Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:23 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 3:14 am

Heat find formula against Spurs in rout

Heat dominate Spurs using the formula they need to be successful. Question remains: can they sustain it?
Posted by Matt Moore

If the Heat's stretch of losing 6 of 7 and five in a row displayed everything that was wrong with their makeup, chemistry, gameplan, coaching, and approach, the way they've responded in their three-game winning streak shows the mirror image. After winning a tough game against a motivated Lakers team, then stomping an overmatched Grizzlies team Saturday, the Heat put together their most impressive performance of the season against the Spurs Monday night, destroying them 110-80

The game featured the formula that you would have wanted to see all season from the Heat. Defense setting the pace to provide transition opportunities, and the Heat taking advantage of mismatches nearly every time down the floor. It's not easy -- it was never going to be easy in the first season with all the pressure, an inexperienced coach, and such a poor supporting cast. And this game does nothing to erase the belief that the Heat are headed for a second-round outage. After all, all they did was split the season series with the Spurs, with each team winning by 30. But what Monday night's game showed is what they're capable of against an elite team. And the results were impressive. 

The Heat won almost every statistical category, from shooting percentage (54 percent to 38 percent), rebounds (47-33), assists (25-17), and split turnovers with 11. How they got there, though, was the key. The Spurs did what they do best, work to stretch the floor and create open corner threes. Part of the Spurs' 27 percent 3-point shooting effort can be notched up to just an off night, but a large chunk of it should be accredited to a Heat defense that constantly ran off the three, forcing players like George Hill to dribble and re-adjust to step-back threes. By the third quarter, Manu Ginobili was in a position to try cross-court passes which resulted in more turnovers, which prompted more fast breaks which lead to more points.

That transition offense is the biggest pendulum swing for the Heat. The idea among many is that come playoffs, the strength of Miami's offense, their ability to run with the amazing athletes they have, will be limited in the grind of playoff-style basketball. It's a sound belief, given what we know of the history of the playoffs. But in that history, we have rarely seen a team with this kind of offensive talent on the floor. Perhaps the Showtime Lakers are really the only comparison, though the Heat lacks a playmaking point guard like Magic Johnson, no matter how talented in distribution LeBron James is. The Heat will try and rely on that athleticism to overcome the kind of defense that traditionally wins titles. Against San Antonio, the best team in the league record-wise, the formula worked. 

Not to be ignored in this game was the ability of the supporting cast to create opportunities for the Triad. Chris Bosh had 30 points, with many of them off pick and roll situations. In particular, in the second quarter, Bosh went right at Matt Bonner. With Tim Duncan trying to stay out of foul trouble, Bonner was forced to guard Bosh. The Heat repeatedly went to Bosh in the post, and he worked him over on consecutive possessions. Similarly, Wade had gone to the post against George Hill, forcing similar problems for the Spurs, who had no real answer. 

Then, you had possessions like the one where the Heat blocked a Blair attempt at the rim, Wade ripped out in transition ahead of the pack, and found James cutting down the middle for one of the best highlights of the year. The Spurs were helpless against it, and it showed not only the athletic ability and basketball acumen, but the raw emotion the Heat is playing with right now. And that's really been the missing ingredient.

(HT: Get Banged On )

Miami has started to play like it cares, consistently. And while nothing short of a trophy hoist in June will quiet those who doubt them (nor should anything less), the heat have discovered who they are, and it's who they thought they were, all those months ago. 

They just had to reach a point where they wanted it enough. Now we'll see if they want it enough against defensive challenges like Chicago and Boston. Otherwise victories like Monday night's will be forgotten as easily as the disaster the Heat had less than two weeks ago in San Antonio.  The map hasn't changed. But at least the Heat have found their compass.
Posted on: December 21, 2010 2:32 am

Mavs control glass to beat Heat as Marion excels

Mavericks' control glass despite eight-shot possession to tame Heat.
Posted by Matt Moore

The Miami Heat held a 16-10 advantage on the offensive glass in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks 98-96 Monday night . The Mavericks secured two huge offensive rebounds down the stretch, both leading to clutch three-pointers from Jason Terry. The real gap between the Mavericks and Heat was rebounding. The Mavs' work on the glass was what won them a huge game against the Triad. How can that be with an advantage on the offensive glass?

Because seven of the Heat's 16 offensive rebounds came on one play. No kidding. From the AP via the Dallas Morning News :

The Miami Heat pulled off something not seen every day in the NBA: A possession with eight shots.

