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Stan Van Gundy made waves Wednesday when he told reporters asking about the MVP race, “I don’t think it’s wide open. The media seems to have made their decision, and they’re the ones that vote. Derrick Rose has it. I haven’t really read or heard a media guy who is going another way at this point.” It’s almost old news, now, as the quote has been extensively covered, but what Stan is tapping into here is the reason the MVP discussion is one of my least favorite parts of the NBA season. I might be starting to sound like a broken record here, but the essence of Stan’s quote, and the truth of the MVP race, is that it is a media award for media-manufactured stories and hardly valuable at all as a reflection of actual player value, but is instead a reflection on which players fulfill the narratives about them.
First, just to do it, I will poke Rose lovers in the eye and give my two cents as far as his MVP candidacy is concerned: It seems sort of crazy. Like, pretty crazy. I’m particularly swayed by John Hollinger’s point that Rose is the best offensive player on a mediocre offensive team, and the worst defensive player on a fantastic defensive team. Of course Rose is a huge part of the Bulls success–I do think, on balance, he is their best player–but to say that the team’s strength is about Rose’s particular skills seems misguided. In truth, I can’t think of one single thing about Rose’s game that elevates him above anyone else in the top level of NBA production. He’s not a top ten player in effective field goal percentage, True Shooting percentage, or Player Efficiency Rating; he ranks behind ostensible gunner Russell Westbrook and the immortal Jose Calderon in assist percentage. His Offensive Rating is not in the top twenty. He does not even play the most minutes on his own team. Or, what about this argument: Could you get Kevin Durant, straight-up, for Derrick Rose? Never. KD is, lest anybody forget, leading the league in scoring for a second consecutive season, and he is less than a week older than Derrick Rose. Could you get Dwight Howard, straight-up, for Derrick Rose? Hardly. League-wide, Dwight is second in rebounds, first in blocks, second in Player Efficiency Rating, second in effective field goal percentage, second in Win Shares per 48 minutes. He scores roughly two fewer points per game than Derrick with a usage rate nearly seven percentage points lower. I won’t go as far as Tom Ziller’s persuasive, well-reasoned argument that Rose is giving the Bulls something like what Westbrook is giving the Thunder, but my point is this: Derrick Rose, having a fantastic season for a great team, has not distinguished himself in any discernible way from the rest of the NBA elite.