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John Hollinger: Dirk Clearly Deserves the MVP

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Hollinger has made some Mavs fans pretty angry this year with his Power Rankings, but he's no Mav hater or anything. He's touted Dirk as the MVP for quite a while now, and he makes his case in a blog entry today (insider).

But the king of killing you softly is Nowitzki. He can be hard to appreciate because one of his greatest attributes is the absence of negative plays. Nowitkzi turns the ball over on only 8.1 percent of the possessions he uses, the lowest rate among the league's go-to guys (which I've defined as a Usage Rate of 25.0 or higher; Michael Redd, at 8.3 percent, is second).

Throw in averages of 50.1 percent from the floor, 90.1 percent from the line and you get a true shooting percentage of 60.6 -- again, this is the best among go-to guys (Bryant is a distant second at 58.9 percent; Nash devotees will note he leads the league in this category at 65.5 but doesn't have a high enough Usage Rate to qualify). Combined with his 41.8-percent shooting from 3-point range, and he's banging on the door of the prestigious 50-40-90 club.

Moreover, the combo of rare turnovers and few misses means he gets his points while still leaving plenty of possessions on the table for other Mavs to score. That consequently explains why Dallas can have such an efficient offense even with a largely shoot-first, one-on-one crew.
Update [2007-3-26 17:35:45 by Wes Cox]:Henry Abbott just wrote on this as well, and he explained Dirk in the best way I've ever read - and in just three small paragraphs.
In fact, I wonder if this is a key insight as to why Nowitzki hasn't captured the imagination of TV viewers quite like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have. We don't get to see Nowitzki embattled very often. We don't get to see him falling down, making the play against a hard-fouling double team. We don't get to see him making too many impossible shots. Why? Because when the hard double team comes, he generally gives the ball up. Instead of taking impossible shots, he finds the kinds of easier shots that come with being seven feet tall, skilled, and mobile.

That approach doesn't help his hero rating, probably, but it does help his team.

The downside, of course, is that he's not as accustomed to having to score anyway. He's the master of taking what the defense will give. He's less practiced at the art of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, which is taking even more (which may not even be all that important, so long as he has teammates who can get the job done). Sometimes that's what crunch time is about: everyone -- including the defense -- knows it's going to the star, and they have to deliver anyway.