Friday, February 18, 2011

The MVP

So in the last game for a week that I will care about -- honestly, this week and the time around the baseball All-Star Game is just death to anyone here that doesn't enjoy movie reviews and FTT Off-Topic -- Derrick Rose showed the nation why you don't have to be the best player in basketball to be the most valuable.

Against a Spurs team that scares no one despite their pedigree and record, Rose brought the wood. The jumper was falling, the speed in transition and on secondary breaks was revelatory, and if you didn't know that San Antonio is actually pretty great on defense, you'd have never guessed it from this game. Rose has been getting to the line a ton this year, and yet he was so quick in this game, he only went six times. In 39 minutes. Yeesh.

The Spurs shot well, hit threes, didn't turn the ball over, and generally played a road game that wins, well, anywhere. They lost by 10. Rose accounting for over half of the Bulls points, if you count assists for buckets, and you probably should. He turned the ball over once. If he had the three-ball working, he'd have scored 50. While being, well, an actual point guard. Just crazy valuable.

This isn't to say that Rose is the best player in the game; he's not, and it's not close. You are better off starting your team with LeBron James and Dwight Howard. It's also not to say that he's a perfect point; the shooting percentage can still trend too low, the three stroke is better this year but still not great, and for a freakishly quick player, you'd like to see more steals and a better overall result on defense.

But for a Bulls team that needed to be healthy to get cohesion among new players, and hasn't been at all, he's been immense. Take him off this roster and replace him with a serviceable point, and you've got a below .500 team. If Howard's off the Magic, that's a similar drop, but the Bulls have a better record, so that makes Rose the MVP. Takes James off the Heat, and they are still a top-5 seed, as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would up their usage to good effect. There is no one in the West, now that the Lakers and Kobe Bryant is in retrograde, that compares. (Yes, yes, Dallas Fan and Dirk enthusiast, I hear your howls. The last five years of Mark Cuban crying in a first round playoff loss kind of makes me deaf to your man. Not to say he doesn't deserve better, but I just can't stay awake long enough to care that much.)

In the last 30 games of the year, Rose's MVP year will be eclipsed by the thundering hoofbeat of James, or Howard getting love from a Magic run. His counting stats will dip as the Bulls management tries to limit his exposure for a playoff run, and they try to get Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer on the same page. There will be a movement to give the award to the league's best player, especially since with each passing day, James' move from Cleveland looks more and more reasoned. Other point guards will have similar numbers, if not impact, taking more of the shine off.

But that won't change what Rose has done, or how important he's been to his team, or, well, the facts. Derrick Rose has been the most valuable player in the NBA this year, and should be recognized as such. Even if, or especially so, he's never considered for the award again.

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