L4L's Laker Lowdown, 4/17
KOBE 4 MVP
Kobe Bean Bryant is the MVP of NBA basketball. The dust has settled; the smoke has cleared. The Lakers sit atop the Western Conference. Based on the historical precedents set by past MVP selections, due to his outstanding statistical achievements, impact on the game, durability, winning, and leadership ability, no player other than 24 can legitimately hold up that trophy and deserve it.
First of all, LeBron can be immediately systematically eliminated. His team won 45 games. Because of that, he is automatically out of the running.
2006/07 Dirk Nowitzki 67 wins
2005/06 Steve Nash 54 wins
2004/05 Steve Nash 62 wins
2003/04 Kevin Garnett 58 wins
2002/03 Tim Duncan 60 wins
2001/02 Tim Duncan 58 wins
2000/01 Allen Iverson phi 56 wins
1999/00 Shaquille O'Neal 67 wins
1998/99 Karl Malone 61 wins
1997/98 Michael Jordan 62 wins
1996/97 Karl Malone 64 wins
1995/96 Michael Jordan 72 wins
1994/95 David Robinson 62 wins
1993/94 Hakeem Olajuwon 58 wins
1992/93 Charles Barkley 62 wins
1991/92 Michael Jordan 67 wins
1990/91 Michael Jordan 61 wins
1989/90 Magic Johnson 63 wins
1988/89 Magic Johnson 57 wins
1987/88 Michael Jordan 50 wins
1986/87 Magic Johnson 65 wins
1985/86 Larry Bird 67 wins
1984/85 Larry Bird 63 wins
As you can see, no player on this list of MVP award winners, other than Michael Jordan, ever won an MVP with less than 54 wins. MJ won the MVP in ’87-’88 because he was the best offensive player while simultaneously being the DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year). James’ defense is NOWHERE close to that level. He has yet to even be elected to a single All-Defensive team. More importantly, there simply isn’t a player in the history of this award who has won less than 50 games. James won 45. He can’t win the award based on that fact alone.
Giving James the MVP, and it would be a gift, for winning 45 games equates to the heights of hypocrisy. When Bryant scored 81 points, 62 in 3 quarters, put up 35/5/5 in a superior western conference with inferior teammates, and, all the same, won 45 games, he finished no higher than 4th in the voting. How, then, can James be first? The answer: He can’t.
There is no need for the discussion to go past this point. There is no need to discuss whether James is better than Bryant or not. There is no need to discuss stats. There is no need to discuss importance to the team. James can’t win.
Don’t take it from me, take it from James:
“(if LBJ won the MVP) I’d give it to Kobe Bryant,” James said before last night’s game.” “What he has done this whole year, carrying that team to the No. 1 team in the West right now and playing probably the best basketball all-around . . . I’ve been quoted as saying Kobe has been the best player in our league for the last five years,” James said. “He hasn’t been named MVP, and I don’t know why. This is his year.”
http://www.lakerscore.com/lakers-news/l ... f-he-wins/
Don’t take it from James either, take it from the whole league:
“well the NBA is in great hands but if I had to pick the single greatest player on the planet, I take Kobe Bryant without hesitation.” - Michael Jordan
http://boardsus.playstation.com/rss/mes ... .id=231743
“Kobe is the best player and best scorer in the league.” - Lebron James
“Nobody can guard Kobe one-on-one. Nobody.”
—Former Lakers coach Del Harris
“He rates right there with Jordan.”- Pat Riley on Kobe being the only player in Jordan’s class.
“Kobe is the most talented in the game on both ends of the floor” - Gregg Popovich
“Kobe best in the game right now” - Amare Stoudemire
“Kobe is still the best in the game” - Phil Jackson
“…the kid can play, you can’t take that away from him. I’m chasing him. He has three rings, I haven’t been out of the first round.” - T-mac
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/si_onl ... 02/11/nba/
“Kobe Bryant is probably the best allaround player we have today” - Kiki Vandehaeghue
“for the best player in the league to say that about me..” - Gilbert Arenas
http://www.gilbertology.net/2006/12/20/ ... -comments/
“Everyone knows Kobe is the best in the game right now” - Mike D’Antoni
“Kobe is the best in the game” - Stephon Marbury
“Kobe will go down as the GOAT” - Mark Jackson
“That should put all the questions to rest who’s the most talented and who’s the, you know, best offensive player in the league.” - Ben Gordon
“We’re witnessing greatness right now. We need to understand that. (asked: “Is he the best of the best?”) Yeah, definetly.” - Tyson Chandler
“It’s amazing. Beyond amazing. He’s on another level from any other player at this point.” - Mark Cuban
“If USA would’ve had Kobe on their team, they would’ve won the gold” - Dirk Nowitzki
http://community.foxsports.com/blogs/Di ... 7/Squad_Up
“It’s not just a buzz about Kobe, it’s a holler. That guy is incredible. That’s why he’s the best player in the league.” - Keyon Dooling
“Players are jealous of greatness. Kobe is a unique talent and a unique person.” - Jerry West
“Kobe is the best player in the league” - Charles Barkley
“The greatest players in the future will be MJ, Kobe, and Lebron” - Dick Vitale, whos hates HS players that jump
“To be honest, Kobe is a better shooter than MJ” - Nuggets commentator on 24 year kobe
“Kobe is the best player in the game” - Stu lantz and Joel myers
http://jonesonthenba.blogspot.com/2006/ ... on-in.html
“No, the best player in the game is Kobe Bryant” - Bill Walton
“the best clutch shooter into today’s game…kobe jellybean bryant” -T-Mac
There is a prevailing notion in the media and among fans that the MVP goes to the best player on the best team. Any way you look at it that simply isn’t true. In the last four years alone, this hasn’t been the case twice.
