"Rose for MVP" Support is an Insult to Chris Paul


We've all heard the talk around the league concerning this year's MVP "debate." Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear to people around the NBA that Derrick Rose has separated himself from the pack in the eyes of the media, and those are the people who do the voting. On the surface, the thought makes sense - he's the floor general and scoring leader on the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Looking deeper, however, we find that Rose may not be as much of an "MVP" as some may think, and his numbers beyond his points per game total are not exactly "league leading." In fact, those numbers pale in comparison to another point guard who had a very similar resume just three seasons ago, and yet did not take home the MVP award. That point guard is our own Chris Paul. I believe that any media member who is planning on voting for Derrick Rose as this season's MVP should strongly reconsider, especially if that individual did not vote for CP3 three seasons ago; not only would it be the incorrect choice, it would also be an insult to our beloved team leader. 

First, let's take a look at both players' raw stats. These numbers don't tell the whole story, but it's an excellent start:

Player (Year)

MPG

FG%

3P%

FT%

RPG

APG

SPG

TOPG

PPG

PER

Chris Paul ('07-08)

37.6

48.8%

36.9%

85.1%

4.0

11.6

2.7

2.5

21.1

28.39

Derrick Rose ('10-11)

37.5

44.0%

32.9%

85.2%

4.2

7.9

1.1

3.5

25.0

23.37

A quick review of these stats tells us that both players sport close to equal numbers in minutes played, free throw percentage, and rebounds. Apart from that, the separation occurs. Rose bests Paul in only one area - points per game. That may sound siginificant, but Rose is getting those points this season at a MUCH lower efficiency than Paul did in his MVP-worthy season. Paul made nearly 49% of his shots, significantly higher than Rose's 44%, and held a similar 37% to 33% advantage from three point range.

Creating even more distance between the two is each player's assist and steal averages. In the 2007-08 season, CP3 led the league in both assists and steals; his 11.6 assist per game total was .5 assists higher than the next closest player (Steve Nash), and his 2.71 steals per game rate was a staggering .38 steals higher than second place in that category (Ron Artest and Baron Davis). Rose comes nowhere close to either of these averages, dishing out 7.9 dimes per game to go along with 1.1 steals per game. Both are respectable numbers, but nowhere near MVP caliber.

As an NBA point guard, one of your main responsibilities is to take care of the basketball. Suffice it to say that a 10 turnover outing like the one Rose had last game isn't going to help his MVP candidacy. Rose is averaging a full turnover more per game this season than Chris Paul did three seasons ago, although part of this can be attributed to a higher usage rate (31.7% for Rose vs. 27.0% for Paul). That being said, his 10.1% turnover rate (a stat which is adjusted for possessions that a player uses) is still significantly higher than Paul's miniscule 7.8% rate in 2007-08, a number that was second lowest in the league for starting PGs. The lowest? Derek Fisher; however, with Fish's lack of aggression while deferring to Kobe on most Lakers possessions, that shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

Finally, we arrive at both Paul and Rose's player efficiency ratings for their seasons in question; but first, a little bit of historical data. In the past 20 seasons, the MVP has finished in the top five in PER 16 times. Over this twenty year span, the average PER for an MVP award winner is 27.33. Like all statistical evaluation tools, even PER has a flaw or two, but the correlation between the metric and the MVP award is impossible to ignore. Derrick Rose currently sports a PER of 23.37, good for 11th in the NBA; however, if the season ended today and he was indeed crowned MVP, it would be the lowest PER for an MVP winner not named Steve Nash since Dave Cowens won the award in 1973. That's almost 40 years ago! In Chris Paul's 2007-08 season, he finished the year with a PER of 28.39, second in the NBA to LeBron James, and 5 spots ahead of actual winner Kobe Bryant's 24.2 PER. The point here isn't to complain about past events (even though CP3 obviously should have beaten out Kobe that season), but instead to put Rose's current season in perspective. Are his numbers truly deserving of the MVP award? I don't think so.

Of course, there's one more argument that is left to be made - after all, basketball is a team sport, isn't it? Derrick Rose is the leader of a team which currently rests atop the Eastern Conference, a position few expected it to be in before the season began. This sounds eerily similar to a certain 2007-08 Hornets team which finished one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the top spot in the Western conference, an achievement that absolutely nobody foresaw. That Chris Paul-led Hornets team finished 5th in the NBA in offensive rating and 7th in defensive rating; with players such as Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, and David West in the lineup, the vast majority of the defensive burden fell on both Paul and Tyson Chandler, and both delivered. Rose, on the other hand, has been hailed primarily for his offense, not his defense; ironically, the Bulls are first in the NBA in defensive rating so far this season and just 14th in offensive rating. In a nutshell, while Rose's season has obviously been a strong one, it is not the primary reason that the Bulls have won the majority of their games. Chicago has gotten to where they are thanks to the impeccable defensive system implemented by new coach Tom Thibodeau, and the entire team's willingness to buy in and adjust to his teachings.

For the record, if I had an MVP vote, it would absolutely go to Dwight Howard (26.18 PER,14.3 RPG, and 2.41 BPG each rank 2nd in the NBA, and his team would be a complete wreck without him); however, that's not the point of this column. If Derrick Rose - whose current season is inferior to Chris Paul's 2007-08 season in almost every way - is crowned as this season's Most Valuable Player, I think the NBA needs to take a long look at the criteria that is used by voters to determine who wins this award, because the decision making process will appear as inconsistent as ever.

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