Stan Van Gundy has never been one to mince words or pull punches or whatever other term you want to use to convey that he says what’s on his mind. If he thinks it, he’ll say it. That gets him in trouble with the league pretty regularly — see, for instance, that time he inferred that David Stern was a murderous dicator and Stern’s ruffled feathers response – but it sure makes for good quotes. Plus, if you’ve been paying attention, he’s usually right.

The point is, when Stan Van Gundy talks we should listen. Last night, he was talking MVP, and not surprisingly, he was totally right. From ESPN:

Stan Van Gundy believes the MVP race is already over, and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls is going to win it.

“I don’t think it’s wide open. The media seems to have made their decision, and they’re the ones that vote. So I think it’s over,” Van Gundy said Wednesday night as his Orlando Magic prepared to play the New York Knicks. “I mean, I just listen and read. I think it’s over. Derrick Rose has it. I haven’t really read or heard a media guy who is going another way at this point. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win it.” [...]

“Look, and I’ve said this before, to me, with his rebounding his scoring and his defense, I don’t think there’s anybody that impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,” Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose has been great. I’ll have no problem at all if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East, he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him.

“I think it’s a hard choice to make, he’s been great. But, I still don’t think anyone impacts as many possessions a game as Dwight does.”

That’s a bingo. All of it.

Derrick Rose is probably going to win the MVP because it’s a great story. As SB Nation’s Tom Ziller perfectly explains, Rose is not the best choice. But it’s hard to argue with the narrative of a 22-year-old winning a gold medal then carrying a team that was .500 the last two seasons — and has had two starters miss significant portions of the season — to the best record in the Eastern Conference. That’s a pre-made introduction at an awards ceremony. Not to mention, Rose has improved his scoring, passing, outside shooting, free throw shooting and defense this year. Oh, and he’s one of the most exciting players in the entire league. These are the kinds of checkmarks you need to win an MVP.

And really, that’s what matters here. MVP voting is concerned with story, perceived impact and the ever-present “take him away from his team” argument rather than stats. If you compare Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose, you’ll see that Dwight does more for his team than Rose does, even with the inadequate measures that we use to evaluate defense. But that’s totally irrelevant. Derrick Rose seems more important, so he’s going to win.

Maybe that’s silly, but so is worrying about this. Derrick Rose will be this season’s MVP and even Stan Van Gundy is OK with that — “I’ll have no problem at all if Derrick Rose wins the MVP” — and he’s never wrong.

Comments (22)

  1. Trey: I agree with you that “Dwight does more for his team than Rose does”, but you’ve opened up a can of worms with that statement, my friend. Impugn D-Rose’s MVP credentials at your own peril. Bulls fans are legion, and they don’t take well to statements like that.

  2. But I’m a Bulls fan!

  3. I’ve grown tired of this MVP debate (even filtered out “MVP” on TweetDeck), but this is the best summation of it I’ve seen to date. Storywriters vote for MVP, and the MVP will be the player with the best story. Everything else matters little.

  4. He isn’t carrying them… Their defense is. And since that’s Tom Thibodeau, I hence propose that Coach Thibodeau be crowned this year’s MVP.

  5. Trey, don’t you see how Rose is constantly double and triple teamed, even off the ball, even before he crosses the half court line, and how he creates wide open shots for the likes of Deng, Korver, Boozer, Gibson and Thomas? Who in the league garners more attention from opposing defenses on a nightly bases? Howard is “just as” deserving as Rose for MVP, certainly, as is Nowitzki, but there is not one player you can point to and say “this guy has *definitely* had a better season”. Statheads can point to LeBron, but he’s never double teamed. People say the defense has carried the Bulls, not Rose, and while that’s true to an extent, lost in the shuffle is that the players are the ones out there actually making the stops. Rose doesn’t have gaudy defensive stats (aside from blocks for a PG, maybe), but he plays very good fundamental defense. People point out how CJ Watson’s defensive stats are better, but it’s worth noting that this is because of 3 things: first, CJ Watson is a pretty friggin good defender, and second, he’s generally guarding the opposing backup point, and third, when CJ is on the court, he’s got the best defensive frontcourt in the league behind him: Omer Asik and Taj Gibson.

