Almost everyone has a different definition for what an MVP is, but to me, it’s the player whose individual efforts are most responsible for his team’s success.
For all intents and purposes, he’s a one-man defense. You can put almost any combination of players on the floor with Howard and you’re going to have a great defense, which the Magic found out this season. Orlando had the 3rd highest defensive rating in the NBA, despite starting four guys who are average at best defenders — Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Brandon Bass.
Howard’s defensive ability gave the Magic the luxury of specifically targeting one-dimensional offensive players, knowing that he would make up for their defensive short-comings. Since coming over in a series of mid-season trades, Jason Richardson’s defensive rating went from 111 to 104, Gilbert Arenas’ from 111 to 102 and Hedo Turkoglu’s from 110 to 103.
None of Howard’s competitors for the MVP are as valuable to their teams on both sides of the floor. Replace Howard with Jeff Foster and the Magic look a lot like the Toronto Raptors, a 20-win team comprised of one-dimensional shooters, unable to create open looks for each other or defend anyone.