This is one of the weaker MVP classes in memory which is partially why Rose has such a great chance to win, and right now, is probably the favorite. Of course, winning an MVP in a weak class is kind of like being one of the more poor billionaires in the world. It’s still a mammoth achievement that I thought Rose would have no chance of winning this year and relatively little chance of winning in his career prior to this season.
However, when you look at the candidates, things stack up well for Rose to win the award.
The other candidates all have significant holes in their resumes
LeBron James and Dywane Wade play with each other.
On top of that, they haven’t beaten good teams. Besides the Christmas day game against the Lakers, the Heat have a big sack full of memorable losses and not a whole lot of memorable wins. On top of that, both have specifically failed repeatedly in the clutch in those close games against good teams.
Ultimately, they don’t have a better record than the Bulls, have an elite third option next to them as well, and their stats are down from previous levels. LeBron won the past two MVPs, and winning three in a row is a near political impossibility especially after you stack up the rest of the stuff going against him in this paragraph. Wade is generally considered the lesser of the two players (and rightly so), so his odds of winning are basically none while LeBron is on his team.
Dwight Howard is in the midst of his best season but team success is not following
I think Dwight might be the most deserving candidate this year. He’s a legit defensive player of the year candidate, but he’s also putting up nearly as many points as Rose (23.1) while scoring at a radically higher efficiency rating. As such, he’s probably more deadly on both ends of the floor.
Unfortunately for Dwight, his individual prowess hasn’t translated into an elite year for the Magic. The Magic are on pace for 52 wins after winning 59 the past two seasons. Go back through history and the worst team record of an MVP I could find was 54 wins (not counting the shortened season) which was Steve Nash (2nd time), but it was the 4th best record in the league. The Magic presently have the 7th best record in the league.
It’s certainly not Dwight’s fault, but the lack of wins hurts his candidacy, and the fact that you can’t go to him at the end of games due to FT problems hurts him as well. Of all the candidates, Howard is the one I could live with winning the award though.
Kevin Durant’s Thunder are disappointing and Westbrook’s hype has lowered his star some
Durant suddenly looks like part of a big two with Russell Westbrook arguably being just as valuable or perhaps even more valuable than Durant. On top of that, the Thunder, after expected to take a leap forward, are only on pace to win 52 games this season. Presently 8th in the league.
Again, players from the eighth best team don’t win MVPs as a general rule, regardless of how good he is, he’s not elevating his team enough if his team isn’t playing better especially given that he has a guy on his team playing as well as he is.
Durant’s still a viable candidate, but his team failing to meet expectations despite tremendous growth of one of his teammates will count against him. Dwight Howard has won more with less around him so far, so he has no case on Howard at the moment IMO.
Kobe Bryant fights against poor team expectations and arguments of selfishness
The old story about Kobe not sharing the ball causing losses has come back as the Lakers have disappointed particularly against the quality teams in the league, much like the Heat. The Lakers are operating best when Pau Gasol gets a lot of touches, but Kobe actually prevents that from happening at times.
Given that Kobe’s year isn’t particularly special by his standards and his team has disappointed, I think he’s out. He’s still having an elite season, but it’s hard to see him getting much groundswell of support IMO.
Granted, the Lakers have started a big run post all-star break, and if they can continue to ride that momentum, then Kobe’s star might rise again.
Dirk Nowitzki might be the most deserving, but his reputation kills him
It’s not fair, but the fact that Dirk has already won an MVP and his team has been a perennial playoff disappointment sinks his chances at the award IMO. People still remember the embarrassment of giving Dirk the MVP and then having him have to accept it after his team was already eliminated in the playoffs, a fairly unheard of event.
The Mavericks have only made the second round once in the past five seasons since Dirk’s MVP, bowing out in the first round four times. However, given the Mavericks under the radar record (3rd in the NBA) and the fact that they had the majority of those losses with Dirk out, he doesn’t have a second legit star, his team had a major injury (Caron Butler), and Dirk’s individual greatness I think he’s very deserving of the award this year.
That said, because of past performance, and the fact that Dirk just doesn’t feel like a multiple MVP type player, I think he’s passed over.
Derrick Rose has no secondary star next to him
Carlos Boozer’s impact on the game hasn’t been as big as I expected. He’s been okay, but I rarely feel that Boozer impacts the game much. His best attribute is that he can create decent (not great) offense for the Bulls at times to give Rose a breather.
Joakim Noah hasn’t looked like the same player since returning from injury, and the Bulls dominated while he was out as well.
