31 March 2011

The Cases for the 2011 NBA MVP

The triumphant return! Yes, after getting out of an 16-month coma, I'm finally getting back on this bloggy bandwagon.

The topic: the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player race. The media (read: ESPN, Yahoo, Fox Sports, CBS Sports) seems to be raving about how Derrick Rose is undoubtedly the season's MVP, and for the most part I've believed them. But two things I saw today made me take a second look.

The first was a video clip from yesterday's The Herd with Colin Cowherd, where Colin makes a decent case for LeBron James for MVP over Derrick Rose. To sum up, better defensive impact, better plus-minus, more emphasis on Tom Thibodeau's defensive philosphy, less credit to the Bulls having a better record than the Heat. All good points, and I'll even throw in two sabermetric measurements: better PER (27.0 to 23.4), better Win Shares (14.0 to 11.5).

Side note: If you can't tell, I REALLY like basketball-reference.com

To this effect, I somewhat agree with Cowherd. A vote for Derrick Rose is a vote more for the story than the Derrick Rose himself. Rose's dynamic increase in 3-point shooting, driving more to the basket (and thus making more SportsCenter Top 10-worthy plays), and embracing the role of putting his team on his back. Couple that with the Bulls serge to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, and you have a story that can only be described as a media darling.

The second link that caught my eye was John Hollinger's piece (sorry if you're not an ESPN Insider subscriber) on how Derrick Rose is much more replaceable than someone like Dwight Howard. Hollinger brought up the plus-minus and the PER stats (figures, since PER is a stat Hollinger himself invented) and how nothing stands out from Rose as MVP-quality, and concludes that Dwight Howard should be MVP based on the irreplacablity he brings to the Magic.

Being as it was that I was at work at the time (and writing something there would be less conspicuous than either here or my Facebook page), I wrote the following:

I'll point to a reason why Rose is more valuable is than Howard. When in the clutch, the Magic go to Howard a significant amount less than the Bulls go to Rose. According to 82games.com, Howard is *49th* in points per 48 min of Clutch Time (defined as 4th qtr/OT, less than 5 min, neither team leading by more than 5 points), with 25.0 pp48. Derrick Rose on the other hand not only has a significantly higher scoring per 48 min of Clutch Time, but is .3 ast away from averaging a triple double (43.2-11.3-9.7).

Derrick Rose will ultimately win the MVP for the following reasons:
  • The Bulls are significantly better this season and have outperformed almost all expectations set forth at the beginning of the season
  • LeBron James's tarnished public image after the Decision, as well as the fact that he's the two-time reigning MVP and NBA fans (and media) have gotten bored with the story of LeBron being the best player in the league
  • Dwight Howard is good for a highlight dunk on offense per night and that's about it. He is a definite liability at the foul line, and his crunch time numbers are comparably worse than his superstar contemporaries. The fans (and media) also severely underrate defense on an individual level, so Howard's defensive prowess--10.2 rpg just on defense (2nd in NBA), 2.4 bpg (3rd) and 94.4 defensive rating (1st)--goes unnoticed for the most part.

EDIT: Bill Simmons wrote an column the day after I posted this and explained my point 10 times better than I did. So much for my astute basketball analysis.


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