2007 - Dirk (best team in the NBA, best player on that team)
2006 - Nash (fourth best team in the NBA, didn't win the conference)
2005 - Nash (best team in the NBA, best player on that team)
2004 - KG (second best team in the NBA, won conference)
Based on this data, there is no way you can reasonably conclude that the award simply goes to the best player on the best team. It doesn’t. Steve Nash disproves this theory.
Because of the above conclusion, KG does not automatically win the MVP. Other factors must be considered such as a player’s statistical achievements, games played, and supporting cast among other important categories.
As far as statistics go, the only player in the last 25 years to win the MVP while putting up less than 20 points was Steve Nash. Nash, also, just so happens to be the most controversial and, in my opinion, most undeserving candidate to ever win the award. While Nash was putting up 19/12, Amare scored and boarded for 26/9. Malone was able to amass 27/10 with Stockton at the helm while Stockton put up 17/15 as one of the best PG defenders in the league. Malone was given the most of credit and won the MVPs. With Nash and Amare, people claim that Nash, who isn’t even as good as Stockton, “made Amare into what he is.” Pundits give Nash the credit. Even with that said, Nash only missed nine games combined in his two MVP seasons while also dishing out 11.5 assists.
KG’s scoring and rebounding numbers are at 18/9 this year and he has missed eleven games in only one season. Even with those eleven missed games, his team still etched out 60+ in the win column. In fact, this isn’t a surprise at all. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have BOTH led their teams to the Eastern Conference Finals in the past and BOTH have been franchise players for YEARS. Both have taken their teams to the playoffs without KG, or anyone like him, and both are recognized as All-Star talents. Kobe did not have a single teammate in the All-Star game this year.
Shaq and Kobe were penalized in the MVP voting for playing together. They won one MVP among them despite being unarguably the best two players in the game at the time. Why? Because, in order to be MVP, you simply cannot have a dominant supporting cast. If you do, you don’t win. It’s that simple. Shaq had the greatest second option in the history of basketball, the team facilitator who led the Lakers in assists for EVERY season of the three-peat, and who was constantly elected to All-NBA defensive teams. When you combine the facts that KG had Allen and Pierce, he missed 11 games, and his numbers would be the worst ever for an MVP candidate, you have no other choice but to realize that KG simply cannot finish first in the MVP voting based on the way the past MVPs have been chosen.
Now, this leaves us with Kobe’s only real MVP competition, Chris Paul. Paul meets the entire MVP criterion: statistical excellence, durability, leadership, winningness, and he possesses a poster-boy face with a great storyline to his season. For one moment, as an aside, yes, the last thing I listed is legitimate criteria. The voters gave Nash his first MVP because the Suns lost three starters in Amare, Q-Rich, and Joe Johnson. They claimed his performance without them, despite not being anywhere close to first in the other MVP categories, defined his MVP worthiness. In fact, you could argue this is THE MOST IMPORTANT MVP factor. In my opinion, that is sad and unfortunate, but once you establish criteria, you must be consistent to be fair.
Let’s start off with statistical excellence. Both of these guys have been incredible in this category. You can literally flip a coin.
Chris Paul: 21ppg, 11apg, 4rpg, and nearly 3 steals on 49% shooting.
Kobe Bryant: 28ppg, 6rpg, 5.5apg nearly 2 steals on 46% shooting.
Without a shadow of a doubt, these two were the best, statistically, at their positions.
Among true SGs, Bryant ranks first in: points, rebounds, steals, assists, and is second in blocks. Among true PGs, Paul is 1st in assists, 4th in rebounds, 1st in steals, and 2nd in points. Ultimately, box score stats don’t tell you enough. In this case, whether you pick Paul’s or Bryant’s achievements in this arena, the difference is basically negligible; they are about equal.
