While I agree that most of the time it's better not to get too carried away getting bogged down in the route to #1, this is the rankings thread. It seems reasonable to expect we might go into a big more detail and think longer term when you come in here.
Obviously the number 2 ranking is what everyone is talking about this week, but it's interesting to see just why Djokovic is so far ahead of Murray in the rankings. Their record in slams over the last year is very similar - W, F, F, SF for Djokovic and W, F, F, QF for Murray. Indeed that difference is only worth an extra 360 points in the rankings for Djokovic. However even if Murray had won the Wimbledon and Australian Open finals he'd still be well behind in the rankings (which seems ridiculous as he'd have three slams and Djokovic/Federer wouldn't have any).
On the other hand Murray is giving up 3,430 points in the rankings with his performance in Masters (before Miami). It's really Masters that are the difference between being number 1 and number 2/3 at this point in time (plus the Tour Finals). That's why I think winning here would be so important - theoretically he'll have to outperform Djokovic in the hard court Masters to make up for the clay ones if he wants to be number 1.
Definitely. When you think about it, 9000 points are available across the Masters Series, compared with 8000 for the slams. There is less jeopardy or glory if you take an early exit or win any single event, but across the year it adds up.
Leaving at the quarters in IW was disappointing, but at least it was better than last year, and over the course of IW and Miami, Andy's gained on Djokovic (and Federer) and has earned at least (180+600) = 780, compared with Djokovic's (360+90)= 450. That's going from (10+600) = 610 and (360+1000) = 1360 respectively. You can do the sums endlessly, and unless Andy wins tomorrow, his genuine gains over Djokovic at these two events isn't considerable.
More important possibly, is that Djokovic was looking fairly invincible for the last two years, which didn't just earn him loads of points, it will have given him an aura that made some lower ranked players give up before they started. If those players start to think there are chinks in his armour, a few more might find them. Just as there are a lot of points Andy can gain in the coming months, Novak could easily drop quite a lot too.
IMO, Djokovic gained a lot of advantage from being top 2 while Rafa was off. There were many draws where he got the easier route to the final, and therefore points as a result. With Rafa back, or Andy at #2, that difference will even up.