Luol Deng has been solid, but he’s certainly not a shot creator and much of his offense is due to Rose.
Rose has a great cast, but like LeBron in Cleveland, it’s a group of guys who need Derrick Rose not a group of guys who are great on their own.
All of the candidates except for Dirk, Howard, and Rose had a legitimate
second all-star next to them, and many of them are playing with a legit
superstar next to them. As such, those three candidates have a
considerable advantage in my opinion.
The Bulls are presently on pace for the biggest win improvement of any team in the NBA
The Bulls are set to win 57 games this season, 16 more than last year. That improvement is more than any team in the league including the Miami Heat who added LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the off-season. They’re presently on pace to have the fourth best record in the NBA when preseason expectations were universally about 7-8 games shy of where they’re currently projected.
As such, the Bulls have a lot of positive momentum. People often view the direction as even more valuable than the absolute. This is why a guy like Howard is hurt more because his direction is down.
Also, Rose’s mammoth improvement deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the Bulls improvement. I know the defense has been awesome, but the Bulls an elite defense in 06/07, but they couldn’t beat great teams and only won 49 games. This Bulls team is on pace to be 8 games better than that team, and it’s because of Derrick Rose on offense.
Rose has a money stat
People always want to book some type of accomplishment that a player has that puts them in an elite category, and Rose has one. In the history of the NBA, there have only been 20 seasons of 24 points + 8 Assists averaged for the year.
If you add Rose’s 4 rebounds, then there’s only been 17.
Of all of those seasons (whether you use the 20 or the 17), only two have happened in the past 20 years. I note that because the average scoring was much higher as well as the average minutes per game for each player. The players who did it in the past era likely would not have done it in this era.
In the past 20 years, Michael Jordan and LeBron James each did it once. That shows how immensely difficult it is to do what Derrick Rose is doing as those are, in my opinion, quite possibly the two best perimeter players in the history of the league and they each only did it once.
It puts some context on just how unique the season Derrick Rose is putting up. The stat has also been becoming quite public and put forth over and over again on the national TV broadcasts.
Speaking of national TV games, the Bulls are doing pretty well in those
Let’s face it, the voters probably only see each player only so many times. I doubt most voters watch more than 15 games of each player, and the games almost every voter watches are the ones on national TV.
The Bulls have 17 total ESPN/TNT appearances this season. So far they are 9-5 in those games, and the last loss was against the Knicks on Christmas. The rest of the losses were early in the season when the Bulls roster wasn’t healthy.
However, they’ve won their last seven such appearances (Celtics, Mavs, Heat, Spurs, Heat, Magic, Heat) which should carry forth a lot of momentum for them. Their remaining three games are against the Hawks, Celtics, and Magic, and while the Bulls will need to do well in those games to maintain that momentum, they presently have a lot of strong team momentum.
On top of the quality national TV performance record, the Bulls have the 2nd best record in the NBA against teams in the Jeff Sagarin’s top 10. The Bulls are 13-7, second only to the Spurs 15-7. Seems to me like the MVP should lead his team to victory against the best teams in the league on the biggest of stages, and Rose has done that more so than any player in the NBA (there is no one guy on the Spurs to pick).
So what is working against Rose?
Efficiency rankings and all in one metrics don’t have him at the top
For those who are stat geeks and love PER or all-in-one metrics, they don’t really favor Rose that much largely because his offense isn’t super efficient like some of the other candidates.
I think those stats sometimes fail to capture how great Rose is on offense and what a difference his offense does make, but there’s certainly a case to be made there.
He didn’t have the preseason hype for the award
It’s kind of like in college football, if you start the season ranked 25th, it’s hard to get to #1 even if you go undefeated on the season. Voters will tend to think that Rose is young, hasn’t paid his dues, and that he’ll get one some other year, so they don’t need to vote for him now.
Steve Nash won the award without any preseason hype, but he’s really the only guy in recent history to do so.
They don’t like to hand them out this early in a guys career (I believe Kareem 2nd season) was the last guy to win one before year 4.
There’s always this weird ‘turn’ political thing in the NBA for the award, and there’s simply no way Rose would win the ‘his turn’ battle. Michael Jordan won in year four, Larry Bird won in year four. It’s hard to imagine Rose winning in year 3. It basically just doesn’t happen, at least not in recent memory.
I have to agree with Derrick’s preseason statement now. Why not Derrick Rose for MVP? I don’t think he’s the runaway winner of the award, but I can’t look at any other player in the league and say “this guy definitely deserves it over Derrick”.
Can he overcome the things working against him? I hope, and think, that he will.