And yes, eight was enough.

It all started with 2:47 left in the first half against the Mavericks on Monday night, when Dirk Nowitzki missed a 3-pointer and Mike Miller got the defensive rebound for Miami.

Chris Bosh missed a jumper, Miller got the rebound to extend the possession ... and the Heat were just getting started.

Mario Chalmers missed a 3-pointer, Dwyane Wade misfired on a 3, Miller then couldn't connect on yet another try from beyond the arc, Wade missed a layup, Bosh missed another jumper, Miller came up short again on a 3 - before Chalmers, finally, connected on a 3 with 1:53 left.

via How about boxing out? Heat pull off eight-shot possession against Mavericks |The Dallas Morning News .

So in reality, outside of one bonkers play in the first half, the Mavericks did control the offensive glass 10-9, and held an overall advantage on the boards 48-37 versus 48-44. It speaks to a concern many have, about the ability of Miami to rebound in key situations. The truth is, Miami's been solid on the boards. They're currently eleventh in offensive rebounding differential and fifth in total rebounding percentage .

So what got it done for the Mavs, who are ranked 25th in offensive rebound rate and 18th in opponent offensive rebound rate allowed ? Shawn Marion.

Marion finished with only 7 points on 2-7 shooting, but had 13 rebounds, five offensive, with four in the fourth quarter. Marion's numbers are all down, except in per-minute figures and PER. Watching him, though, Marion alongside Tyson Chandler have given Dallas a tougher, physical face that can also work inside the offensively versatile system designed by Rick Carlisle. Marion is tied for the second best defensive rating among Mavericks rotation players. What's more, Synergy Sports has Marion allowing a 39% FG percentage which is pretty solid.

In short ... he's exactly the kind of player the Heat could use. Too bad they shipped him out for Jermaine O'Neal over a year ago.

The Mavericks meanwhile continue to find hybrid ways of winning games. And Monday night, it was Marion on the glass, with some JET fire from the outside.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 2:39 am

As the Big 3 shine, Heat role players lining up

The Heat and their role players seem to be getting the hang of things.
Posted by Matt Moore

Mario Chalmers: +16

Zydrunas Ilgauskas: +2

James Jones: +8

And with that, we begin to see a flickering hope for the Heat. During this six game win streak, the Heat largely pounded their way to victory. But against a quality opponent in the Jazz, they finally seemed to break out and play a game worthy of their hype, at least when it mattered as they won going away in the fourth quarter behind a stellar performance from the Big 3 (75 combined points). But perhaps more notably, we've begun to see life from the role players for the Heat who so often failed them in the beginning of this year. 

Zydrunas Ilgauskas doesn't have to be dynamic. By that I mean he doesn't have to have footwork, shake moves, pump fakes or complexity in anything on offense. He just has to hit the mid-range jumper on the pick and pop and a few tip-ins. That's it. In doing so, he keeps the defense honest and punishes them from helping too much on perimeter penetration. On defense he doesn't have to swoop in for huge blocks or take impressive charges. He just has to do is be tall and be a tree you can't swing the football through. That's it. And when that happens, things go much better for the Heat. 

Mario Chalmers had about the most Mario-Chalmers-esque night possible. He logged two steals, one of which resulted in a turnover when he lost his dribble on a breakaway layup. But it was his perimeter speed and intensity that helped him get minutes, finally, while Carlos Arroyo kept failing to maintain position or capitalize on plays. Again, it wasn't that Chalmers was particularly good, but in large part the Heat don't need someone to produce,they need someone to put the effort in which forces the defense to adjust and opens things up for the guys who matter: the Big 3. 

James Jones hit 2 of 3 three-pointers. That's pretty much all he has to do. 

All the talk from supporters of the Heat was that the team needed time to gel. While the loss of Udonis Haslem will continue to haunt the team, Mike Miller returns soon. And in the meantime, their role players have begun to give cohesive efforts as a total unit. It's not about Mario Chalmers playing better than Carlos Arroyo or James Jones better than Eddie House. It's about the entire unit giving enough support on both sides of the ball to simply allow the talent of the Big 3 to overwhelm the opponent in order to win the game. 

And beyond the hype, the stats, the Decision, or anything else, that's all that matters. That's what divides derision from highlight packages. Winning.