    Also, there’s one aspect to Rose’s game that you either haven’t noticed or considered. And that is, while he’s around average in offensive/shooting efficiency, that’s largely due to missed shots that result in an easy offensive rebound and putback by one of his teammates. I’ve seen maybe 60 Bulls games so far this year, and Rose consistently drives to the rim for a layup or floater, which completely breaks down the defense. He’ll miss many of those shots, but the opposing team is so focused on stopping Rose that it allows Noah, Boozer, Gibson, Asik, et al to have a wide open o-rebound/putback.

    While the stat sheet shows Rose with a missed shot, and his teammate with a rebound and made shot, make no mistake – Rose created that scoring opportunity. That’s why you see his eFG% being around average, but his ORtg far above average. His misses create consistent scoring opportunities for his team. Because of this, I’ve been lobbying to my friends that the NBA should create a new statistic to capture this phenomenon – the “Missed FGA / Assist”. As a Bulls fan, it’s great that Rose does not care *at all* about his stats – he just wants to win – so he’s more than happy to sacrifice his shooting percentage in order to get his teammates easy baskets.

    Rose is just as deserving of the MVP as anyone else. I definitely put Howard and Nowitzki at the same level, but noone else is with them IMO.

  6. @ Sean Kelly
    Well Thibodeau seems to be a front-runner for coach of the year as well.

    That’s a pretty accurate statement by Stan Van Gundy. In terms of real “value” to his team, it’s hard to argue against Dwight, since he does so much for a team that has seen its roster. I’m not saying he should win, but he should get 2nd place or 3rd at the very least.

    There’s also the case of Steve Nash, whose Suns are playing above .500 even if he’s got a very weak supporting cast if you take out Grant Hill (who’s 38 years old), he’ll likely take over Rondo as the assists leader and controls his team’s offense like no other point guard since John Stockton. Again, he should not win, but he should get some recognition.

    All in all, Rose will likely win the MVP, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say it’s a bad choice.

  7. Great article Trey. As for SVG, why the eff is he worried about who is going to get VOTED IN for the mvp this season? Isn’t he a coach for one of the top 4 eastern conference teams that are battling for playoff position?

    We as fans will argue till we’re blue about a MVP of a season cuz that’s what fans do. Stan looks like a fool doing it. And this is a guy who a few weeks ago compared Stern to the nut from Libya. Shall we say someone is an attention whore?

  8. His misses create consistent scoring opportunities for his team. Because of this, I’ve been lobbying to my friends that the NBA should create a new statistic to capture this phenomenon – the “Missed FGA / Assist”.

    @David – are you his agent? Because that is an amazing piece of glass-half-full analysis. Talk about looking through rose-colored glasses. “Even his misses result in points!” That would revolutionize the game, truly.

  9. @SMK73, IF ONLY! :P I’d be much richer…

    Seriously, though, if you watch the Bulls often, you see that he does this. He drives to the hoop on one side (not down the middle of the lane, so that there’s a definite strongside/weakside) looking at the help defense the whole time and then once the 2nd and in many cases 3rd defenders come over leaving the weakside clear, he throws up a shot at the rim and a teammate has zero competition for the offensive rebound and easy putback. If the defense comes earlier, he throws the ~10 foot floater, if they come late he tries to get close to the rim, if the team effectively shuts that “Missed FGA / Assist” possibility down, he usually passes to the corner or pulls it back out.

    He probably gets like 4 or 5 of these each game.

  10. Ok David. But if Rose’s “Missed FGA / Assists” are so important to the Bulls’ success (I’m not sold but we’ll allow it for the sake of argument), then why are the Bulls only tied for 12th in the league in terms of offensive efficiency? That, to me, tells me that their offense is NOT the reason the Bulls sit atop the East. It’s their defense.

