The Hornets and Cavaliers played an outstanding game Wednesday night, exchanging last-second daggers in what was eventually a one point victory for New Orleans. The highlight of this game was the match-up of LeBron James and Chris Paul, the youngest two members of the MVP debate. James and Paul are not only MVP favorites, but they also are battling for the crown of fantasy basketball player of the year. Letís take a minute here to make their cases for both real life and fantasy MVP, then Iíll sit back and let you make the final decision on which of these two youíd take for each.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, James is the most gifted physical specimen in the NBA. He is 6-9, 260 pounds, as fast as a guard, as strong as a center, and can out jump anyone. On top of the physical skills, though, James also has excellent floor vision and basketball instincts which make his ceiling as a player non-existent. He is the primary ballhandler, the best distributor, the best scorer, and at times the best rebounder on the Cavs and his 31-point/7-assist/8-rebound averages this season let us know that he could legitimately average a triple-double in the near future. James has also developed a killer instinct, leading the NBA in fourth quarter scoring and making himself one of the most feared players in basketball at the end of games. He is dominating the APBR-metric stats for player efficiency rating (PER), and when he was injured earlier in the season the Cavaliers were winless which helps indicate how important he is to his team. Ultimately, the strongest argument against him winning the MVP is that his team doesnít have enough wins, and players from teams with less than 50 wins are almost never chosen as MVP.
Fantasy-wise, outside of the obvious 31/7/8, James is also one of only six players in the NBA to average at least one 3-pointer, blocked shot, and steal per game. Jamesí Achilles heel remains free throw shooting, but it has improved slightly this season and with all of his other numbers James is by-far the favorite to be the first overall player taken in fantasy drafts next season.
While James is a physical one-man show, Paul is like a master puppeteer on the court. He uses his knowledge of his own skills, his teammatesí strengths/weaknesses, and the weak spots of the opposing defense to control every aspect of the game with the ball in his hands. He has proven time and again that he is willing to take, and make, the big shot at the end of games but perhaps more importantly he is also willing to make the correct pass (as he did Wednesday night in setting up David West for the game winner). Paul is lightening quick with the ball in his hands, and his hands are perhaps even quicker on defense where he leads the NBA in steals. Paul elevates the play of his teammates by putting them in the best positions to succeed, which is why he is widely credited for the improvements of David West, Tyson Chandler, and Peja Stojakovic this season. Ultimately, his MVP candidacy rests upon where the Hornets finish in the Western Conference: if the Hornets are the number one seed out west, Paul could very well win the MVP.
Fantasy-wise, Paul leads the NBA in assists and steals, is the only 20-point/10-assist player in the NBA, shoots 50% from the field and 85% from the line, knocks down 1.2 treys, and is ranked number one in just about every fantasy rater. The fact that he was also drafted later than James in every league should also be an advantage for Paul in the race for fantasy MVP.
So, who do you choose as your fantasy MVP? Are either of these your real-life MVP, and if so what makes you choose one over the other? For those looking for Kobe or KG in the MVP debate, they get their turn in this space next week.
Posted by Professor at 3/27/2008 9:23:00 AM
|OK, that subject line is horribly unfair. Why would I use the occasion of Chris Webber's retirement to dredge up his most infamous on-court moment -- the time-out call with no time-outs remaining that handed the 1993 NCAA title to Dean Smith and the Carolina Tar Heels?
Hey, it's tournament time.
That said, I hope Webber will be remembered for more than that one bonehead play. He's retiring with career averages just a hair shy of 20-and-10 -- and at 20.7 points, 9.7 boards and 4.2 assists-per-game on his career, he's one of only six players in NBA history to average 20-9-4. You've probably heard of the others: Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, Billy Cunningham and Kevin Garnett.
Numbers aside, Webber -- along with guys like Vlade Divac and Rick Adelman -- turned the Sacramento Kings from a perennial laughingstock to the most entertaining team in the league, helping to usher in a new era of faster-paced, highly entertaining basketball. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his part in that.
So good luck in whatever you do next, Mr. Webber. You'll be missed.
Posted by Charlie Zegers at 3/27/2008 7:17:00 AM