And it looks like the Heat are getting the hang of it. 
Posted on: December 3, 2010 7:57 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2010 8:04 pm

Apparently many of you people watched Cavs-Heat

Ratings up significantly for Cavs-Heat, as it becomes second-highest-rated game of the year.  Posted by Matt Moore

Wow, that Cavs-Heat game was crazy, huh? Okay, so really it was pretty quiet, and the Heat completely destroyed them. Basically it was just like a public IRS audit only with more profanity (or less, depending on how you take such things). But with all that hoopla, did people really revolt from the over-coverage? 

Not so much. What say you, Sports Media Watch?
TNT earned its second-largest NBA overnight of the season with Thursday night's Heat/Cavaliers game. Miami's 28-point win drew a 5.0 overnight rating on TNT Thursday night, up 257% from last year's comparable game (BOS/SA: 1.4), and the second-highest overnight of the season for any NBA game.
via Sports Media Watch: TNT Has 257% Rise In Overnights For Heat Blowout.
Turns out Cavs-Heat outdid the NFL game Thursday night. Granted, that was on the NFL Network, which is still harder to get for most of America than decent healthcare. But it's still indicative of the trending era of this season as one of the most successful in NBA history, right on the verge of a lockout. 
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:37 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2010 4:40 pm

YouReact: Headlines for Cavs-Heat

Posted by Matt Moore

With the big game just hours away and security starting to take shape at Quicken Loans Arena in preparation for the biggest villain return since the Empire struck back, we thought we'd get a sense of what you, the people, thought about this game. We asked Twitter (follow us!) for 10-word suggestions for the headline they wanted to see tomorrow. Here's the best of what we received. Leave your answers in the comments. 

@RockWFNY : "Boos rattle James as Cavs pull off emotional win."

@DrewUnga : "Moon over Miami- Jamario's Halfcourt Shot Seals Win For Cavs." 

@JC_Heat305 : "Utter destruction of Cavliers (sic) Team and Fans. Heat Win By 50."

@bwkemp : "Cavs Fans Civil In Blowout of Heat"

@ComputerSnacks : "Both teams played hard. God bless and goodnight."

@MikePradaSBN : "LeBron James Heat Justin Bieber"

@Chewie93 : "James begs Cleveland's forgiveness; Cavs win a close one."

@MrTrpleDouble10 : "Quagmire at the Q Tops Malice at the Palace"

@SpaceFunMars : "LeBron challenges fans to a game of 1-on-20,000. James wins."

@hatfieldms : "leBron takes his talents back to South Beach after another loss."

@DaAkronHammer : "EPIC FAIL"

@schittone37 : "Children attending game learn new words." 

@TurboLax33 : "LeBron breaks down in tears from incessant booing"

@jsucher : "I don't care what it is as long as it's in Comic Sans."

You can follow us on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA .
Posted on: December 2, 2010 11:50 am
Edited on: December 2, 2010 11:57 am

Ilgauskas thinks fans need some perspective

Former Cav suggests that maybe we're all going a little nuts over Heat-Cavs Thursday night.
Posted by Matt Moore

Zydrunas Ilgauskas isn't hated in Cleveland like LeBron James is for his defection to the Heat. He may even receive a fair amount of cheers tonight when introduced. He was a career-long Cavalier until this season when he joined his friend to try and win that championship that has held itself beyond his reach. So he's got a pretty good perspective on all the elements, people, and feelings going on as James returns to Cleveland. But with the tampering charges being investigated by Dan Gilbert, Ilgauskas isn't quite feeling polite about the hoopla regarding James' return. As he told NBA FanHouse:

"That's chasing ghosts right there," he told FanHouse while shaking his head. "Let bygones be bygones. There are more important things in life: people dying from cancer every day, kids dying every day, people having HIV, people fighting wars. There are more important things than the Miami Heat going back to Cleveland.

"Let's put life in perspective, it's just a basketball game."
via LeBron James, Miami Heat Teammates React to Dan Gilbert's Tampering Probe -- NBA FanHouse .

I kind of want to hug Ilgauskas after this quote. His comments are in regards to the tampering charge specifically, but this statement needs to be made into T-Shirts, cofee mugs, and gigantic billboards on the sides of buildings. It's completely fine for Cleveland to be upset about this. It's important to them. But it's still just a basketball game.

You have to wonder with the increased security, tension, and pain being expressed over this game, if everyone hasn't lost sight of that fact.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 8:08 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2010 8:46 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

As the Heat get set to visit Cleveland Thursday night, and the NBA world turns its eyes on a hurt and angry fanbase, we look at the very real dangers and complicated emotions at work as LeBron James returns to the place he once called home.  Posted by Matt Moore

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done..."

