Here we go. Ranking the MVP chances for each member of the Celtics and Lakers who has played in a postseason game in 2010 (with apologies to Brian Scalabrine).
25. Marquis Daniels (1.1 billion-1)
It sure sounds like he's not going to play at all in this series. When the three bullet points of a player's season is 1) breaking a thumb, 2) having his stepfather arrested and tasered and 3) missing the NBA finals with a concussion, it's pretty safe to assume that we aren't dealing with the next subject of a John Feinstein book.
24. D.J. Mbenga (1 Billion-1)
Mbenga speaks five languages (French, Portuguese, English, Lingala and Tshiluba.) He spent two summers in Houston but still hasn't mastered the toughest language of all -- the Moses Malone.
You know why I can live with the inevitable NBA lockout in 2011? Because of D.J. Mbenga. He's played seven NBA seasons, never more than 49 games in any year. He has started four games in those seven seasons. Career averages? 1.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.2 assists. We can all agree that this a wholly replaceable player, right? Hard not to believe that there aren't 50 guys in the D-League that couldn't put up those numbers. So I guess I'm not sure why Mbenga has made $9.6 million in his career. You can pay LeBron and Durant and Kobe and Wade $200 million. I can at least see the value in that. They mean T-shirts and radio deals and sellouts and 15 TNT appearances. But how do the Mbenga's of the world equal a single dollar of revenue? If I'm David Stern that's exactly where I start. Hello to the 100K player minimum.
23. Adam Morrison (600 million-1)
I'll trade you my Adam Morrison for your Don MacLean in the "Next Larry Bird Prediction Game." Tell you what, I'll even kick in Danny Ferry.
22. Luke Walton (500 million-1)
Three DNP-CDs in the Phoenix series. One of the reasons why the Lakers are better in 2010 than 2008? They don't have to play Luke Walton 16 minutes a game in the postseason (of course the 2009 Celtics played Scal 20 minutes a game, so we might be talking more than a push for the Celtics when it comes to bench upgrade.)
21. Michael Finley (450 million-1)
I thought Finley was going to be a factor in the playoffs. Not a major player, but somewhere in the 10 minutes a game range. Hasn't happened. He has exactly one field goal since Game 4 of the Miami series. One basket in 35 days. Six weeks ago I would not have guessed that Nate Robinson would have more field goals in a nine-minute stretch than Finley had in the entire Eastern Conference playoffs.
20. Josh Powell (450 million-1)
Looks like he's the go-to guy for giving Kobe chest-bumps, which is as good a way as any to keep a job if you shoot 36.6 percent from the floor, as Powell did this season.
19. Shelden Williams (250 million-1)
I have a sneaking feeling that Williams is going to help the Celtics win a game in this series. Nothing more than a hunch, really. And it'll take the injury to Wallace or the seventh T for Perkins to bump Williams into a main role, but I think one of those two is going to happen. Think 20 minutes, 10 points and six boards in a Game 4 win. Mark it down.
18. Sasha Vujacic (20 million-1)
The fact that someone like Sasha Vujacic can date Maria Sharapova angers me far more than the oil spill in the Gulf. I wish I wasn't that shallow, but I can't help it and can't define it. Probably the same reason why I go on Facebook and hope that every girl that never talked to me in high school will now look like Kenny Powers of "Eastbound and Down."
17. Jordan Farmar (15 million-1)
The Lakers originally had the No. 21 pick in the 2006 draft before trading it, along with Gary Payton and Rick Fox, to the Celtics in exchange for Chucky Atkins, Jumaine Jones and Chris "Yeah, but he's athletic!" Mihm. That pick went to Atlanta (in the deal to bring back Antoine Walker) before ending up in Phoenix, which used the selection to take Rajon Rondo. So in a long and sort of confusing path, the Lakers helped the Celtics land Rondo. And the Lakers used the 26th pick of the same draft to take Farmar. Not the same impact as Rondo, of course, but I think Farmar has been decent value for the 26th pick, which is at best a coin flip.
