- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

There was no clear-cut choice for MVP this season.

Chauncey Billups was the best player on the best team, the balanced Detroit Pistons.

In fact, Billups, who never had been an All-Star before this season, should be the league’s most improved player.

The award usually goes to a young player who saw a significant increase in his minutes — from Gheorghe Muresan to Zach Randolph. But young players, players in their early to mid-20s, are supposed to improve.

However, Billups, who was with five teams in his first four seasons, made the toughest leap of all — from good to great. He’s an expert decision maker and only his lack of 2-point field goal attempts kept him off the list of the league’s best shooters.

But his numbers are not gaudy enough to be MVP.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are great young players, but they are not polished enough to be called the best. They will be MVP candidates for the next decade or so.

Kobe Bryant is a player in his prime and on a mission, although it’s unclear exactly what it is. He seems intent on proving a point that doesn’t need to be proved — that he can dismantle a team and build it again, that he is a franchise player. Yes, he has little help, and he is to blame for that.

As always, Tim Duncan is a MVP candidate, but plantar fasciitis kept him from his usual dominance.

That leaves Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Elton Brand.

Nash was in fact better than last season, scoring more, rebounding more and shooting better while working with a mostly new team.

Brand was quietly brilliant in a career year. He doesn’t do anything exciting except average 24.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and play excellent post defense.

But the nod goes to Nowitzki, who had less help than either Nash or Brand and still managed to lead the Dallas Mavericks to 60 wins.

Nowitzki, a 7-footer who shoots like a guard, is simply the toughest matchup in the league. He can score in the widest variety of ways and still averages 9.0 rebounds a game. He is the MVP.

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