednesday, combining with KG to give Boston two players with 25 or more points for the first time since January 31. Need more evidence that the three-star system has hurt the fantasy value of this trio?...Kendrick Perkins
has done nothing lately but aggravate his dwindling owners, but last night he came through with a double-double. Let's hope this is the start of strong finish…Ray Allen
's scoring slump continued with just 14 points, but he's been helping out in assists, with 14 in the past two games, including eight Wednesday…Rajon Rondo
has been slipping, and I'd call him inconsistent at best in recent games, but last night he enjoyed a solid performance with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists…Shaquille O'Neal scored 16 points, but his recent run of double-doubles ended as he managed just seven boards. He also got T'ed up…Amare Stoudemire
continued his dominating offensive run with another 32 points last night. His other numbers have slid recently, but with an average of 30.8 PPG over the past five, Stat is bringing it. Unfortunately, the Suns' seven-game winning streak has come crashing to halt with losses to Detroit and now Boston…The C's had dropped five straight to Phoenix dating back to 2001…Boris Diaw
's value continues to plummet, but in 25 minutes off the bench Wednesday night, he reminded us what he's capable of with 15 points, five boards, five assists and a steal…Steve Nash
has been held to under 10 assists in three straight games, and hasn't managed as many as a dozen in the past six…Once upon a time, we thought Eddie House
would be a key player off the Celtic bench. He hasn't played as many as 20 minutes in any of the past six games. Even so, he's still managed seven 3-pointers in the past three games…James Posey
is another Celtic reserve I thought might have some occasional use, but as the season has progressed, his numbers have slipped as he struggles through his worst NBA season…Leon Powe
had shown a little scoring touch in two of the past four games, but he managed just three points Wednesday, confirming his fantasy irrelevance…Atlanta held on to eighth spot in the East with an easy win over the Bucks last night, but the Hawks may have lost Mike Bibby
to another thumb injury. He exited early with a sprain to his left thumb – the same one he needed surgery on previously. X-rays were negative and Coach Woodson insists Bibby will suit up Friday, so perhaps Atlanta will avoid major calamity here…Josh Boone
lit it up for a career-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but was unable to keep his great rebounding streak going. If the Nets weren't battling for a playoff spot, Boone would likely completely swallow Nenad Krstic
's minutes…David West
sunk just 7-of-19 from the field, but his jumper with 0.6 seconds to play gave the Hornets the win and gave him at least 20 points in all four games since he returned from his latest ankle injury…Ricky Davis
shook off some recent offensive doldrums with 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists last night. He also canned seven 3-pointers…Philly continues to roll, with its third straight win last night, taking the 76ers' record to 11-2 in March. It's time to take another look at Louis Williams, who led the way Wednesday with 23 points, five assists, four rebounds, a steal and five treys. But how about Andre Miller
? Forget about the fact he only scored nine points. The dude dished 18 dimes while adding eight rebounds and a couple of steals…Devin Harris
wasn't at his best last game – a rarity since arriving in the swamplands – but he sure made up for that last night with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and a career-high 15 assists. Harris hit three from downtown and tossed in a couple of steals…Man, did the Raptors need that. The last time they beat a good team was over a month ago, when they downed the Magic on February 20. Since then, Toronto had gone 6-12 until beating Detroit last night, as T.J. Ford
, inserted back in the starting five, came through with 13 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Chris Bosh
had just 21 points and six boards, but shot well (10-for-19) and added three assists and two steals…Andrew Bogut
was enjoying a superb game (27 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal), but he then had to exit after getting clipped by Marvin Williams
. Bogut's noggin may be busted, and that could sideline him for a spell, so check for an update on the situation this afternoon…Break out the bubbly! The Knicks' franchise record-tying seven-game home losing skid is over. Thank you, Miami, for playing a part in yet another slump ending…Pau Gasol
's ankle will keep him sidelined through the weekend, meaning the earliest he'll return to action will be Wednesday. ..The Spurs have turned things around after their four-game losing streak. They have now won five consecutive games to again tighten up that great Western race…Rasho Nesterovic
's solid March has been rewarded as the Raptors put him back in the starting five. He responded with 15 points, nine boards and four blocks. If you're seeking a nice waiver wire pickup this week, Rasho's your man. Andrea Bargnani
