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Fan debate: Revisiting the Rose-James MVP debate
After revisiting one of the NBA's liveliest debates of the past few years, I came to the same conclusion fans and other voters came to in May: the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose(notes) absolutely and undeniably was the league's Most Valuable Player in 2011.
Sure, there were plenty of great candidates - Dwight Howard(notes), Kobe Bryant(notes), Kevin Durant(notes), Dirk Nowitzki(notes) and Dwayne Wade come to mind - but no one contributed more to his team's success than Rose.
And then there was LeBron James(notes), the self-proclaimed king, the lynchpin of the Miami Heat's Big Three. Fact is, none of the names other than Rose and James really mattered, it was never more than a two-man race (even though James actually finished third in the final vote, behind Rose and Howard).
In temporarily resurrecting the Rose-James debate, I looked at three key points.
Best player or MVP?
The question that stumped a lot of people - mostly Heat fans who were prematurely celebrating their NBA title - was so simple it became befuddlingly complex: Is the MVP for the most valuable player or the best player?
Well, there's a simple answer for that simple question: It's for the most valuable player, not the best player. That's why it's called the Most Valuable Player award and not the Best Player award.
There's really no debate over who the best basketball player is - that'd be James, who is hands down the best basketball player in the world at this time.
That fact aside, Rose was more valuable to his team's success than James was to his. Rose took a 41-41 team on his young shoulders and carried them to an NBA-best 62-20 record - better than the Heat and the Kobe-led Lakers, and much better than Howard and the Orlando Magic.
Stat geeks from the top down didn't want Rose as MVP. The esteemed but egocentric John Hollinger, who devised the commonly used Player Efficiency Rating (PER), had this to say: "I literally cannot find a single shred of data, anywhere, to support the idea that (Rose is) the most valuable player in the league."
Hollinger and his state geek minions had a point. James had the league's best PER at 27.34; Rose was a distant ninth at 23.62, trailing most - make that all - of the other names in the MVP debate. Rose wasn't even the top point guard in terms of PER, which measures per-minute productivity based on points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, missed shots, turnovers and fouls.
But now we've gone full circle back to the first point I examined: Is the MVP for the most valuable or the statistically best basketball player? Remember, people, the game is played on the court, not on paper.
Postseason doesn't count
This one is simple - the NBA's MVP is a regular season award; the award is handed out before the postseason even starts. As such, there's no place for any discussion about postseason play having any relevance to the MVP.
With all of the great candidates to consider, the 2011 MVP debate was both lengthy and fun. My greatest hope right now is that we have a season this year so we can renew and expand this debate in deciding who the most worthy player is for the 2012 Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
Sources: Derrick Rose is NBA's youngest MVP, ESPN; NBA MVP smelling like Rose, but others have case, too, USA Today; 2010-2011 Hollinger NBA Player Statistics, ESPN; 2011 NBA MVP Voting Breakdown: Derrick Rose Wins Easily, SB Nation; Derrick Rose: An Adamant Defense of His Postseason Play and MVP, Kelly Scaletta/BleacherReport.com; Derrick Rose: The Surprisingly Historic Numbers of His MVP Season, Kelly Scaletta/BleacherReport.com
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan.
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