Rose, Kobe Headline MVP Race

Scott Blumenfeld

With the NBA season winding down, there are four main candidates for the regu­lar season Most Valuable Player award: Der­rick Rose, Dwight Howard, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. Other candidates throughout the year included Dirk Nowitzki and Amar’e Stoudemire. However, their MVP campaigns have been hampered for numerous reasons. That leaves us with these four players to con­sider. Each one has a unique and compelling case to win the league’s most coveted regular season award.

Derrick Rose:

No superstar has had to overcome more setbacks than Rose this season. Despite los­ing his team’s best defensive player, Joakim Noah, and prized off season acquisition, Car­los Boozer, for a combined total of 57 games this season, he has almost single-handedly positioned his team atop the Eastern Confer­ence standings. Rose’s Bulls were expected to finish behind teams like Miami, Boston and Orlando but, behind Rose’s elevated play, they now find themselves looking forward to home court advantage throughout the East­ern Conference playoffs. Rose has set career highs in almost every major offensive and defensive category, including averaging a career-best 25.1 points-per-game.

Dwight Howard:

Despite undergoing a complete reorganiza­tion of the team’s roster in the middle of the season, the Orlando Magic are still on pace to win over 50 games this year. The key, as usual, has been their centerpiece, Dwight Howard. Clearly, the center is still dominant, regardless of the other four Magic players on the court at any given time. Even after big changes midway through the season, Howard and the Magic haven’t missed a beat. This is not an easy task, just ask the New York Knicks. Howard has worked to improve his offensive production, and has set a new career high in points-per-game this season. He is second in the league in rebounds-per-game and field goal percentage, and is fourth in blocks-per-game. Nobody is paying much attention to Orlando heading into this postseason, but they should be. With Kendrick Perkins now in OKC, and Shaq side­lined yet again, no team in the East can really match up with Howard.

Lebron James:

Everyone likes to talk about how Lebron James ruined his chances of winning a third consecutive MVP award when he joined forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. However, after watching this team all season, it is hard to overestimate his value to the Heat. Just imagine this team without Lebron. While Wade is certainly having another great season, Bosh has looked absolutely awful at times, despite what his statistics may show. To make matters worse, the bench is completely pa­thetic. With no legitimate point guard and no great rebounders, Lebron has had to shoulder a great burden once again this season. While his per game averages may be down, his averages of 26.6 points, 7.5 assists and seven rebounds are still the most impressive in the league, and should keep him in the MVP conversation.

Kobe Bryant:

It is hard to believe that Kobe Bryant has only won one regular season MVP award throughout his Hall of Fame career. That is a crime for someone who frequently draws comparisons to Michael Jordan. I know that this is not a legitimate argument to advocate his MVP chances, but considering that he is mentioned year-in and year-out as a top-five MVP candidate, and has already won five championships, it is simply astonish­ing that he has only that lone MVP award. While his numbers may be down, Kobe is still averaging close to 25, five and five. What re­ally separates Kobe from the rest is his durabil­ity and skills that keep his teammates focused. Despite being in his fourteenth season, Kobe has not missed a game this season. He fights through injuries without sacrificing his level of play, or becoming detrimental to his team. While other aging players on elite teams such as Boston and San Antonio have struggled in the second half of the season to keep their teams playing at a high level, Kobe has the Lak­ers playing their best basketball heading into the playoffs. The Lakers are currently sitting in second place in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, and are preparing to make a push for their third consecutive championship. At some point, Kobe deserves to be recognized for this, right?

The Pick:

After looking at each player’s resume this season it seems only right to anoint Derrick Rose as the new league MVP. He is far and away the best and most important player on the best team in the East. Without Rose, and with the injuries to Boozer and Noah, they would have been a fringe playoff team. In a relatively distant second place is Kobe Bryant, followed closely by Dwight Howard. These two are extremely important to their respec­tive teams but, unfortunately, Derrick Rose was simply too good this season. I do, how­ever, expect them to post terrific postseason performances. Lebron James rounds out the top-four. If he had demonstrated this season that he could win games in crunch-time for the Heat, and hit the big shots when they needed him to, he might be higher on my list. Still, the NBA Finals MVP is far more impor­tant than any regular season MVP and it will be interesting to see if any of these four play­ers ends up hoisting that trophy at the end of the season.