And lo, what a Kingdom LeBron hath made.

Thursday night, as you may have heard from a few hundred thousand places , LeBron James returns to a very different Cleveland than he left five months ago. Awaiting him tomorrow night will likely be the most hostile crowd in modern NBA history, and that includes the crowd that engaged in a fist fight with Ron Artest amid the stands in Detroit. The Malice in the Palace was a spur of the moment debacle from a heated rivalry. This is an explosive situation that's been under pressure for an entire calendar season with everything from recession stress to the very personal nature of sports fandom, and how it relates to the city of Cleveland slowly raising the temperature higher. The situation James faces tomorrow night is all together more intense and deeply rooted, and considerably more dangerous than any we've seen since free agency began.

There may have been more disgusting outbursts at games in the league's infancy, given the racist overtones that have marked our country and with basketball having been so closely tied with the African American community since its own inception into our culture. But what LeBron meant to Cleveland, and what he means now, has helped to create a powder keg which is complicated by the current economic climate, a half-century old legacy of sports failure for a town whose culture is drenched in sports revelry, and moral values inherent in the middle of our nation. "You just don't do what LeBron did, and you certainly don't do it how he did it," is the prevailing wisdom in Cleveland.

Whether you agree with what James did, or how he did it, or not, the situation remains. Cleveland fans need to vent, to express their disappointment, hurt, and feeling of betrayal. They need closure, but don't feel like they can have it while the party goes on in South Beach, even if it's turned kind of lame and no one knows why Jamiroquai showed up and is DJ'ing. They really feel like they need this. And maybe they do. The real problem here has been the NBA's compliance with making what is already a looming debacle into something altogether worse.

The league could have done their best to maintain damage control on this. They could have scheduled it for a run-of-the-mill Tuesday night early game in January, or even February. Let things go for a while longer, to defuse, and certainly not put it on TNT. As it stands, the NBA has given the world front row seats and put Cleveland on stage, leaning back and saying "So, Cleveland? What have you got?" This situation was going to be volatile no matter where or when it occurred. But it did not have to be promoted, adding more fuel to the fire.

Why is this important? Because for every plea for reasonable behavior from Ohioans, for every demand of some level of decency from a proud and decent fanbase , there is still that concern. Clevelanders aren't denying the possibility of the unspeakable occurring, because they know it is a very real possibility . It's possible that nothing unfortunate will occur, likely even, given the security measures being deployed by the Cavs and the NBA. But there are any number of other scenarios that could occur. LeBron getting pelted with beer is one of the less scary threats. From people rushing the floor to flipping the bus as it tries to leave the arena, to objects which are not soft plastic and liquid being thrown, there is a distinct possibility of something happening Thursday night which could do significant damage on the scale of The Punch or the Malice at the Palace.

Think I'm overreacting? Read the message boards, the comment threads, the Twitter pages. Realize that large groups of people are planning chants which insinuate some of the downright most disgusting rumors this side of a daytime talk show. But really, just get a sense of how much even reasonable Cleveland fans want to see James suffer. They resist their impulses because they are, after all, reasonable people. But many people in attendance will not be. Man of those people will be drinking.

For James, you have to wonder if he's really going to get anything out of this game. He can't feel good about himself in this context. He may not feel bad about himself because of his massive ego, but he almost certainly isn't happy with so many people openly hating him. James has never fed off the boos like Jordan did, like Reggie Miller did, like Kobe Bryant does. He isn't naturally dispositioned towards anger. He's drawn to laughter and clowning. Part of him may want to punish Dan Gilbert, but on the other, he's walking into a former home as the most hated man in the state.

All of this gets past the fact that at some level, LeBron James is probably a little scared to go to work tomorrow. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. No one should have to be scared for their safety to go to work, but there's also no heroism in what James is doing. He created this mess and now he has to live with it. Playing under those circumstances may prove to be more than he can handle, and the Heat aren't playing well to begin with.

As for the game itself? Miami should roll. Mo Williams is better than Carlos Arroyo, but it's not leagues. J.J. Hickson is better than Bosh in muscle but not skill. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are obviously superior to their counterparts and neither team has a legitimate center. That said, that hasn't stopped the Heat from playing terribly at times, nor from Cleveland playing better than expected. And if ever there was an opportunity for an emotional lift, the Cavs may have it. A win would endear this team to the city like no playoff appearance or All-Star birth could. This is all they want, to see the once and never King broken on their home floor, with their venom raining down upon him.