16. Nate Robinson (10 million-1)
I'll take 9:26 of the second quarter of Game 1 in the "This is why Nate Robinson wasn't playing for three months" pool.
15. Shannon Brown (10 million-1)
Hey, it's pick No. 25 of the 2006 NBA Draft. So we have the third pick (Adam Morrison,) fifth (Shelden Williams,) 21st (Rondo,) 25th (Brown) and 26th (Farmar) playing in this series. And as great as Rondo is, how many games would a team with that starting five win in an 82-game season? No more than 30, right?
14. Tony Allen (1 million-1)
I'm not sure these odds make any sense at all. Really only four or five guys have any shot of actually winning the MVP. I guess the question is this: If the two teams played a million times would Tony Allen win MVP even once? Not a lot of history to suggest that would happen. The worst player to win the finals MVP was Cedric Maxwell, who as we know was a very good NBA player. Max and Jo Jo White are the only two finals MVPs that aren't in the Hall of Fame.
13. Andrew Bynum (100,000-1)
The upside? He played very well against the Celtics this year, putting up a 16.5-10 in the two games. The downside? He had 70 cc of fluid drained from his right knee on Monday. Not sure that a 22-year-old with Johnny Unitas' knees is going to be a pivotal player in the series. Even Lakers fans have stopped acting like Bynum is the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon.
12. Rasheed Wallace (45,000-1)
I will only accept Sheed in the Kevin McHale role and Sasha as Kurt Rambis should there be a re-enactment of the 1984 clothesline sometime in this series. No one else is allowed to read for either part.
11. Kendrick Perkins (30,000-1)
Just doesn't put up the numbers or play enough minutes to be seriously looked at as a real threat for MVP honors. Has only reached double-digits in scoring in four of the 17 playoff games, and has 10-plus rebounds in only two. He'd be a lock for the "Unsung Hero Award" if this were the Dave Cowens basketball camp circa 1986, but he's just not the MVP type.
10. Derek Fisher (15,000-1)
You know how Ray Allen is the one player Lakers fans have to admit that they have nothing against when they go down the list of why they hate this and that guy on the Celtics? Well, isn't Fisher that guy for Celtics fans? Not a lot of whining, plays hard (and is remarkably durable, given his age -- has played all 82 games in seven of the last eight seasons), says the right things, all the stuff you like in a veteran.
He's 35 years old and will not be able to contain Rondo (he's in a no-win spot against the Celtics, no place to hide him), but Fisher will have his moments in this series. You just know how it works -- the Celtics will cut a 12-point lead to four with a couple of minutes left and Fisher will hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put a game away. Strange but true: Fisher is averaging 33.8 minutes per game in the 2010 postseason, his highest since 2003. Not supposed to be doing that in your mid-30s. Tells you a lot about Phil Jackson's confidence in Fisher (as well as his doubts about the guys on the bench.)
9. Glen Davis (10,000-1)
I mean, is it impossible for Garnett to injure his knee in Game 1 and have Davis step in and average an 18-8 in a Celtics series win and walk away with the MVP? I'm not suggesting it will happen, but a one in 10,000 shot isn't unreasonable.
(A Big Baby MVP would lead to the most cloying acceptance speech in history, full of schtick and self-appointed nicknames. But we'd all pretend it's funny and laugh for God knows what reason. I love Glen Davis the basketball player, but his off-court act reads totally false for me. He just tries way too hard. In a totally unrelated topic, nice to see Kevin Millar back in town.)
8. Lamar Odom (100-1)
Big drop in odds as we hit on the first player who could win the MVP without anything goofy happening. The problem with Odom is that it's hard to imagine he'll be consistent enough to be the most valuable player in a six- or seven-game NBA finals series. Terrible against Oklahoma City, just OK vs. the Jazz and the second-best Laker vs. the Suns (four double-doubles, including a 19-19 in Game 1). The question of which Odom will show up for the finals is one of the biggies as we wait for Thursday.