    Everyone (even the Rose for MVP fanatics) admits this is true. But few are actually connecting the dots. The Bulls’ success is a TEAM-WIDE accomplishment. And we all know that Rose is not the best defender on the team. So, he’s the main cog in a slightly above-average offense but a really small cog in the best defense in the league. That doesn’t sound to me like someone who should be the unquestioned MVP.

    All that said, I think Rose is a great player. But everyone is completely missing the point about what makes the Bulls such a great team.

  11. @Jeff

    A couple of points. First, I’m talking about a particular type of *missed* shots, and then you come back with a counterpoint of efficiency? You realize that missed shots hurt efficiency stats, right? That’s the only reason Rose is around 10th in PER and not top 5.

    Second, I agree that the defense is the primary reason the Bulls are atop the East. Rose’s offense is up there too, but definitely it’s the defense setting the team apart. However, I think you undervalue Rose’s contribution on that end. Sure, his first 2 years he was definitely a well-below-average defender, but not this year. Currently, he’s a better defender than Westbrook, Paul, or really any starting PG in the league not named Rondo. The thing with Rose’s defense is that it’s not spectacular (aside from the occasional amazing blocked shot), it’s fundamental. He stays in front of his man, he cuts off penetration, he contests almost every shot, he fights through screens. None of those things really manifest statistically. You can point to CJ Watson being better on that end, but as I stated in my initial post, CJ Watson is a very, very good defender, generally plays against the opposing backup, and has the best defensive frontcourt in the league behind him (Asik & Gibson) covering for his mistakes. As good as Noah is, he’s not as good defensively as Asik is. And we all know Boozer is primarily an offensive player. Another season or two with Thibs, and Rose will be the best defensive PG in the NBA and stay there for the duration of his career. He’s got the desire, work ethic, talent and physical tools to be an elite defender and there’s nothing preventing him from achieving that sort of level.

    And lastly, I never said Rose is the “unquestioned” MVP. I think Howard and Nowitzki are just as deserving. Kobe is just a knotch below (he’s get the “career achievement award” bump since he’s “only” won MVP once).

  12. About Rose’s defense: if you don’t agree with my assessment, ask Deron Williams and Chris Paul if Rose is a very good defender or not, since he’s shut those guys down when they’ve played this year.

  13. @David

    When I was talking about the Bulls having only the 12th ranked Offensive Efficiency, I was speaking about the team as a whole and not just about Rose’s efficiency. I was allowing for your assertion that Rose is willingly allowing his individual numbers to slip for the good of the team.

    I point to the team’s Offensive Efficiency because, if Rose’s missed FG’s are helping the team so much then why hasn’t the team’s Offensive Efficiency been better than 12th in the league? Shouldn’t offensive rebounds and putbacks his teammates are getting as a result manifest itself in better overall offensive stats? Mind you, 12th isn’t bad. I’m just saying it’s maybe about 30% of the reason they are sitting atop the East. And you agreed to that in your response.

    I definitely realize that most successful defensive possessions don’t end with a steal or a block and so you can’t always see a player’s defensive contributions in the box score. Because of that, I admit it’s possible I’m undervaluing Rose’s defense. I would have to watch most of their games but I can’t so I have to rely on his reputation to some degree. You’re the first person I’ve seen declare that Rose is the 2nd best defensive PG in the league. Perhaps I’ll start hearing it from more and more people. And if that is indeed the case then I would have to re-evaluation my position. Surely a top-10 offensive player who is also top-2 at his position on defense is a very worthy MVP.

    Lastly, I didn’t mean to imply that you said he was the unquestioned MVP. When I said that I was referring to the consensus that has swept over the league. Everywhere you look it seems there are people talking about him like he’s got it all locked up and whoever else is mentioned is a distant 2nd at best.

  14. @Jeff

    All fair points. I’ll admit that I’m being “homerish” with my 2nd best defensive PG in the league thing. He’s certainly much better than his reputation suggests, and I feel he’ll change that reputation in the playoffs. Trying to be objective, he’s probably a top-5 PG defender, though I’m having trouble thinking of 4 PG’s that are better (Rondo, and, well, who exactly?)

