Updated: Dec. 20, 2005, 8:09 PM ET

Choosing the leading Brand

By Greg Anthony
ESPN Insider

To me, the Most Valuable Player award should always go the player who has the greatest impact in making his team a winner. Individual stats can be deceiving -- the MVP isn't necessarily the best player statistically.

But my current leader in the MVP race is impressive by any measure of numbers, and he's boosting a team to some newfound winning ways. That kind of combination is tough to beat. So here's how the chase stacks up:


1. Elton Brand, Clippers forward -- The Clippers are in first place. I don't think anybody in their right mind would have said that coming into the season. Brand's scoring at a career-high average (25.0), but what's most impressive is his turnovers are down to a career-low 2.0 per game. He's an undersized (6-8) power forward who never takes a night off. I think he can keep up this MVP pace; the question is, can his team keep pace with him?

2. Allen Iverson, Sixers guard -- The most intimidating ballplayer at 6-foot to ever play the game has matured. He's got his team in first in the worst division, but that still means a playoff berth. The NBA's leading scorer (33.4) is shooting better than he ever has (45 percent). And he's flirting with a career-low in turnovers (3.0). Impressive.

3. Steve Nash, Suns guard -- You couldn't have an MVP list without last year's winner. Nash has kept his team in the thick of things without Amare. And I think he's playing much better D this year than in years past.

4. Tim Duncan, Spurs forward -- His numbers (20 ppg, 12 rpg) never blow you away, but his game does. When you look at his overall impact, you've got to put him on the list. He's the best power forward to play the game when you judge him on what he's done -- win, and win a lot.

5. LeBron James, Cavaliers forward. He and his team are obviously getting better, and the offensive numbers show it. But he's been poor defensively since he's come into the league. He's got to become more dominant defensively. When he does that, that's when his whole team goes to another level.

Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant are two guys who have stood out, and one of them could end up winning it. It's not like a top five and big drop. The Lakers' team is playing great D, much better than they did than did a year ago. Dirk has continued to take his game to another level as a leader. Statistically he's always been there.

Celtics forward Paul Pierce is having a phenomenal season. Now if he played on better team with a point guard. . .

Nuggets center Marcus Camby changes a game defensively. This is his best season ever for rebounds (NBA-leading 13.3 per game). Where would Denver be without him?

And of course, Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett is exceptional. What else is new?

Finally, how about the MVP for the Detroit Pistons starting five? The durabilty and the teamwork they put out is worthy of the game's highest individual honor.

ESPN NBA studio host Greg Anthony played for six NBA teams in 11 seasons.

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: December 10-11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17-18 | 19

Banks In The Money
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Ricky Davis, left, and Raef LaFrentz were boosted by point guard Marcus Banks' play in a 109-98 win over the Warriors.

His Elbows Need No Introduction

In case you didn't hear, Yao Ming's out for a few weeks with a big bad big toe. It's the osteomyelitis heard 'round the world.

Yao's owie means the Rockets get to try out a youngster they've been anxious to get a look at: Dikembe Mutombo.

OK, can't fool you. Everybody knows Deke's 39 going on 50.

Speaking of 39, that's where the latest Hollinger Stats rank Mutombo in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating among centers.

Ouch, indeed.

But those stats show that it could be worse -- Houston's problem could be that it has to try to plug in such dead weight as Michael Olowokandi (No. 42), Antonio Davis (No. 45) or Rafael Araujo (47th and last).

So what's Mt. Mutombo got left? That body, for starters. He's a rock in there, in more ways than one, with the most dangerous elbows in NBA history.

And the Cookie Monster still gobbles up shots. Last year, he blocked 4.0 per 48 minutes. This year, 3.5 per 48 so far.

But he won't exactly replace Yao's productivity in and around the paint. In his first start, on Sunday vs. the Lakers, Mutombo got 32 minutes and scored two points -- which lifted his ppg to 1.7. His attempts at a 15-foot jumper showed all the finesse of The Rock in "Walking Tall."

Back to Yao: He's dominating the All-Star voting (again). And, with the game being in Houston this year, he's already got the MVP trophy sewn up (well, he might have to share it with T-Mac). Now the question is whether he'll be able to play. The game's on Feb. 19, two months from now, and if he can't go by then, Houston can start printing lottery tickets, not playoff tickets.

