How strong is Manu Ginobili’s case for MVP?

When was the last time the NBA’s regular season MVP didn’t make the All-Star Game that same year?

You’d have to go back to 1999 — which comes with an asterisk because that lockout-shortened season had no All-Star Game in which eventual MVP Karl Malone could participate. Before that? I went back as far as 1982, and the only other time it happened was in 1989, which deserves another asterisk because Magic Johnson was picked for the West team, only he sat out the game with an injury. And nine times out of 10, the eventual season MVP is a starter in the All-Star Game. Only three times in my lifetime has the League’s MVP been an All-Star reserve (Steve Nash in ’05, David Robinson in ’95, Moses Malone in ’82).

Which brings us to Manu Ginobili. Hours before the NBA names its 2011 All-Star reserves, Ginobili is not yet a lock to make the cut simply due to the depth of guards in the West. At the same time, there is a small but growing support group campaigning for Manu as MVP of the entire League — during last night’s Clippers/Bulls game, L.A. announcer Mike Smith reiterated that Ginobili is one of his top candidates, a couple weeks after naming Ginobili his MVP favorite. According to NBA.com’s “Race to the MVP” weekly column, Ginobili is currently 10th in the running, but the week before that was 6th.

The Manu-for-MVP argument has legs: Ginobili has (arguably) been the best player on the best team in the NBA, averaging 18.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game as the Spurs are 40-7 record going into Thursday’s schedule.

At the same time, Manu will be hurt by the same perception that will hurt LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and to an extent, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant when it comes time for MVP voting: He has too many good players on his team.

If you can stick “arguably” in the middle of the statement, “So-and-So is the best player on his team,” than their chances of winning an award like MVP take an automatic hit. In San Antonio, Ginobili has to share the spotlight with Tony Parker (17.2 ppg, 6.8 apg) and Tim Duncan (13.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg). He’s not the definite face of the franchise like Duncan. He may not even be the best guard on the team.

Personally, I don’t think an MVP candidate should be punished for having talented teammates, but I understand the thought process of voters who feel that way. No one is arguing that Ginobili isn’t valuable to the Spurs and valuable amongst the League’s elite. But most valuable?

What do you think? Does Manu Ginobili have a legit shot at winning MVP?