    As far as the 12th ranked offense in terms of efficiency thing goes, you can’t look at it as an absolute thing, like an MVP caliber player should be on an elite offensive team. Look at the 2nd 3-peat Bulls, with Jordan (arguably the most unstoppable non-center in NBA history on offense) and they were right where these Bulls are: elite defensively, just above average offensively. Are you going to hold that against Jordan, too?

    It’s my feeling, watching this Bulls team all season, that without Rose they’d be like the Milwaukee Bucks – still a top defensive team, but a crappy offensive team. There just aren’t other players who can create their own shot consistently, aside from maybe Boozer, and CJ Watson in spots. Everyone else is only getting their offense through the the team’s offensive scheme and execution (and Rose calls the sets/plays, so he’s basically the offensive coordinator; Thibs focuses on defense during games). Rose is extremely good at getting his teammates going, and has been chastised in the local media for being too unselfish his entire career thus far. The Bulls had to demand he be more selfish on offense, and this year he’s beginning to find a really nice balance. He almost never “chucks” and while he takes the most shots, many times it’s after the ball is worked around the court and nobody else has a decent shot. Of course, he’s prone to the occasional “early in the shot clock 3pt attempt” which I don’t like much, but that’s about the extent of his ball hogging.

  15. Clarifiying my post above: I meant to put the last title team of the 2nd 3-peat Bulls, not that 3-peat in general. So, read that as the 1997-1998 Bulls specifically.

  16. @ David

    I can’t say I disagree with much of what you say in the above post. The only quibble I’d have is that the 97-98 Bulls were slightly better offensively (9th in the league) and Jordan was still more productive on offense (even in his diminished-by-age form) and achieved a great deal more renown on the defensive side of the court than Rose has (thus far).

    So, no, I wouldn’t hold that against Jordan to the same degree I’m holding it against Rose. That said, I also would not have minded seeing Karl Malone take the MVP that year either. But that’s a whole other can of worms! :)

  17. Well, Jeff, with respect to Tim Duncan, Karl Malone IMO is the best PF of all time. Tim Duncan has played center since Robinson retired anyway. But while I *would* have minded if Malone stole another MVP from Jordan (he did get one in ’97) because I’m a Bulls fan – and I feel Jordan was just the better and more deserving player both years, which he demonstrated in both Finals series – if Jordan didn’t get it I thought Malone was the clear number 2.

    So I guess we can leave this conversation at that. Since you’re obviously a big NBA fan, pay attention to Rose on defense, as well as his “Missed FGA / Assists” I mentioned when the Bulls are playing on national TV and in the playoffs. I think maybe you’ll better understand why his effect on winning games is greater than his (advanced) statistics might suggest. And isn’t that what the MVP should be about? The player who effects winning the most?

  18. Also, regarding the Bulls being 12th in offensive efficiency, I forgot about the fact that the Bulls missed Boozer for over 20 games, and Noah (who’s an underrated contributor to the offense because he doesn’t score much) for more than 30 games. Since they’ve both been healthy, the Bulls are improving as time goes on.

  19. I have in fact noticed the Bulls climbing the charts for Offensive Efficiency from 18th to 12th in a very short period of time. If that continues, all of my arguments against Rose will start to disintegrate. But I’ll still feel that Howard and LeBron are up there and not way off in the distance.

  20. Howard is there, for sure. As far as LeBron goes, if you just look at stats, then he’s far and away the best. But, given his struggles late in games and that the Heat are looking up at the Bulls in the standings and 0-3 vs the Bulls (as well as being less than stellar against other top teams) gives Rose the edge. But that’s obviously just my personal opinion.

  21. [...] in the Bay Area. Sure, Olden Polynice would be supremely jealous but it’d really work. Like Stan Van Gundy with the MVP race, I’ll have no problem at all if “The Traffic Cop” wins this very important [...]

  22. [...] Rose, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. Realistically, the award is Rose’s to lose. Where things get interesting is that the Bulls are far from a lock to finish with a top-two or [...]

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