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Posted: Friday March 20, 2009 12:19PM; Updated: Friday March 20, 2009 1:20PM
Ian Thomsen Ian Thomsen >

Weekly Countdown (cont.)

3 Reasons Dwyane Wade could be MVP

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Led by Dwyane Wade, the Heat could end up with about 30 more victories than they had last season.
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I'm not saying he should beat out LeBron or Kobe, but if Wade is to become the first MVP in 27 years to win fewer than 50 games (dating to Moses Malone in 1981-82 with the 46-36 Houston Rockets), then he'll be chosen on this basis.

3. His team's improvement. After losing 67 games last season, the Heat are on track to win 44 -- a 29-win increase. Wade has everything to do with that, obviously, after missing 31 games last season while recovering from shoulder and knee surgeries.

(Note that James has Cleveland on pace for a 21-win improvement over last season, and even Bryant's Lakers are winning at a rate that projects to an eight-game improvement.)

2. His work rate. The NBA's leading scorer at 29.9 points, the 6-foot-4 Wade is second in steals (2.3), eighth in assists (7.6, ranking him first among non-point guards) and 18th in blocks (1.4, which rates first among guards). Wade is the only player in the top 10 in four major categories (points, steals, assists and minutes), and he is shooting a higher percentage than James or Bryant.

(However, James ranks No. 1 in "efficiency,'' a league-generated stat that accounts for points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Chris Paul is No. 2, followed by Wade, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson and Bryant at No. 6.)

1. His inspirational leadership. After missing 62 games over the previous two seasons, Wade has re-emerged as one of the league's hardest-working stars. The Heat are headed back to the playoffs with a young rookie coach in Erik Spoelstra and a rotation that includes five first- or second-year players. Wade's scoring and assisting are responsible for almost half of Miami's field-goal output this season. He seemingly leads the league in game-winning highlights while producing 11 games of 40 points or more, resulting in eight Heat victories.

2 Collegians with something to prove

Before the start of the NCAA tournament, I asked a trusted NBA scout to identify two big names who need to improve their stock.

2. Jrue Holiday, freshman guard, UCLA. "From what I know, his plan was to be one and done -- one year in college and then into the draft. But he has regressed this year to the point you say, 'This is not the guy I know.' He just hasn't made shots and now it's in his head. You know a guy has lost all confidence when they pass him the ball because he's open from 17 feet, but he doesn't shoot it -- he takes one dribble to take a 16-footer that's contested because he thinks the closer he gets the easier the shot will be.

"I have him rated [as a draft pick] in the 20s, where earlier this year I had him going nine to 14."

(Holiday had 13 points and six assists and made 5-of-12 from the field in the Bruins' 65-64 victory against VCU in the first round Thursday night.)

1. Austin Daye, sophomore forward, Gonzaga. "He has had an awful year. Just awful. At the start of the year I had him rated in my top five, and now I don't have him in the first round. He makes some shots, but he doesn't rebound enough, he's not very tough, he doesn't cover. He just hasn't done what we all thought he would do. But he's playing for a high-profile team, they should have a couple of games at least in the tournament, and maybe he can right the ship.''

(Daye finished with 10 points, five rebounds and four blocks in Thursday night's 77-64 victory against Akron.)

1 Sad goodbye

1. To Joseph Edward Ford, 49. He was a devout Celtics fan, a believer who always wanted to talk about the promising young players whether they were Delonte West and Al Jefferson or Rajon Rondo and Gabe Pruitt. Rarely does it matter to me which team wins or loses, as I'm always happy for a few people on the winning side and sympathetic to a few others. But today I find myself sadly exultant that the Celtics won their championship last year, because I remember looking up to the balcony throughout Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the dim, distant figure of my brother-in-law Joe standing in the third row with his wife, Lorrie, to celebrate the day he always knew would come. A loss would have changed nothing in his life, so well did he live, and yet no one was happier to see them win. In my heart, they won it for Joe.

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