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Taking a Look at the LVP Race

Less than three weeks. That’s what is standing between us and the beginning of what could be the most interesting playoffs in recent memory.

But before we argue about whether or not Golden State has the necessary tools or experience to win the title (they do), whether “Playoff Rondo” will show up in time to help Dallas upset a highly-seeded team (he won’t, probably), or whether it’ll be Cleveland or Atlanta representing the Eastern Conference (my pick is Cleveland, but I’ll have to watch while drooling at the basketball being played by both teams), we have to finish the discussion on who will win the MVP for the regular season.

It’s an interesting topic, and I actually do have an opinion on who should win, but I’d bet you would rather eat those leftovers in the back of the fridge still in the plastic container due to fear instead of reading another “Who Should Win MVP” post from someone who doesn’t have a vote.

What I do have a vote on – and in fact, we all have a vote on – is the LVP for the year.

While the MVP doesn’t have an exact definition (is it the best player, best player on the best team, the player having the most impressive statistical season or some combination of the three?), the LVP does have some qualifications:

  • The player has to have changed teams the past summer
  • The player has to have been healthy for at least 60 percent of the season
  • The player has to have played more than 20 minutes per game
  • The player has to have severely underperformed according to his expectations
  • A player that makes more money than a fellow LVP competitor starts at a disadvantage

Let’s take a look at our candidates in alphabetical order:

Trevor Ariza
Ariza probably doesn’t belong on this list, but I’m sure Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expected more from him when he inked him to about $8 million per season over the next 4 years. Ariza went from a shooting split of 46/41/77 in his final year in Washington to 40/34/88 this season, which translates to a drop in true shooting percentage from 59 percent to 53 percent. On the plus side, the last few months have seen improvement, and his rebounding and assist numbers are almost identical from last season .Also, the Rockets didn’t sign him because of his offensive game. Ariza has still been an outstanding defender, allowing James Harden to take the easier assignment. (something he couldn’t do last year with Chandler Parsons by his side)

Carlos Boozer
Boozer doesn’t have a great case either as his $3.25 million contract will expire this season, but when a player is more well-known for screaming after making a play rather than the play itself, you deserve a nomination for LVP. Boozer is averaging 12 points and seven rebounds on 51 percent shooting this season for the 19-win Lakers, and his defense has been as horrid as ever.

Jodie Meeks
At three years and almost $19 million, a few eyebrows were raised when Detroit signed the 27-year-old shooting guard away from the Lakers, and it seems the questioning was justified. Meeks missed the first 22 games of the season, and he hasn’t exactly been lighting the league on fire since. After a season in which he shot 40 percent from three while also showing improvement in his touch around the basket (68 percent from inside three feet last season, per Basketball-Reference.com), both have regressed toward his career averages. (33 percent and 61 percent, respectively) Meeks’s numbers look similar to Ariza’s shooting numbers, but Meeks isn’t exactly the staunch defender Ariza is, giving him an edge for LVP.

Lance Stephenson
I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but this award may change its name from the “LVP” to the “Lance Stephenson” if a better candidate doesn’t present himself. After signing a three-year contract for $27 million (third year is a team option), Stephenson has had just a bit of a drop-off in production this season. Averages of 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists with shooting splits of 49/35/71 normally calls for more than $9 million per season, but that’s all Stephenson could command due to worries about his attitude and possible outlier season. Those doubts may have been warranted based on his current season: Averages of eight points, five rebounds and four assists with shooting splits of 38/16/62. The only saving grace for the Hornets is that team option.

Mo Williams
The dark horse candidate for the award is a player that just won’t stop shooting. Among players playing under 30 minutes per game, only five take more shots per game than Williams, per Basketball-Reference.com. Williams averages a shot every 2.3 minutes he’s on the floor. Mo Williams is a 41 percent shooter!

I could get on board with Williams chucking at an alarming rate if he was even an average shooter. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the NBA average for three-point percentage is 35 percent this season. Williams is sitting on 35.3 percent for the season, but inside the arc is where the real problem lies.

The league average for a two-point shot is just over 48 percent this season, and Mo isn’t doing that any favors with his 44 percent mark on over seven attempts per game. Admittedly, he has been better since being traded to the Hornets, and he also has an expiring $3.75 million contract that could keep him out of contention, but none of that means he doesn’t deserve a nomination.

And the winner is…

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