7. Ron Artest (80-1)
Could slow down Pierce and average somewhere in the high teens for the series. That would probably not be enough for the MVP, but he could steal it if the Lakers win and three or four guys play well without a real standout.
6. Kevin Garnett (60-1)
I don't like the Pau Gasol matchup for Garnett. A big reason he was able to shut down Antawn Jamison and Rashard Lewis is that they are both perimeter guys. Over the last year and a half (post Utah injury) his struggles have occurred when defending the post. And I think Gasol is the best post player in the NBA today. Throw in an under-the-radar lousy offensive series vs. the Magic (38.9 percent shooting) and that fact that he's scoring option No. 3 or 4, and it's tough to make a case for Garnett as an MVP favorite.
5. Ray Allen (15-1)
Remember, he could have easily been named the 2008 finals MVP. Look at the numbers:
Pierce: 21.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 43.2 percent shooting, 39.3 3-point shooting
Allen: 20.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 50.7 percent shooting, 52.4 3-point shooting (NBA finals record 22 3-pointers)
I get why Pierce won, and I'm OK with it, but should he have received all nine votes? Don't forget, it was Allen that did the bulk of the work against Kobe.
Maybe this is Allen's year. Here's a key to an Allen MVP script: Derek Fisher can't stop Rondo and slides over to Allen. Very possible scenario. If you've watched Fisher at all this postseason you know that he'd have a brutal time chasing Allen all over the court.
4. Paul Pierce (12-1)
The Artest factor is the only thing keeping Pierce out of the No. 2 spot on this list. Let's not forget that it was Vladimir Radmanovic guarding Pierce in 2008. I'm on board with the idea that Artest isn't the defensive player he was a couple of years ago, but he's still got enough to give Pierce trouble.
(If the Celtics win the title and Pierce wins another MVP, it's serious re-evaluation time when it comes to his place in team history. Right now I've got him seventh, behind Russell, Bird, Hondo, Cousy, Cowens and McHale. But he could-- could -- move into the top five with a title and MVP.)
3. Pau Gasol (8-1)
Why not? We'll see if he can handle the Old Man Tricks from Garnett and Wallace without getting all worked up. The company line is that Gasol is now tougher than he was two years ago, that he's learned from the 2008 finals. We shall see. But I'll submit that there is only one player in this series that could average 25 points, 12 rebounds and shoot 60 percent from the floor.
2. Rajon Rondo (4-1)
Here's my best case for Rondo as MVP: I think the Celtics cannot win this series unless Rondo plays at the all-world level we saw in the Cleveland series and parts of the Magic series. If you buy into that thought, then doesn't a Celtics win guarantee a Rondo MVP? No other Celtics player can even come close to matching the kind of performance that we have seen from Rondo over the last six weeks. There you go. We know who gets the MVP if the Celtics win is solved. Done. Disregard the other 2,500 words.
1. Kobe Bryant (2-1)
Do you think he'll guard Rondo? I don't see it -- maybe for a couple of minutes here and there. No way the Lakers have Kobe expand all that energy chasing Rondo around all game. They'll live with Rondo doing what he does if it means a fresh Kobe on the offensive end.
The 2008 finals is numero uno on Kobe's black mark (on court, anyway) chart. Bryant did not play well (40.5 percent shooting,) which is OK, but the enduring image of that series from a Lakers perspective is the team flat-out quitting in Game 6. The Lakers rolled over, plain and simple. And that's an indictment of Kobe. A Larry Bird team wouldn't do that, nor a Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan team. But Kobe gets another shot at the Celtics and the bottom line is this: If he wants a seat at THE table, he has to win this series. Without it, he's still a top 15 player in history, no shame in that. But a win here and we can at least open the books and take a look at him compared to the all-time all-timers. But two losses in three years to a team that doesn't have a player at his level? That would damage his legacy without question.