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Derrick Rose will win MVP. There are better choices.

Mar 24, 2011, 12:20 PM EDT

Sacramento Kings v Chicago Bulls Getty Images

Stan Van Gundy is right — Derrick Rose is going to win the MVP award this year. He has everybody including Michael Jordan’s endorsement. Influential media members are lining up behind him.

The question is: Does he deserve it? Or, more accurately, do others deserve it more?

You can make a good argument for Rose — he is the team leader and best player on the Chicago Bulls, the team that right now is (and very possibly at the end of the season will be) the top seed in the East. His ability to get to the rim and finish — through at times impossibly small spaces — is the best in the league. He carries the Bulls offense averaging 24.9 points and 7.8 assists per game. And where would the Bulls be without him?

But the argument against Rose — and really for others — goes like this: What makes Chicago great is their defense, and Rose is not an integral part of that (the Bulls defense gets better when Rose goes off and C.J. Watson comes on). Rose is integral to their offense, but the Bulls offense is 13th in the league (in points per possession). It’s average, it’s not efficient. Rose averages 24.9 points per game but he has to take 20.2 shots per game to get there.

Basically, this is the 2001 Allen Iverson wins MVP scenario all over again, argues Neil Paine over at Basketball-Reference.

All told, Rose and Iverson’s MVP campaigns are almost eerily similar. Each player was worth approximately 6-7 points of on-court offensive rating above average for a middling offensive team, and each was essentially an average defender on a very strong defensive squad. Each man’s role was to carry the offense (almost single-handedly — with apologies to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, & Aaron McKie) and let his surrounding role players handle their defensive duties.

Iverson’s 2001 Sixers team made the NBA finals. Bulls fans would welcome a similar outcome.

The guy who will come in second in the MVP balloting this season is Dwight Howard, but statistics and Stan Van Gundy say he is more deserving. (To be up front, if I had a vote this would be my guy.) He is averaging 23.1 points and 14.2 rebounds a game shooting 60 percent (Rose is 44 percent), but he is also the primary reason the Magic are an elite defensive team. He is integral to everything the Magic do. Where are the Magic without Howard?

But the Magic will be the four seed, the Bulls will be the one seed. That influences people. So does the fact that Rose makes plays with real flair and style, much more so than Howard. Much like Iverson used to.

But if you’re going to consider Rose the MVP, then you also have to consider Russell Westbrook, since they have about the same stats and impact on the game, argues Tom Ziller at SB Nation.

The basic per-game statistics for Rose and Westbrook are seriously similar. Rose averages 24.9 points and 7.8 assists per game; Westbrook is at 22.2 and 8.3. Each shoots 44 percent from the floor and a touch below average — 34 percent for Rose, 33 percent for Westbrook — from long-range. Westbrook draws almost eight free throws a game and shoots them quite well; Rose draws seven FTs on average, and shoots them quite well. Westbrook averages 4.6 rebounds per game; Rose, 4.2. Westbrook gives up 3.9 turnovers, Rose 3.4. Just under two steals for Westbrook, just more than one for Rose.

Use advanced metrics and the same numbers play out, maybe Rose is a little better than Westbrook but not much. And if so, why is Rose the runaway winner and Westbrook not even considered? Ziller’s argument is that Rose is the MVP because he has a good narrative — we like the resurgence of the Bulls (we really do), we like that he has stepped up to be the leader on that team and improved his game. We like what he and the Bulls symbolize — hard work and defense — in a season that was supposed to be about the Miami Heat and their egos, about Carmelo Anthony and his trade demands.

But is that what MVP should be about, Ziller asks?

If you’re handing your support to Rose without considering Westbrook and the others strongly, know that you’re not awarding the Most Valuable Player trophy, you’re awarding a kindergarten gold star for a totally awesome story or the Man Booker prize or something. Awarding MVP trophies based on warm fuzzies should be reserved for youth soccer, not the highest levels of sport.

LeBron James is the two-time defending MVP and is putting up monster numbers again. Dirk Nowitzki gets overlooked but he is having a huge year and the Mavericks are in the thick of things in the West. Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant can and should be in the discussion.

And that’s my issue — that this discussion seems over. Rose is the guy. When he wins it will not be some great travesty of justice — he has had a good season on a very good team. But there are better choices to be considered.