However, there are a few major statistical and on-court differences between these two and they come down to clutch play, defense, and the ability to elevate your game against quality opponents.
When the score is within 5 in the last 5 minutes of a game:
(All Stats in Per 48 minutes form)
Kobe: 52ppg, 8rpg, 6apg on 45% shooting
CP3: 39ppg, 6rpg, 10.5apg on 48% shooting
When the score is within 3 in the last 3 minutes of a game:
Kobe: 64ppg, 12rpg, 5apg on 47% shooting
Paul: 54ppg, 8.5rpg, 11apg on 42% shooting
Kobe’s edge in this category is quite evident. In the triangle offense, no player has ever average more than 7-8apg because of “hockey assists”. That is, passes that lead to assists(that includes ALL of Phil’s teams). Watching the Lakers for all 82 games, I can assure you Kobe accumulated a great deal of these “hockey assists” and while I’m sure Paul does as well, it probably isn’t as many as Kobe because the triangle, by design, is a two pass-away offense. For those of you who are not basketball inclined, that means you need to make two passes to hit the open shooter or cutter at the correct angle. We can also see that while both players get progressively better down the stretch, Kobe clearly makes the greater jump from the 5 minute mark to the 3 minute mark. Kobe is a man possessed in the clutch. Paul’s huge dip in FG% indicates he is trying his best to take over, but simply isn’t at the level where he can maintain his efficiency, or even improve it like Kobe, and still exert his will offensively. In any case, no one doubts Kobe down the stretch. The same cannot be said of Paul.
Further, and perhaps more importantly, Chris Paul is a downright bad defender on the ball. Off the ball, he’s excellent and will get you an amazing amount of steals as many little guys seem to do. That said, his team gives up SIX less points per 100 possessions (a little more than the average amount in an NBA ball game) when Paul sits down. This off-sets two thirds of his offensive impact as the team puts up 15.4 less points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting (info here: http://www.82games.com/0708/07NOH1D.HTM). That is an incredible difference. In fact, we saw this problem manifest itself just last night when Jason Kidd hit him for a triple double and Jason Terry chipped in with 30 points of his own. Consider the following statistics: among the seven other Western playoff teams, in terms of FG% allowed, the Hornets gave up the 2nd worst FG% to Nash, the 3rd worst to Tony Parker, and the The bottom line here is this: Kobe is recognized as the best 2 guard defender in the NBA; on the other hand, Chris Paul just may be apart of the lower echelons of man defense at the PG position.
Against good teams, that is Boston, Detroit, L.A., Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Orlando, Chris Paul is averaging almost exactly the same numbers: 22ppg, 11apg, 4rpg on a reduced efficiency of 46% shooting. Bryant, on the other hand, steps up his numbers to 30ppg, 7rpg, 5apg on 47% shooting. Bryant also shoots an impressive 6% higher on his threes in these games to go along with his improved FG%. Statistically, that means his effective increase in efficiency is much more than just one percent when you account for the fact that threes are worth an additional point. If you go 2/6 on threes, you get six points. If you go 3/6 on 2s, you get 6 points. While you shot 33% in one case and 50% in the other, you are equally efficient in your point out-put. Hence, Kobe is MUCH more efficient in the big games. Here we can see, yet again, that Bryant brings unmeasured, competitive intangibles to the table that outweigh those which are brought by Paul.
When both players are putting up fantastic offensive numbers in the regular season and during the first three quarters, how can you choose the player who is less clutch, who doesn’t step his game up against the elite opponents, and is a much worse defender as the guy you think is most valuable to a team down the stretch of a game and on into the playoffs?
As we’ve seen with past MVP candidates, winning is a largely important piece of criteria. If all else is equal, winning can separate two candidates. In this case, Kobe, and his Lakers, won the head to head duel that gave his team the best record in the West; he won the duel that gave his Lakers a better record than the Hornets and the grand prize of 1st place in the toughest Western Conference in the history of basketball. Combined with the intangible court impacts discussed above, this makes it two crystal clear advantages for Kobe in two extremely important MVP categories.
I would also like to dispel the myth that Chris Paul has had less to work with this season than has Kobe Bryant. KB24 has only had Gasol and Bynum for a combined 62 games this season and never once at the same time. Meanwhile, Chris Paul has had David West for SEVENTY-SIX games. That alone, is more than the entire body of games played by Bynum and Gasol. One thing about David West, Chris Paul DOES NOT make him who he is. West has a sweet face-up game and jumper and that is the reason for his NBA success. Only 57% of his FGs are assisted. 51% of Duncan’s FGs are assisted. Has Parker made Duncan now as well? How about Dwight Howard? 68% of his scores are assisted. Can he not play without Jameer Nelson? Through and through, this is just argument is just a silly attempt at trying to downplay David West to prop CP3 up.
