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Stretch-run showdown (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday March 8, 2006 12:53PM; Updated: Thursday March 9, 2006 1:48PM
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What he needs to do to win it: Get the Lakers in the playoffs, and hope Nash and Billups split the vote.

Wynn odds: 5 to 2

Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons

Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups

Pros: The QB of the league's best team has taken his game to a new level. He's averaging 3.0 more assists than a year ago and ranks in the top 5 in assists (8.8), three-point shooting (.428) and assist/turnover ratio (4.19). He's a better defender than Nash, and also a great story of perseverance after having bounced around with so many teams earlier in his career.

Cons: He might not be the best player on his team. Also, Nash has better numbers in scoring, assists, free-throw percentage (.911 to .929) and shooting percentage (.417 to .498).

What he needs to do to win it: Lead the Pistons to the NBA's best record, and get his teammates to campaign for him.

Wynn odds: 12 to 1

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki

Pros: The clear-cut leader and go-to guy for one of the league's top teams, the 7-foot German carries the scoring load most every night. He's having his best season shooting, and his defense has improved. He's also taken a more vocal role as team leader.

Cons: His stats are actually down in several key categories from the past few seasons. He's still not a great defender, and the emergence of Josh Howard has taken some of the spotlight off Nowitzki. It doesn't help either that the Mavs have cooled off a bit in recent days.

What he needs to do to win it: Raise his rebounding and assist numbers, and lead the Mavs to the best record in West.

Wynn odds: 5 to 1

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James
LeBron James

Pros: He posts terrific numbers across the board and has the Cavs poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997-98. The All-Star Game MVP ranks in the top 10 in scoring (30.7) and assists (6.8) while among the top 15 in steals (1.55). His scoring is up 3.5 points from a year ago.

Cons: Like Kobe, he has not elevated his team to the top of the league. His defense is shaky at times. Only 21, he will get many more chances to win the award.

What he needs to do to win it: Lead the Cavs on a rampage the rest of the season, and hope Kobe's Lakers don't make it.

Wynn odds: 15 to 1

Elton Brand, Los Angeles Clippers

Elton Brand
Elton Brand

Pros: He's a two-way workhorse who ranks in the top 10 in scoring (25.8), rebounds (10.0), blocks (2.59) and field-goal percentage (.530) and has transformed the Clippers into one of the NBA's surprise teams. His scoring is up more than five points per game from last season. It also doesn't hurt that he's a good guy.

Cons: No matter how great he plays, he is still considered a notch below Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett among the NBA's best power forwards. Plus, the Clippers aren't in the same class as the Spurs, Suns and Mavs.