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:
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.
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