Shaq's resurgence as NBA's best deserves recognition
Posted: Thursday April 7, 2005 11:57AM; Updated: Thursday April 7, 2005 9:48PM
Shaquille O'Neal has scored more points in the past but he's never had a more efficient season shooting the ball than this one.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Burns' MVP Ballot
SI.com's Jack McCallum writes that for all he's done for the Suns and the NBA no one deserves the MVP more than Steve Nash.
My NBA awards ballot arrived the other day. As in recent years, it came by e-mail. No more need to cut down trees for commissioner David Stern's annual postseason honors.
But while the mode of delivery might be new, the NBA's MVP criteria remain as vague as ever. Is the award supposed to go to the league's best player? Or the player who makes the biggest difference for his team?
The NBA offers no guidance to its media voters. Unlike some of the other awards on the ballot, which feature a brief description of the purpose, the MVP ballot simply instructs the voter to list five players in order. The NBA no doubt likes it this way, since it leads to greater debate and controversy.
The vague nature of the MVP is particularly relevant this year. Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash are clearly the two top candidates, ahead of LeBron James, Allen Iverson and Dirk Nowitzki. How one interprets the award (i.e, best player overall versus biggest difference-maker) is likely to determine how one votes.
For me, I've got to go with the best player. It just seems to make more sense. The NBA gives a championship trophy to the best team. It ought to give an award for the best player. This stuff about which player is most valuable to his team is too nebulous. By that measure, Andrei Kirilenko of the Jazz would be a top candidate. Take any star player off his team and chances are the team would go in the tank.
How then does one determine the best player? One rule of thumb is that it's the player most GMs and coaches would select first if they were drafting a team to win a playoff series right now. By that standard, Shaq is the MVP.
He is averaging 23.0 points and 10.6 rebounds in just 34.4 minutes per game. He leads the NBA in field-goal percentage (.599) and is sixth in blocks (2.4). Just as important, he has helped the Heat to the league's second-best record (56-19), just a tick behind Nash's Suns.
Shaq, by his very presence, changes the game at both ends. Every opposing coach starts his game plan by trying to figure out how to deal with the 7-foot-1, 330-pound monster. As Bulls coach Scott Skiles said earlier this season: "I'm of the school of thought that says Shaq should be MVP every year."