  1. mcgdos - Mar 24, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    I don’t understand the “no d” knock on Derrick. Once the national media creates a perception it becomes reality. This is Rose’ first year being taught defense and defensive positioning. The progress he’s made this year on that end has been remarkable. Those that think he doesn’t defend don’t watch games. He’s made huge strides this season. Just ask Deron or CP3. Stats only tell half the story.

  2. lnah - Mar 24, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    Kurt Helin,

    What do you think Deron Williams thinks about Derrick’s defense?
    Have you ever watched a Bulls game or are you just watching Sports Center?
    Also, how many games has he had both Noah and Boozer? And the Bulls are in 1st.
    Rose is the MVP. James is a douche.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 24, 2011 at 11:06 PM

      Since Bulls fans seem to think that anybody who doesn’t see the world their way cannot possibly have seen a game… I have seen three Bulls games live and a whole lot of them on TV.

      As for the BS that stats somehow are different than what one sees in a game — stats are based on results, on specific outcomes, and while watching can give you perspective on why certain stats line up certain ways, the numbers are the numbers.

      • oldhighs - Mar 24, 2011 at 11:53 PM

        So it’s not that you haven’t seen a Bulls game, you just didn’t understand what you were watching. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up.

  3. hnirobert3 - Mar 25, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    purdueman – Mar 24, 2011 at 6:38 PM
    hniro… Everyone here can see a windbag like you puffing up your chest and trying to insult anyone who dares post anything against your precious Magic.

    Either you are incredibly naive in thinking that Howard is right now more of a difference maker than Rose, Bryant, La Bum or for that matter even Duncan, or you should be out right now selling everything you own to put your bet down on your Magic to win it all this season! (in other words, why not put your money up where your mouth is running?)!


    Do you have no reading comprehension? I said that Howard is NOT on the same defensive level as guys like Wade and LeBron because they guard the better offensive players in the league (Bryant, Pierce, Ray Allen, Rose, Durant, etc.).

    • hnirobert3 - Mar 25, 2011 at 8:20 AM

      Again, before borderline1988 has a heart attack, I’m not saying he’s overrated, just saying that the level of player he has to guard is not the same type of player guards/swingmen have to guard. He doesn’t have to go one on one with LeBron. He doesn’t have to get starred down by Kobe before he pops up for a jumper. He doesn’t have to run around Ray Allen and 4 screens. He doesn’t have to contest Kevin Durant. He doesn’t get spun around in circles by Wade and Rose. He goes against guys like Dampier, Noah, Perkins, a broken Shaq and bums like Earl Barron. Not exactly the same offensive level as the others…

      • purdueman - Mar 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        Two points:

        1) hrnio.. is right from the respect that he can oftentimes simply park his big arse down in the paint and doesn’t have to work that hard just to cover teams that only have plodders; and

        2) Can’t you see by now that borderline1988 is hopelessly in love with Howard? In other words, using logic to rebutt his points about Howard simply won’t work because one never sees (or at least admits to), their sweethearts flaws!

  4. hnirobert3 - Mar 25, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    borderline1988 – Mar 24, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Calling Howard an overrated defender is by far the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.


    I never said he was overrated per se, I just don’t think he necessarily guards the best players in the league. Who are the best offensive players in the league? Rose, Bryant, James, Wade, Ray Allen, Melo, Durant, etc. Who guards those guys? Rose, Bryant, James, Wade, Ray Allen, Melo, Durant, etc. That’s why guards/swing players should be in the front running for DPOY voting because the days of Olajuwon, Ewing, etc. are long gone. There’s one elite Center in the league and that’s Howard.

    • borderline1988 - Mar 25, 2011 at 8:40 AM

      But that’s exactly the point you’re missing. It’s not about the player who lines up across from you.
      The Magic have one of the ebst defenses in the league. Why do you think that is? Is it because they have Hedo Turkoglu guarding the best player every night? Jason Richardson? Gilbert Arenas?

      It’s the same thing with Boston. Do you really think Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are that good at defending the opposing team’s stars? Of course not – the reason why they’re effective is because they have Garnett and Perkins behind them (albeit Perkins is gone now). That allows Allen and Pierce to be more aggressive on their guys, because they know that if their guy beats them, they’ll be funnelled into two of the best defending big men in the NBA. Allen and Pierce were never good defenders before the 2008 Boston team.

      Same thing with the Lakers.
      Bryant and Fisher are both overrated defenders (well, Fisher isn’t overrated, everyone agrees he’s bad at this point). But it doesn’t matter when you have two 7footers patrolling the paint.