-- Royce Webb

NBA Intelligence Report

Armstrong: I'm The Best Kicker In Dallas
"On Monday, teammates were often yelling, 'how about those Redskins?' at Darrell Armstrong during and after practice. But Armstrong said he has no hard feelings for getting fined $1,000 by the club for his comment. 'I know Bill Parcells is madder at his players than the fans are mad at me,' Armstrong said. Armstrong also said he was willing to help the Cowboys. 'I don't know what's wrong with your punters and kickers around here,' he said. 'I'm the best kicker in Dallas. If Bill Parcells is looking for a field-goal kicker, tell him to come on down the way.' Armstrong was a kicker at Division II Fayetteville State." -- Dallas Morning News

Francis Continues To Make Amends
"The Sentinel has learned that last Wednesday morning, before the Magic's shoot-around in New York, Steve Francis met with Stu Jackson at his office for their first heart-to-heart. Francis asked for the sit-down and said he's glad the air is cleared. Francis said he and Jackson talked about his past and present on-court behavior. A perennial league-leader in technical fouls, he has been whistled for two this season. Francis said he also made it clear to Jackson that he wants a chance to represent the United States in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing." -- Orlando Sentinel

Gasol Shows Up Big Time
"Who could doubt Pau Gasol's will and grit and undisguised competitiveness? The guy has taken a beating for five years for all the things he's not. He's not burly, he's not vicious, he's not LeBron James or Kevin Garnett. He's also not soft. Can we put that to rest at last? A soft player doesn't play 56 minutes against the toughest front line in the league. A soft player doesn't match Billups bucket for bucket and bruise for bruise." -- Memphis Commercial-Appeal

Read the entire Intelligence Report on ESPN Insider Insider

Tennessee Thumpers
Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol (32 points, 13 rebounds) finds his path blocked by the formidable Wallaces, Rasheed and Ben. Chauncey Billups (30 points) sank a jumper with 0.3 seconds left, lifting the Pistons (19-3) to a 106-104 win in double OT.

Extreme Behavior

Monday's Best
Primoz Brezec, Bobcats center : With Emeka Okafor joining the list of wounded Bobcats, Brezec went off for 26 points and eight boards in the 106-103 OT win over the Kings, including five in OT. It's Primoz Time now in Charlotte!


Monday's Worst
Antawn Jamison, Wizards forward: Four points on 2-12 shooting? OK, what have you done with the real Antawn? This imposter performance helps explain a 111-101 loss to the Sonics. The real Antawn averages 18.5 ppg. Please bring him back. Thank you.


Quote of the Night
"It's the new Christmas craze."
-- Bobcats center Emeka Okafor, eyeing two shiny crutches by his side. He suffered a sprained ankle in the third quarter.

See how all 95 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Happy Holidays, Knicks Fans!

Mike (New Brunswick NJ): What's the status of the Knicks' draft picks the next few years? They still have to give picks to the Suns and Bulls.

John Hollinger: OK, if you're a Knicks fan and didn't already know this you might want to sit down. The pick in the Curry trade had NO LOTTERY PROTECTION. So if the Knicks end up with one of the top picks, which they're headed toward, they'll just hand it over to Chicago. (But hey -- you still have San Antonio's pick from the Malik Rose trade!)

Wait, come back off the ledge, I have more. The Knicks also gave the Bulls the option to swap picks in 2007, so if the Knicks stink a year from now -- which is more plausible given their lack of a draft pick -- then they'll also forfeit that lottery pick.

See John Hollinger's chat Insider

Elias Says

Morris Peterson, who hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Raptors a 92-88 lead over the Magic on Monday, called that his "bread and butter spot." Entering the game, Peterson had attempted 113 3-point field goals this season, 46 of which he shot from the left corner (41 percent). Another 23 attempts, 20 percent, have come from the right corner.

Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias Insider

Hill Of An Adjustment

The Magic are jazzed about the return of Grant Hill, and rightfully so. The star small forward gives a shot in the arm to their moribund offense, and his ability to distribute the ball allows Steve Francis to indulge his natural talents as a scorer.

In the short term, however, there are still a few kinks to work out, as shown in Monday night's disappointing home loss to Toronto. Offensively, replacing sharpshooter Hedo Turkoglu with Hill allows opponents to sag in the paint and play Orlando for the drive, as the Raptors did repeatedly in the second half. The Magic starters need to learn to overcome the many zones they're likely to see with crisp ball movement and the occasional fast break.

And defensively, Hill still has to get up to speed. Toronto's Joey Graham and Jalen Rose (yes, he's still alive apparently) burned him repeatedly on Monday, combining for 26 points from the small forward spot. In the final minute with the game in the balance, Toronto called two straight curl plays for Rose against Hill that led to easy baskets -- one a jumper for Rose, one a dish to Mike James for a 3 -- to put the Raptors on top.

-- John Hollinger

Dime Mailbag: Rookie Retort

Readers react to Greg Anthony's rookie ratings:

How could you not include Jose Calderon in your top performing rookies. He's averaging 6.4 assists, 1 steal and 86 percent from the line and he went undrafted!
-- Dave (Brooklyn, NY)

For you to pick Andrew Bogut over Luther Head in your impressive rookie lineup was crazy. Head has single-handedly bailed the Rockets out of at least three losses. By the end of the year, he will be easily in the top 3 rookies.
-- Edwards

Where is Sarunas Jasikevicius, just because he is 29 doesn't mean he is a not a rookie. There are many people who can make a strong case at him being the ROY and for him not to be in the top 5 is unreal. Just because Bogut was the No. 1 pick, look at the numbers not the names.
-- Simon (Chesterton, Ind.)



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