, meanwhile, has sunk to new depths (three points on 1-of-4 shooting in just 13 minutes), and should be jettisoned pronto…It was close, just a one-point loss, but the Grizzlies have now dropped to 1-24 in franchise history in Sacramento's Arco Arena including 19 straight losses. You think when they decide to blow that place up, that Grizz ownership will volunteer to press the button?…Our fears about Brandon Roy
's injury have been realized as it's been announced he'll miss at least two weeks and possibly be unable to return this year. Jarrett Jack
, Travis Outlaw
and Martell Webster
all gain in value as a result…Put Roger Mason
on your radar. The dude nailed six treys – five in the final stanza – on his way to 22 points last night…An off night for Kobe Bryant
boiled over with a couple of quick techs and then an early trip to the showers…Alexander Johnson
returned from his bruised knee last night. The Heat would be wise to let him show what he can do down the stretch. If that happens, he could be worth a look…Chris Duhon
was back in action and played all of three minutes last night. Please tell me you don't still own him…Ron Artest
is about as banged up as you can get, but he's still producing, scoring 24 points with six steals, five rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers last night...Speaking of the Kings, K-Mart is rolling now, scoring at least 30 points in three of his last six games, including 36 on Wednesday…Well, at least Darko Milicic
is playing starter's minutes even if he isn't looking very fantasy worthy. While he did have nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal, Darko sunk just 2-of-5 for four points and now is stuck in a 2-for-9 shooting drought…Despite his 3-for-10 shooting last night, Nick Collison
is looking like a fine waiver wire pickup with Chris Wilcox
(pinkie) still out. Collison had 21 rebounds and five assists on Wednesday. Team Report
Even if the Orlando Magic suffer its traditional late-season swoon – and with three losses in the past four games and some injuries to key personnel, it looks like a possibility – the team is likely locked in to the third seed in the East with the Southeast Division all but wrapped up.
Regardless of how it finishes, it's been a fantastic year for Orlando, as this team massively improved its offense – especially from beyond the arc -- and became one of the NBA's better road teams, a trait that will stead the Magic well come playoff time.
Newcomer Rashard Lewis
hasn't been the go-to guy he was last year in Seattle, but he's helped add much-needed depth to this organization. He snapped a scoring slump Tuesday with 24 points, so let's hope he can finish with a flourish.Hedo Turkoglu
has enjoyed a career year, but he was knocked out Tuesday with a wrist injury. Thankfully, it's not broken and there's no tendon damage, so he's only out day-to-day, a huge relief considering how massive the Turkish Delight has been this season. Keith Bogans
had some value when he was starting earlier this year, but injury issues and ineffectiveness since his return have rendered him essentially useless for fantasy purposes. Having struggled to score in his past couple of games, Bogans should likely be dumped even in the deepest of leagues.Dwight Howard
, as discussed above, has been playing like an MVP this year. On Tuesday against the Spurs, he chalked up his eighth 20-20 game of the year. To put that in context, Howard became just the sixth player to have a game of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds against Tim Duncan
in the Big Fundamental's career. The others? Marcus Camby
, Dirk Nowitzki
, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
and Amare Stoudemire
. With 14.5 per game, Howard is a cinch to wrestle the NBA rebounding crown from KG this year.
With all the offensive firepower in Orlando, Keyon Dooling
hasn't had enough touches to be useful this year, but he's cooking lately, and after scoring 19 points on Tuesday needs to at least be watched as a waiver wire possibility.Jameer Nelson
ran into a brick wall by the name of Dwight Howard
Tuesday, suffering a bruised jaw that knocked him out of the game. Nelson's value has again been restricted by PT this year. If this guy is ever going to take it to the next level – something that is rapidly becoming a doubtful proposition -- he'll need to start logging starter minutes. The Magic needs a real point guard if it has championship aspirations.Carlos Arroyo
dealt with a foot injury earlier this year that really limited his value, but now that Turkoglu and Nelson are out, he may finally have some fantasy use. On Tuesday, he played significant minutes for the first time in a couple of weeks, and responded with 17 points. If Nelson will miss time, you may want to consider Arroyo.
Heading into the season, I considered J.J. Redick
somewhat of a sleeper, even capable of stealing the starting two-guard job at some point, but the addition of Maurice Evans
has pushed the sophomore down on the depth chart and near the end of the Magic bench. We had a Redick sighting on Tuesday, but he has still failed to play even ten minutes in a game since last month. What a massive disappointment the former Duke star has been as an NBA player to date.