As we approach the half-way mark of the National Basketball Association season, we have to be surprised with teams that have emerged due to new leadership – Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ dramatic improvement, the Washington Wizards’ sudden emergence behind Larry Hughes, the outstanding performance by Ray Allen’s Seattle Supersonics and, above all, Steve Nash’s powerful effect on the Phoenix Suns.

Although it’s still early in the season, Nash in my opinion should receive the Most Valuable Player award for the 2004-05 NBA season. Nash’s positive influence over the Suns has been the most exceptional change this season. He has led his renewed team to the best start they have had in franchise history.

In fact, prior to Nash’s four-game thigh injury a couple of weeks ago, the Suns were on track to beat the best record in NBA history – now held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls at 72-10.

Drawing from what he learned with the Dallas Mavericks, Nash has taught the youngest team in the NBA how to run a fast-paced game effectively so that it can outplay its opponents. The Suns score an average of 15 points a game more than last year and only allow an additional three points a game.

One ESPN writer argued that an MVP should be able to play effectively on both ends of the court – that is, to be able to score for your team and stop the opponents from scoring.

I do not agree, for the Suns’ gap between points scored per game and points allowed per game is larger than the team’s averages for the past three years.

In the 2002-03 season, the team scored only one percent higher than they allowed per game, while they allowed more points scored than they scored in the 2001-02 and 2003-04 seasons.

This year, the Suns have scored eight percent more than they’ve allowed per game, and it’s due to Nash’s effect on the team.

Nash’s presence causes high-level performances from all his teammates. Still maturing, the Suns lost all four of the games that Nash missed, including the game in which he left in the second quarter due to thigh problems. His presence causes everyone to play well, especially the dynamic duo Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.

Many critics argue otherwise. Although I agree that Nash has to work on his defensive skills to become a superb NBA player, I believe that Nash’s other qualities in the game outweigh his defensive shortfalls. After all, the Suns still have a very good chance at getting the best record in the NBA unless Nash gets injured again.

There are other MVP candidates on the list, including Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire and Lebron James. Although they deserve to be on the list, I believe that Nash is the most worthy of them all.

I know what you’re thinking – the MVP candidates that I’ve just listed have much better overall statistics than Nash.

He may not be able to rebound like Garnett or score like Nowitzki, but since when has an MVP been defined as the player with the best statistics?

Besides, Doc Rivers became the first Coach of the Year in 1999 to not reach the playoffs. Why can’t Nash become the first MVP in 27 years to average fewer than 20 points a game? As shown in the games that he missed, he is that valuable.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I believe Nash should be the MVP, I don’t think he will be. History has shown us that the league does not like MVP point guards. By my count, the only point guards to have ever won MVP are Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy and Magic Johnson.

Like him or not, Nash has had an incredible impact on his team. I believe this will continue, assuming that he stays healthy for the rest of the season. Hey, maybe the Suns can win it all this season or maybe that’s another long shot.

Lee can be reached at alee@campustimes.org.



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