Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday Slams: NBA's dynamic duo, Deng, MVP and more!

I’m sick. I hate being sick. However, being sick gives me a license to lie in bed and watch basketball, and this makes me happy. It’s probably not the most exciting way to usher in 2007, but anyone who knows me knows I’m not very exciting.

Anyway, I’m watching the Suns play the Chauncey Billups-less Pistons, and I can’t get over how well Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire run the pick and roll. I know that I’ve written about this before, and this isn’t exactly news, but Nash and Stoudemire have become the John Stockton and Karl Malone of the current NBA. The play is unstoppable. It’s being run so well by this duo that I can’t figure out why Phoenix doesn’t run it every time down the floor.

Steve Nash can always just pull up and shoot. If he’s not feeling that, he dumps it to Stoudemire, who is back to 100% and is dominating people one-on-one.

So, defensively, do you double Amare? How about doubling Nash? You can’t do either. What makes the play so lethal is that it invariably leaves Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa or someone else wide open for a three-pointer.

Thankfully, I’m not an NBA head coach, because I have no idea how you defend this for an entire game. I expect that when it comes to playoff time, Phoenix will pick and roll even more. That’s the main reason why I picked them to win the NBA title this year.

DENG…HOW ABOUT THE BULLS?

Luol Deng is playing like he wants a fat, new contract. This is a smart decision, since he’s in line for a fat, new contract.

While Ben Gordon gets a lot of love for his instant offense, Ben Wallace grabs the boards and plays the tough defense, and Kirk Hinrich is lauded for leading, it has been Deng who has been the Bulls best overall player this season. Deng is averaging a career-high 18 points and is shooting a career best 54%. Last night, he carried the Bulls to a huge victory over the Cavaliers, scoring 32 points on 15 of 19 shooting.

I think at this point the Bulls and Pistons are the two best teams in the East, and considering the Ben Wallace factor, that could make for an interesting time in the spring.

But regardless of how good they end up being, Chicago is going to have to seriously consider locking Luol Deng up long term with a big money contract, and that could cause a whole different set of interesting circumstances this spring.

Will John Paxson move Deng to get Kevin Garnett? Will the Bulls decide they can win it all with what they have, a seemingly legitimate question based on how they’re playing? Can the team afford to pay all of their young talent, or will they trade someone to stay under the luxury tax?

Luol Deng isn’t exactly making the decision an easy one for the Bulls upper management, but I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way right now.

THE MVP RACE

I know we’re only a third of the way through the season, but the MVP race is going to be controversial again.

Steve Nash, the two-time winner of the award, is having his best NBA season statistically. I would consider him the front-runner again at this point, and he deserves it. He’s actually getting better as he gets older. In my opinion, he finally deserves the MVP award (I wouldn’t have given it to him two years ago or last year).

But Steve Nash can’t win this award again. He just can’t. There’s no way you can argue that for the last three seasons he’s been the most valuable player in the league. Phoenix has way too much talent around him. Would they be as good if he were lost for the year? No. Would they drop off completely? No.

And I suppose that’s the crux of the award. Those criteria are mine and it’s how I would base my vote if I ever had the chance. But that’s not to say all writers feel that way.

Regardless, we have a long list of early season candidates. Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tim Duncan are all right there so far.

But the one player you have to watch out for in this race is Dwayne Wade. Have you seen how bad the Heat is without him? Plus, you know that once Shaq gets back, Miami is going to make a run. How strong of a run they make could go a long way towards impacting the MVP race.

Amazingly, it’s Steve Nash’s award to lose again.

PUTBACKS

-The new ball is done after tonight. How long before the players complain about the switch taking place in the middle of the season? I’m going with Saturday.

-How can fans and coaches possibly be expected to pick the All-Star forwards for the West? Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Shawn Marion, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Zach Randolph are all deserving of a trip to Vegas this year, and I’m not even including Elton Brand or Josh Howard in that discussion. This is one deep conference.

-I feel bad for Mike Fratello. He never had a chance this year when Pau Gasol got hurt. At least the Czar of the telestrator will find TV work immediately, and it’s likely he’ll rarely draw an assignment in Memphis.

-Can you believe that Ron Artest for Corey Maggette trade didn’t happen? Again, use common sense with rumors and the outcome is clear. I can’t stress this enough.

-HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

2 comments:

Joseph said...

I have hard time believing that Steve Nash will win that MVP again for the third year... BUT I also have little doubt that he is the MVP. You mention that Phoenix has too much talent around him to win the award. But look at last year when Stoudemire was injured. He was still able to engineer 50 or 60+ wins if I remember correctly. Plus, looking at the league this year, I don't think Kobe, Kevin, or Tim's having as a good a year to dethrone Steve Nash whose on his way to his third hardware.

Anonymous said...

Hands down at this point in the season Nash is the MVP. No one else is even close. But, I agree, there's no way that he wins it 3-years in a row.

I read in the Tribune today that Skiles said that Nash is 'the best basketball player on earth'. I don't agree with that at all. He may be the best team player, but if I'm starting my own NBA team, I take Kobe or Lebron or probably 20 other players before Nash.