This is Dan Gilbert, fanning the flames and playing the victim while he himself is partially responsible and continues to get rich off the misery.

This is a Heat team wholly unprepared for the vitriol they have inspired the world over, and especially in a quiet Midwestern city.

This is a group of professionals for the Cavaliers who just happen to be caught in the crossfire.

This is a superstar who could have been the next great nexus of talent, fame, and popularity.

This is a fanbase torn and driven to extremes, rising up not as one, but as a stadium full of individuals venting their very personal rage to their former idol.

This is LeBron's Kingdom of Ruin. Long it may reign.

For more coverage of Thursday night's Cavaliers versus Heat game: 

Ken Berger is on the scene describing the mood as the stage is set. 

Gregg Doyel doesn't want Cleveland to give the world the satisfaction by acting out of character. 

Berger also breaks down the tampering charges being pursued by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and we try to put them into context

Zydrunas Ilguaskas is pleading for the fans to keep perspective

YouReact with tomorrow's headlines for the game. 

More links in today's Shootaround
Video of LeBron James being booed as he takes the court.
Video of LeBron James being booed during introductions.
Video of LeBron James tossing the chalk.
Posted on: November 30, 2010 3:35 pm

Award-O-Matic MVP 11.30.10: CP3 as MVP

NBA F&R breaks down the MVP candidates after the first month of the season by dissecting the award down to three parts: Most Valuable, Most Important, and Most Oustanding Player. CP3 is in control.
Posted by Matt Moore with contributions from Ben Golliver and Royce Young

Well, we're a month into the season and the context of this year has begun to take shape. While certainly a long way from the finish line, we've already gotten a glimpse of who's playing well, who's playing average, and who ... not so much. And so it is that we begin our monthly look at awards. On a regular basis we'll take you around the award contenders and give you a look at who is in contention for the NBA's major awards by breaking down what they really mean in our Award-O-Matic. Today we start with the MVP.

The problem, as has been elucidated approximately a million times by various media members, is that the MVP is a nebulous, hard to define award. Its name is Most Valuable, but it most often goes to the Most Outstanding Player on a winning team. If your play is other-worldly but your team doesn't win, you have no shot. If you contribute the most to a winning team but your numbers aren't stellar, again, your chances are slim. It takes a combination of three factors: value, performance, and importance to snag the award. As such, we decided to break the award into those three categories, tally them up with the top player getting 3 points, the second 2, the third 1, then summing to see if we could come up with a list.

First up?

Most Valuable Player (To Their Team): Who is most responsible for their team's success? Or, to put it another way, whose team suffers the most without them?

Matt Moore:

1. Dirk Nowitzki: Without him that offense is anemic and it's been his rebounding that's kept them in games at points.
2. Carmelo Anthony: Seriously, Nuggets. Cliff. Teetering. Melo's the only thing keeping the truck from smashing into pieces.
3. Dwight Howard: Get him in foul trouble and the Magic turn into a Mid-Major college team, just wining it from perimeter to perimeter.

Ben Golliver:

1. Chris Paul:
  I like Darren Collison as much as the next guy, but CP3's return from injury to lead New Orleans' absurd hot start, despite an unimpressive supporting cast, reveals exactly how valuable the league's best point guard is.
2. Rajon Rondo Boston would still be good without Rondo, but his game ownership places them on an elite level and makes them the odds on favorite to win the East yet again. 10.6 points, 14.2 assists (what!), 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals through the end of November. Crazy.
3. Kevin Durant The Thunder have had an up-and-down start but imagining this team with Russell Westbrook at the helm by himself, dragging an ineffective Jeff Green along for the ride, would be a recipe for a guaranteed lottery team. KD will get better -- perhaps much better -- over the course of the season, and he's already easily leading the NBA in scoring again.

Royce Young:

1. Chris Paul:   Subtract Paul and what do you have. I can promise you it's not an 8-1 team. It's really as simple as that.
2. Dirk Nowitzki:   The Mavericks are dangerous in every fourth quarter that they're close in. The reason is because Dirk can score in every situation, at any time. He essentially is the Maverick offense.
3. Steve Nash:   Take Nash away and yes, there's Goran Dragic who can dazzle in stretches. But without Nash this Suns team is nothing more than a 35-win club. With Nash, there's potential to push for the playoffs.