      That’s simply how defense in basketball works. You don’t understand basketball.
      It’s a very simple equation :-).

      According to your metrics, people like Artest, Mbah a Moute or Thabo Sefalosha should win DPOY. While I would agree that Thabo is a superb one on one defender, do you actually think he makes the same defensive contribution to his team as Howard or Garnett?

      • hnirobert3 - Mar 25, 2011 at 9:24 AM

        It’s the same thing with Boston. Do you really think Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are that good at defending the opposing team’s stars? Of course not – the reason why they’re effective is because they have Garnett and Perkins behind them (albeit Perkins is gone now). That allows Allen and Pierce to be more aggressive on their guys, because they know that if their guy beats them, they’ll be funnelled into two of the best defending big men in the NBA. Allen and Pierce were never good defenders before the 2008 Boston team.


        Others would say that Boston is such a good defensive team, just like Chicago, because of Tom Thibodeau’s system.

        Again, I’m not saying Dwight isn’t a heck of a defensive anchor for the Magic. But how important is protecting the paint when you have guys like Kobe and Durant making 15+ footers all day? Putting a lock down defender on them to make them work for their shot is a lot harder than Dwight, who’s a freak of a physical specimen, standing around the rim and contesting layups.

      • borderline1988 - Mar 25, 2011 at 10:06 AM

        “Kobe Bryant knocking down 15+ footers all day long”.

        Last time I checked, Braynt shoots 45% from the floor. Assuming that shots near the basket increase his FG%, his shooting% from 15+ feet, off the dribble, is probably around 40%, if not less. That isn’t terrible defense against Kobe.
        This is exactly what you want to do to a good offensive player. Force him away from the paint, to take contested 15+ foot jump shots off the dribble.

        Players like Durant or Bryant can really go off when they mix things up. If they get to the basket a couple of times and score, then it forces defenders to take a step back on them, which opens up good looks at the basket after only one quick move on the perimeter. They feast off those looks.

        But if the threat of the drive is mitigated, defenders can be more aggressive on Bryant or Durant on the perimeter. What ends up happening is what I described before – those players take contested jumpers, which are not efficient shots. That’s when you get Bryant or Durant shooting 9/25 or something. Believe me, they’re not shooting 35% because they’re missing layups. It’s the 15-20 foot jumpers that aren’t going down.

        You’re a bit star struck in your analysis of basketball. Defense is more about a system than one on one defending. Sure – players like Kobe take over sometimes when they get hot. But honestly, you’d rather have Kobe take 20 shots outside the paint per game, then have inside looks for Bynum, Gasol, or even Kobe.
        Everyone always talks about defense on Kobe. But if you look more closely at games – Kobe always plays better against teams that don’t have shot-blocking presences in the paint. Kobe’s play doesnt usually correlate with the guy lining up against him. He could score 40 points on any given night against Phoenix, even though Grant Hill is considered a top notch defender.
        But he often struggles against Boston, with Ray Allen taking him, who is a poor individual defender.
        It’s not that hard to figure out why….

      • purdueman - Mar 25, 2011 at 3:00 PM

        I can’t wait for the day when Kobe just blows away like a rank fart in church on a hot summer’s day. I’ll give you that he’s arguably the greatest pure shooter in basketball history, but were it not for Phil Jackson he’d be impossible to keep under control and manage… wait and see once Phil steps down at the end of this season.

        No, this is Kobe’s last hurrah (at least if he remains a Laker). The Lakers are a slow, mostly over 30 laden team and this year neither the Spurs nor the Thunder (now that they have stud C Kendrick Perkins who will simply toss either Gasol and/or Bynum away like a rag doll should they meet in the playoffs), unlike the traditional cake walk matchups that the Lakers have enjoyed in the recent past.

        If the aging Lakers can manage to survive running the playoff gauntlet of the NL West this year, then they still have to go through a much a younger, faster, high energy team that is Chicago, an equally deep and experienced Boston or of course the “Three Prima Donna’s” in Miami. Good luck with that!

  5. helinhater - Mar 25, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Kurt – I commend you for coming to the board to swing your sword around…But the reality is, this isn’t about Bulls fans being unrealistic.

    At some point, you have to be willing to concede that you have a bias against the Chicago Bulls.

