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Nash should three-peat as NBA MVP
by Marc Narducci / March 9, 2007

Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash arguably is having his best season which is saying something sime he happens to be the two-time defending MVP.

Nash was a deserving recipient the previous two years, so what should that say about his chances this year? While DallasDirk Nowitzki should receive serious consideration for being the leader of the NBA’s best team, it’s would be hard to knock Nash off the MVP perch.

Even though there is roughly one-quarter of the regular season remaining, if the MVP voting were done now, Nash should three-peat with the NBA’s top individual honor.

Of all the statistics, the one that is the most compelling is 2-4, as in the Suns record in games Nash hasn’t played in this season.

At this writing, Nash was averaging 19.2 points, 11.7 assists, 3.7 turnovers and was shooting 53.4 percent from the field, 88.6 percent from the foul line and 48.1 percent from three-point range.

Nash’s assist average is more than two per game higher than his nearest competitor and his three-point percentage trailed only Miami’s Jason Kapono.

Compare those statistics to his two previous MVP NBA seasons. In 2004-05 Nash averaged 15.5 points, 11.5 assists, 3.3 turnovers and shot 50.2 percent from the field, 88.7 percent from the foul line and 43.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Last season he averaged 18.8 points, 10.5 assists, 3.5 turnovers and shot 51.2 percent from the field, 92.1 percent from the foul line and 43.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Of the three seasons, he is averaging more points and assists and shooting a higher percentage from the field and from three-point range this year.

So if he is playing better this year and nobody is outperforming him, then Nash should be the hands-down winner. There are some old hard-line voters who will point out that only three players in the history of the game have won three consecutive MVPs and that Nash doesn’t belong in that class.

The three three-timers to win the award since it was presented in 1955-56 are Bill Russell (1960-61, 1961-62 and 1962-63), Wilt Chamberlain (1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68) and Larry Bird (1983-84, 1984-85 and 1985-86).

Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson never won more than two in a row. All-timers Oscar Robertson and Julius Erving only won the award once apiece.

There will be some who suggest that if Jordan didn’t win three in a row, how could Nash? That’s utter nonsense. Nobody is saying Steve Nash is better than Jordan, or the Big O or any of the other all-time greats.

What happened with Jordan’s voting should have no bearing on Nash. If he is having the best season three years running, that’s the way it goes. And Nash should be justly rewarded for it.

The best argument for Nash is that he makes others around him better. Raja Bell is averaging a career high 15 points per game.

All-stars Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, great players in their own right, are both shooting well above 50 percent and part of that is that Nash gets his teammates easy baskets.

Oh, and another reason Nash should be the MVP is that Phoenix is again among the top teams in the league. Currently, only Dallas has a better winning percentage.

Which brings us to Nowitzki, who might be the best shooting 7-footer in NBA history. He is averaging 25.3 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 50.4 percent from the field, 42-5 percent from beyond the arc and 90.7 percent from the foul line. Nowitzki’s assist to turnover ratio of 3.5 to 2.07 is below average.

He has been the best player on the best team and like Nash, has played a role in helping make his teammates better, just not as big as one.

Nowitzki is averaging about a point per game less than last year, but he hasn’t had to score as much because his teammates are better. He is also averaging 36.8 minutes, not overly high, but one reason is because Dallas has often won convincingly, allowing coach Avery Johnson to clear his bench.

If he won the award over Nash, it would be no means be a travesty. Nowitzki has strong MVP credentials, but Nash’s MVP resume is more complete.

As for the other candidates, both come from the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, who has never won the award, and two-time winner Tim Duncan of San Antonio.

Bryant has sacrificed shots for the betterment of the team and is playing a strong all-around game. Duncan might be the least heralded future Hall of Famer.

As for other players, Cleveland’s LeBron James, the preseason favorite according to this reporter, has been inconsistent and his foul shooting has become a source of concern. Actually the top player from the Eastern Conference this year might be Toronto’s Chris Bosh (22.4 ppg., 10.3 rpg.).

Still, unless he get injured or his production and team’s win total falls dramatically, Nash is playing at a high enough level to earn his third straight Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Marc Narducci covers the NBA for The Philadelphia Inquirer and is a frequent contributor to HoopsHype.com.

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