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RACE TO THE MVP
0128-derrick-rose-608.jpg
While Derrick Rose's game won't make stat-heads drool, it does exhibit MVP qualities.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Case against Rose's MVP bid is case for a new kind of award

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Jan 28 2011 12:29PM

There is a hole in the NBA's stable of annual postseason awards, one that needlessly complicates the task undertaken here each week by the committee and each spring by the 128 or so media types who sit down with pen, paper and DVD player, light incense, study tea leaves and consult the Magic 8-Ball when casting votes for the league's Most Valuable Player.

There is no award for Offensive Player of the Year. There is an honor for the other half of the court, Defensive Player of the Year. But no one ever has felt compelled to balance things -- and to clear up the annual confusion among MVP voters -- by establishing a trophy to be handed to the league's most dominant or impactful performer at the end of the floor that lights up scoreboards.

What happens, then, is that the MVP becomes the repository for such scoring stars -- or assists stars, or leaders in whatever other statistical measure fascinates a given voter. Meanwhile, others choose to wrestle with the concept of a player's "value" relative both to his team and within the league.

The Race committee doesn't want to get too bogged down here with criticism of the process -- it has been accused in the past by faithful readers of being too primer -- or manual-like in making cases for or against certain MVP candidates.

But when think pieces start popping up around the Internet chastising those who view Chicago's Derrick Rose as the player who singlehandedly has done the most to elevate his team on the court and in the standings -- thus, the MVP by a very acceptable definition -- something clearly is amiss.

The case against Rose? He isn't "efficient" enough. His defense is mediocre. His personal "win shares" calculation isn't as impressive as some. He doesn't dominate in any one statistical category. And so on, generally using evidence that comes more from slide rules than eyewitness testimony.

What gets neglected is Chicago's improvement, which has been in lockstop with Rose's individual development. Last year, he made it to the All-Star Game in Dallas as a reserve; this year he's a starter. Last year, the Bulls were 23-22 through 45 games; this year they are 31-14. Chicago didn't gain its 31st victory last season until Feb. 26 and didn't win No. 32, a likely threshold this weekend, until March 20.

The Bulls also have been doing it despite significant layoffs to its second- and third-best players. Chicago is 7-2 with Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah all available, but also 11-7 through two Boozer injuries and 15-6 since Noah went out in mid-December for hand surgery.

Rose has been toasted by opposing coaches and players all season, usually within minutes of the 6-foot-3 point guard toasting their teams. As for the ultimate parlor game of MVP ponderers, imagining the Bulls without Rose -- and with Boozer and Noah missing as many games as they have -- suggests an elevator-drop by Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings.

None of this would be a problem if the NBA gave out a "Most Outstanding Player" award, or an OPOY, to keep the MVP from getting cluttered up. The poor Maurice Podoloff trophy has to do double or triple duty satisfying all the demands that various voters, stats geeks and essayists place on it. Which is about as fair as expecting someone to average a triple-double for an entire season.

Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad award to have: The Oscar Robertson Offensive Player of the Year trophy.

That is for others to decide, though. All the committee is saying is that Derrick Rose doesn't have to be the best player in the NBA this season to be its most valuable. That's where he remains in this week's rankings:

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls (31-14)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4438.024.64.68.11.10.8.445.378.819
Last Week's Rank - 1
It was announced Thursday that Rose is suffering from ulcers -- and here we thought nervous stomachs were limited to the coaching staffs that have to game-plan against him. Nailed down first All-Star starting spot alongside fellow Chicagoan Dwyane Wade in East. Most essential Bull, as usual, in ugly victories vs. Cleveland, Milwaukee.

2. Dwight Howard, Magic (29-16)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4435.922.013.41.21.22.2.569.000.582
Last Week's Rank - 2
Howard picked up an Eastern Conference player of the week award, then kept going with 39 points, 32 rebounds and six blocks against Detroit and Indiana. He was 16-of-29 from the field, which makes you wonder why the Pistons and Pacers didn't make him shoot more than 16 free throws total.

3. LeBron James, Heat (31-13)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4338.225.87.37.11.50.5.472.354.768
Last Week's Rank - 3
His 7-of-24 at New York was no masterpiece but the two-time defending MVP averaged 31 points, 11 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks. Heat is 2-1 when Wade doesn't start, 1-2 when Bosh is out and 0-3 when James sits (0-4 if you count the game he got hurt.) Cleveland, meanwhile, is ...

4. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (33-13)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4633.124.95.04.81.30.1.460.309.819
Last Week's Rank - 5
He's doing more with less -- less practice time, fewer minutes played but 2.4 million All-Star votes for his 13th selection. Bryant sat out the 2010 game in Dallas with a sprained ankle but will be the local favorite for an unprecedented fourth All-Star MVP trophy.

5. Kevin Durant, Thunder (28-16)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4139.628.66.72.91.11.0.466.336.890
Last Week's Rank - 8
Another first-timer among the All-Star starters in the fan balloting. Durant, who nearly doubled his vote total of last season (from 870,567 to 1,736,728) averaged 33 points and 12.7 rebounds in a 2-1 week.

6. Chris Paul, Hornets (30-16)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4735.116.44.09.72.60.1.484.462.893
Last Week's Rank - NR
The Race welcomes back Paul after a too-long absence. Hmm, can't blame that on the Hornets' lack of national TV exposure, since committee members all have League Pass. Beyond New Orleans' 4-0 week, Paul leads the NBA in steals, tops all point guards in three-point shooting (46.2 percent) and ranks third in assists.

7. Dwyane Wade, Heat (31-13)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4236.725.36.74.21.41.1.493.301.731
Last Week's Rank - NR
A light week got lighter, and brighter, for Wade when he missed Miami's game against Toronto with a migraine headache. He was back at New York and scored 33 points in three quarters, then missed all seven of his shots in the fourth.

8. Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (23-21)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4537.226.09.02.71.02.2.501.563.775
Last Week's Rank - 4
Was back in a scoring groove, getting 30 and 24 after two games of 18 points, to help the Knicks stem the bleeding. Now he's got the validation of a starting All-Star spot for the East squad -- and a lot more heavy lifting to do to get New York back in contention for a top-four seed.

9. Deron Williams, Jazz (27-18)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4637.721.93.79.41.20.2.467.366.855
Last Week's Rank - 7
He is having a terrific individual season, but the results aren't there lately for his team (the Jazz have dropped six in a row). Williams' team lost when he scored five points, it has lost when he had a double-double (20 points, 14 assists) and it lost when he went for 39 points.

10. Manu Ginobili, Spurs (38-7)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4631.518.73.94.91.80.4.434.361.871
Last Week's Rank - 6
Pick a Spur. Pick a Celtic. The teams with the NBA's two best records have a wealth of invaluable players but no obvious MVP candidate. The Race gives a slight edge this week to Ginobili over Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce; the Spurs' guard contributed to a 3-1 week with 66 points, 26 assists and six steals.

Dropping out: Rajon Rondo, Boston (No. 9 last week); Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (10).

Honorable mention: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Carmelo Anthony, Denver; Griffin; Kevin Love, Minnesota; Zach Randolph, Memphis; David West, New Orleans; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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