Kwame Brown was the starting Lakers center for 14 games. How bad is Kwame? This team: Fisher-Bryant-Radmanovic-Odom-Brown was the SIXTH WORST in the NBA in terms of +/- on the scoreboard (points scored minus points given up). What do you get when all you do is replace Kwame with Gasol? Well, you get the SECOND BEST line-up in the NBA in terms of +/- on the scoreboard. Kwame played in 23 games this year.
In addition, the Lakers also rolled out Ronny Turiaf in the starting line-up 21 times. As much as I love Ronny’s heart, he doesn’t hold a candle to Chandler or West and everyone who knows anything about the NBA would agree with that statement. If you’re keeping tally, 37 games were started by Turiaf and Brown.
Prior to the All-Star break and the Gasol acquisition, Odom was averaging 13/10 on 48% shooting. Despite his terrible play (for Lamar’s standards), Kobe had the Lakers in first place despite only 25 Bynum starts. Take your pick: 129 games with Odom, Gasol or Bynum in the line-up or 155 with both Chandler and West. All in all, either way, there is no way this is a significant advantage for Paul. In my opinion, it is, in fact, a slight advantage for Kobe.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have to compare the storylines for both players. New Orleans missed the playoffs by one game last year. However, this SHOULDN’T be a surprise for people who have, at minimum, a half-baked memory. Paul missed 18 games last year, Peja missed 69 games last year, David West missed 30 games last year, and Chandler missed 9 games. What in the world did people expect to happen this year when they replaced Rasual Butler and Devin Brown with a solid veteran like Mo Peterson? What did everyone expect to happen when the Hornets had those same guys miss a combined total SIXTEEN games this year? For heavens sake, their starters missed 126 games last year. This year, those same guys missed 110 less games. They improved in the win column by 14. Why are people surprised? Let’s not pretend like this team magically transformed. They didn’t. They were damn good last year too. If it wasn’t for the injuries, they’d have been right up there with the rest of the elite Western teams.
The story is completely different in Los Angeles. In fact, it was so bad for the Lakers after three straight years of early season endings, that their star player demanded a trade. For months, Lakers fans had no idea whether or not Bryant would be a Laker for the upcoming season. Feverishly, the FO worked to try and trade for guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett. None of it worked. The Lakers had the EXACT SAME first round exit team with the exception of newly signed Derek Fisher at PG. Is Fisher an upgrade over Smush? Yes, anyone is. Is he a monumental addition? Are you kidding? He was a bench player in the three-peat era for much of the time. Yet with exactly the same team, who didn’t have anywhere close to type of key injuries that the Hornets had the year prior, the Lakers rose to FIRST in the West BEFORE they got Gasol. Let’s not forget that. The Lakers were FIRST before Gasol and dropped some only after Bynum was hurt. In essence, through almost only internal improvement alone, the Lakers transformed their team. Bynum became a top five center, Farmar got a jump shot, Sasha improved his 3 point shooting by an immense degree, Vladimir Radmanovic got off the bench, and Ronny Turiaf added a 15 footer to his arsenal. Tex Winters, Phil Jackson, and Kareem have all been quoted as saying Kobe has been a more effective leader this season. Sasha and Bynum have shared with the media that Kobe taught each scoring and post techniques respectively. Javaris Crittenton (before he was traded) called Kobe a brother figure. Assistant coaches have commented on how Kobe has taken a different, more friendly approach to being a teammate. Insiders claim this is the tightest group of players Kobe has ever been a part of. Essentially, Kobe and the Lakers created an environment of success despite three years of failure and a trade demand staring them in the face. In my mind, this is the story of the year. Kobe finally matured as not only a player, but as a person. He matched his basketball effectiveness with equally skilled leadership. The results: A first place finish in the West, the roller coaster ride of adversity has been completely overcome, and a group of Lakers was created that not only believe they can beat anyone, but EXPECT to beat everyone.
Paul, James, and KG have had great seasons; I don’t mean to detract from their impressive accomplishments. James has showed everyone that there is no longer a doubt he will own this league in the years that follow Bryant’s decline. KG ignited the pride of an entire city and a world-wide fan base by sparking the biggest turnaround in NBA history. Chris Paul delivered epic performance after epic performance on his way to having a splendid, MVP caliber season. Maybe, just maybe, Paul saved the Hornets in New Orleans. However, when it is all said and done, when all the battles have been fought, only one man will receive the trophy. Only one man can deserve it the most. Only one man has the best combination of dominance, statistical achievement, winning, and respect that defines true basketball value. That man is your 2007-2008 NBA MVP. That man is Kobe Bryant.