Most Important Player: Who is most crucial to their team's success? Ex. Last year I argued that Josh Smith was MIP because when he did Josh Smith-y things, the Hawks were nearly unstoppable, and when he didn't, they were much more beatable.

Matt Moore:

1. Chris Paul:
He does everything and it starts and stops with him. This is even more clearly illustrated by their recent struggles down the stretch where he hasn't been involved.
2. Al Horford: The level of production Horford is creating right now is simply astonishing. More astonishing is how overlooked he is.
3. Pau Gasol: It's him that's carrying the Lakers. Even as Kobe scores all the high points, the most dominant Laker performances this season are from Gasol.

Ben Golliver:

1. Pau Gasol: His virtuoso early season performance has single-handedly made Andrew Bynum an afterthought. What more needs to be said?
2. Deron Williams:   Utah's streak of comebacks begins with Williams' tough-minded leadership and ends with his play-making and shot-making.
3. Dirk Nowitzki:   Another banner start from Dirk singlehandedly puts a Dallas roster loaded with question marks in the playoff mix.

Royce Young:

1. Pau Gasol: Having Gasol as part of the triangle has been like a revelation. He's really what makes the Lakers so darn dangerous.
2. Kevin Garnett:
We saw what an impact his has in regard to the Celtic defense two seasons ago when his knee was injured.
3. Nick Collison:   He's a classic no-stats All-Star. He's only played for a few weeks so far this season for Oklahoma City but his value is immeasurable and impact immediate. He tips rebounds that become extra possessions, takes charges, sets outstanding screens and makes two or three small (but big) plays a game.

Most Outstanding Player: Who has simply wowed you?

Matt Moore:

1. Rajon Rondo: Key plays every time he's on the floor and he makes it look easy, There are a lot of moments where he looks like he's just on a different plane from everyone else.. and he's got three Hall of Famers on his team.
2. Russell Westbrook: Westbrook has managed to take over the game down the stretch. His turnovers are down, assists are up, he's got range and that mid-key pull-up jumper is as deadly as it ever has been. He's been simply phenomenal in half-court and full-court sets.
3. Deron Williams: Three point guards? Yup. Check Deron at the end of the clock with the game on the line. Money. And that's after all the assists, rebounds, key plays and floor leadership. Man's a ninja, no joke.

Ben Golliver:

1. Dwight Howard:
  Lost in the Miami Heat wave, Howard is quietly putting up 22.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as the defensive and rebounding engine that will make Orlando a title contender for years to come. By the way, Orlando sits atop the Southeast Division -- 3.5 games ahead of the Heat.
2. LeBron James: His numbers are crazy and his highlights are spectacular. It's a wonder he can jump so high and dunk so hard carrying the burden of Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra's corpse on his shoulders.
3. John Wall:   Wall doesn't belong in the MVP discussion -- there are too many holes in his game (jumper, turnovers) and his team is terrible -- but for sheer "outstanding-ness" and "wow factor" he merits inclusion here. His assist numbers have been great and his speed is tops in the league; he's a lot further along the NBA readiness scale than even his biggest fans could have imagined.

Royce Young:

1. Rajon Rondo: He's been nothing but insanely ridiculous. Manages the game perfectly, understand his place within an offense and runs the show beautifully.
2. Kevin Love: When given the time on the floor, he's a legitimate 20-20 threat every single night. How many players can you really say that about?
3. Russell Westbrook: There's a case to be legitimately made for Westbrook as an MVP contender. Kevin Durant is still leading the league in scoring, but Westbrook is what's kept the team winning games. But his play has been just insane this year (23.8 ppg, 8.4 apg, 5.1 rpg) and he's a super-highlight waiting to happen.

Here are the tallies:

Most Valuable Player:
1. Chris Paul (6)
2. Dirk Nowitzki (5)
Tied for 3rd: Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo (2)
Tied for 4th: Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash (1)

Most Important Player:
1. Pau Gasol (7)
2. Chris Paul (3)
Tied for 3rd: Deron Williams, Al Horford, Kevin Garnett (2)
Tied for 4th: Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Collison (1)

Most Outstanding Player :

1. Rajon Rondo (6)
Tied for 2nd: Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard (3)
Tied for 3rd: Kevin Love, LeBron James (2)
Tied for 4th: John Wall, Deron Williams (1)

Top 5 in Totals:
1. Chris Paul: 9
2. Rajon Rondo (8)
3. Pau Gasol (7)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (6)
5. Dwight Howard (4)
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com