Looking at the entire NBA roster, I realized one thing; Gone are the days when a few players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul Jabaar ruled the league with little to no viable competition to speak of. Today, however, there are so many quality players in the NBA that any one of 20 or 30 players could win the MVP next year. While some may say the Kobe Bryants, Tim Duncans and Steve Nashes are the ultimate favorites, plenty of up-and-coming youngsters are just as valuable to their respective teams as the aforementioned superstars. The following is a list of 5 players who are not at the top of the pecking order for MVP, but whose teams would suffer tremendously without them.
1. Chris Paul: This third-year point guard is extremely valuable to his team. The 2008 season has been the best start for the Hornets in a long, long time. And much of his success is due to Chris Paul’s performances thus far. Averaging nearly 20 points and 10 assists per game, Chris Paul has led the Hornest to a 12-7 record. And that’s in the West, where victories are very hard to come by. To take Chris Paul’s argument for MVP even further, just take a look at the Hornets’ record when Chris Paul isn’t in the lineup. He is quite pathetic.
2. Shawn Marion: When you play on the same team as Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash, the spotlight will rarely, if ever, be on you. This is why the Matrix never gets the respect it deserves. But Shawn Marion is a more complete player than Nash and Stoudemire. He can put up points, get blocks and rebounds and his defense is absolutely tireless day in and day out. Simply put, he does it all. And without his complete game, the Suns wouldn’t be as good as they are. They definitely wouldn’t be in the hunt for the NBA title.
2. Deron Williams – When John Stockton left the Jazz on the heels of Karl Malone, Utah basketball fans were in mourning. But then came the Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer era. They’re not quite as good as Karl Malone and John Stockton yet, but they’re coming. In my opinion, they are the best point guard and power forward duo in the NBA right now. Deron Williams showed great poise last year in the playoffs where the Jazz fell to the eventual champion Spurs. This year Williams is averaging 20 points and 9 assists per game. But aside from his numbers, it’s his attitude and swagger that make Williams such an asset. Now, even though they’re relatively young, the Utah Jazz feel like they can play anyone. And they are proving it this year.
Marcus Camby – If you were to play with Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony every night, you’d think your job was relatively easy, right? Wrong! Although Melo and AI are incredible scorers, they have a pretty big aversion to playing defense and doing the hard work. That’s why Marcus Camby, a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is so influential for the Nuggets. Without him, they’d still get over a hundred a night, but they’d give up twice as much. I know it’s a bit hyperbolic, but you get my point. Camby is underrated and absolutely integral to Denver’s success.
5. Last but not least, Stephen Jackson. Now, I know a lot of people write Jackson off as a thug who only fights fans and shoots his fellow strip bosses, but seriously, Stephen Jackson is a huge asset. This year, the Warriors started the season 0-6. Then, when Stephen Jackson’s suspension ended, the Warriors began to look like the team that shocked everyone last year by beating the Mavs. They were explosive, talented and strong on both ends of the floor. And while the obvious team leader is Baron Davis, Jackson provides the little things that get his team over the hump. Like all other Warriors, he can score. But besides that he is a great defensive player. He can defend the point, the 2 point and even the wings. He names another player in the NBA who can do that. Whose? Kobe? James? Bruce Bowens? That is a very good company to be. The ability to score and defend are two great qualities to have. But the best thing about Stephen Jackson is the energy of him. Teams that play with excitement and energy can often beat teams with much more talent. Stephen Jackson is definitely the reason for the Warriors’ turnaround of late.
I doubt any of these players will have a chance to be the MVP this year. But voters should definitely focus on complete, invaluable players for their teams. If so, these five would be in the running.