Don't dismiss Dirk as MVP candidate

ESPN.com’s John Hollinger presents a strong case that LeBron James needs to make room for another MVP honor in his trophy case.

“The best player in the league is LeBron James,” Hollinger writes in his Insider column. “It's not even close.”

There’s really no way to argue against that. I certainly couldn’t debate that Dirk Nowitzki is a better player than King James.

But it’s the award that goes to the most valuable player, not the best player. And a strong case can be made that no player is more valuable to his team than Dirk is to the Mavericks.

The proof is in the plus-minus differential, which Rick Carlisle pointed to when pumping up Nowitzki as an MVP candidate to the New York media last week. According to 82games.com, Dirk has the largest positive differential in the league, as the Mavs are plus-12 per 48 minutes with him on the floor and minus-10.1 when he sits. That’s a swing of 22.1 points, more than doubling LeBron’s differential.

“That means he’s more valuable to our team than any other star is to theirs,” Carlisle said.

Or you could just look at the Mavericks’ record with and without Nowitzki. They are 34-8 when Nowitzki plays, including a sweep of the season series over a certain star-studded team from South Beach. They are 2-7 when he wears a designer suit.

Hollinger anticipates this argument like Jason Kidd anticipates a cutter coming open, noting that the Cavaliers’ first-to-worst misery trumps the dead-without-Dirk logic. No question that LeBron was the league’s most valuable player to his team while working in Cleveland the last two years, which is why he has a pair of pretty Maurice Podoloff Trophies.

But no team this season depends on a superstar more than the Mavs do with Dirk, which is why he shouldn’t be dismissed as an MVP candidate before the All-Star break.