    The reality is, if you were to read through every post you’ve made about the Bulls and, say, the Heat, Spurs, Celtics, or Lakers, you’d see you have a remarkable tendency of throwing in snide or backhanded compliments towards the Bulls that you simply don’t subject the others to.

    For whatever reason, you cannot help yourself. And if I were so inclined to really make a point, I would point to your most recent post digging at Jordan in the midst of his putting support behind Rose. Oddly enough, I assume you would have trumpeted the Greatest Player of All Time’s thoughts on the current NBA landscape had he agreed with you that Howard or James deserved the trophy.

    Yet, because Jordan’s opinion went against everything you’ve been so vociferously campaigning for, you ridicule the statements.

    Which, in turn, is laughable.

    Your post here makes you sound, unfortunately, like a b*tch. You do understand that it is far more likely a widespread group of individuals could read your posts and deduce that you have a bias against the Bulls which in turn annoys said individuals than it is likely that an entire fan of millions would be made up entirely of crybabies, right?

    I highly doubt other media personnel are crying on their own comment’s section about how an entire fan base can’t handle criticism.

    Kurt – the truth is, Chicago fans welcome the criticism. When it makes sense…and when it appears the individual levying that criticism isn’t simply doing so thanks to a long ago acquired personal bias.

    If you wan’t to reward Lebron or Dwight Howard for Most Complete Player – that’s fine.

    But usually, when a player’s game takes a huge leap forward and they push their team to the top of the standings…and when the other key components have a difficulty staying healthy, the pressure intensifies for that one star. That one linchpin.

    Crunch all the numbers you want Doctor.

    82 games don’t lie. And neither does your placement within the shrinking minority of individuals who think Rose doesn’t deserve the MVP.

    Keep up the hating.

    I can’t wait to hear your snide remarks about the foliage in Grant Park come June.

  6. chitownmatt - Mar 25, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Rose is an very good defender. To state that the Bulls’ defense is stronger when Watson is on the floor is ridiculous.

    Two months ago you were saying Rose is not the MVP because he is not even in the “Elite Player” category and the Bulls have enjoyed the easiest first half schedule. One month ago you said his PER was not high enough. Now you are saying his defense isn’t good enough.

    What’s your reason going to be tomorrow—Rose’s bad breath???

  7. davidly - Mar 26, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    I’d like to pose one more bit of rhetoric for alla y’allses to chew on – which you can, of course, spit back in my face if you want: Why should the NBA MVP have to be starter? I mean, as long as we’re talking about which team can’t do without which player the most, and all?

    I present to you Lamar Odom. His team has needed him to start 31 games while Bynum was out and during that period they managed to play .697 ball and maintained a division lead. More importantly he was having a great year up to that point, had led the league in both field goal and three-point percentage (still leads his team in the former), but most important of all, he immediately went back to his role on the bench where he has carried that group up to now. When Bynum got suspended recently, they won both games he started – in no small part due to his all around play.

    And please, when criticizing my idea, please don’t come at me with, “He should be judged like a starter…” The fact is, he humbly goes where his team needs him most and never complains or otherwise poisons the chemistry of the team. Take a look around the league and tell me that’s not a valuable quality. What would LA do without him?

    Perusing the last two decades of MVPs I recognize a trend of inside the box thinking. Yet folks always say that it’s not a “best player” award. Then why do we tend to give it to the year’s best performer? I’ll tell you why: because in the back of the voters’ minds is always “Who’s the best?” Well that’s not what the award is about.

    • purdueman - Mar 27, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      fould… what I would have liked was for Kobe to have received jail time for the crime he committed in Colorado, not another MVP award.

  8. fouldwimmerlaik - Mar 27, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    What makes the MVP debate interesting if not problematic is the fact that people have different views of what an MVP is.

    If Rose gets the MVP then by all means, he deserves it. The way the Bulls surged past the pre-season EC faves Celtics, Heat, and Magic, surely one can’t say they’re flukes. Rose is the glue that holistically binds the Bulls team — at both ends of the floor.

    There are certain intangibles that stat lines don’t show. Sadly, if you want to be empirical about it, it would be difficult to quantify these factors. The only numbers I can see that would support the intangibles are the numbers under the Win column.

    Not to sound condescending nor being a hypocrite, I wouldn’t mind Kobe not getting the season MVP. Others could have them as it is a means to appreciate other players’ contributions to the sport. What matters the most for me is who takes home the trophy in June. Besides, Finals MVP for me is more rewarding.

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