Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:34 am

Rose is now truly living in the shadow of Jordan

Michael Jordan speaks to Bulls fans at celebration of 1991 championship team, and puts heavy expectations on Derrick Rose's current Bulls as contenders not just for one title, but six.
Posted by Matt Moore

Saturday night Michael Jordan returned to Chicago along with Scottie Pippen and the rest of the 1991 NBA Championship Chicago Bulls team to celebrate the 20th anniversary.  During his remarks to Chicago, looking back fondly on the start of the dynasty and his time as the greatest player in the game, which would stand out as the best stretch of any player in history, he looked forward upon this current Bulls team. And in doing so, he placed quite a heavy burden on their star and MVP candidate, Derrick Rose. 

This night was a quiet, lowly publicized celebration of a great team, but it also stands as a dramatic moment to truly launch the future of this Bulls team as currently constructed. Entering the season, the Bulls were considered an up and coming team, one that should challenge for homecourt advantage in the first round. Against the Jazz on this celebrative night, the Bulls had an opportunity to take a share of the lead for homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Entering the season, Derrick Rose questioned why he couldn't wind up as an MVP candidate. Against the Jazz, he gave another lesson as to why he is, in many people's mind, the Most Valuable Player in the league. The Bulls have a chance at not only causing some damage in the playoffs, but legitimately pushing for a title... this season. They're ahead of where most thought they would be, thanks to Rose's ascension and the work of Tom Thibodeau which will likely earn the first-year head coach Coach of the Year honors. Everything is coming together, and the fact that the greatest player of all time spoke to the potential for this team to win multiple titles only reinforces what many fans believe: this is a special year for the Bulls. 

But to examine the two seasons in parallel is to find stark differences. And those differences start with Rose and Jordan. I was curious how big the gap between Jordan's first championship season with Chicago and Rose's prospective first championship season would be. The results speak to how truly great Jordan was

Jordan averaged nearly seven more points than Rose (31.5 to 24.7) per game, nearly two more rebounds, nearly 2 more steals, and more blocks. Rose is shooting a career low 44% from the field, while Jordan shot a rifreakingdiculous 54% as a shooting guard. Of course, as Rose is a point guard, his impact is felt not only in scoring but in assists, where he is averaging 2.5 more per game than Jordan did. Factor in that Rose's weighted assists (factoring three-point assists) is considerably higher at 9.2 per game, and the total points produced gap narrows somewhat. But the divide is still a gulf, that showcases exactly how good Jordan was that year. 

Perhaps most interesting, though? Is comparing the "sidekicks" for the two players. Scottie Pippen, still just 25 in '90-'91, actually scored fewer points, snared fewer rebounds, and shot a worse percentage than Carlos Boozer is this season. That was surprising information, and shows you how good Boozer has been offensively this season. Now that we've noted that, we can bring to everyone's attention that Boozer is the primary offensive weapon next to a superstar point guard rather than an offensively centered shooting guard, and that the defensive gap between the two is wider than the Great Wall of China is long. (Though it should be noted Boozer actually has a better Defensive Rating than Pippen at 99 versus 102.)

On the team level, the two teams are similar stylistically. Both teams are/were constructed as slow-pace teams (19th for the '91 team, 23rd for the '11 squad). But their performances differed greatly. The '91 team was first in offensive and seventh in defensive efficiency, while the '11 team is first defensively but 17th offensively. Defense may win championships, but the '91 team was better balanced between the two sides. 

In the end, though, comparing the two is nothing more than a fun mental exercise. Both are great teams with huge potential. But Jordan's comments put even more pressure on Rose to reach the heights Jordan did at age 27 when Rose is just 22. It's an enormous shadow for Rose to walk in, one that he's been faced with since being drafted by Chicago. But there's a gap between an unspoken comparison to No. 23 and having the man place the burden of six titles on you at such an early point with such an uneven offense in such a stacked conference. Perhaps that's why Jordan did it, though. Maybe he sees in Rose the same thing that made himself the greatest of all time, the drive to overcome all challenges through determination and the will to defeat all challengers. After all, Rose doesn't have to be as good as Jordan. 

He just has to be better than everyone else now. 
Posted on: March 10, 2011 10:22 am

Michael Jordan says Derrick Rose is the MVP

Michael Jordan endorses Derrick Rose as the Most Valuable Player. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Think of it like an election campaign, and a former office holder providing his endorsement for a candidate. Except in this scenario, it's the best mayor/governor/president/high priest/grand overlord/emperor to ever take office. It's a lot like that. 

Michael Jordan, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune
"MVP of the season," the Bobcats owner said Wednesday night after the Bulls downed his team 101-84. "He deserves it. He's playing that well, without a doubt."

Then Jordan offered that sly smile.

"And if he doesn't get it, now he will see how I felt a lot of those years," the Bulls' Hall of Famer said.
via Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan says Derrick Rose no doubt the MVP of NBA this season - chicagotribune.com.

This is classic Jordan. Jordan made an empire out of giving everyone what they wanted, regardless of what he actually thought.  Saying the Chicago Bull prolific scorer is the MVP? That's perfect in every way. Just makes everyone love him more, especially Bulls fans (not that that's humanly possible). Jordan probably legitimately does feel Rose is the MVP, considering his disdain for LeBron James' joining the Heat and the fact that Rose is a scoring guard (although much more of a passer than Jordan). It's just such an easy thing for him to say that people will love. 

You also won't find any of the other candidates speaking up for their guys. For example, not like Shaq's going to come out in support of Dwight Howard, no matter how much he thinks that big men are underrated in this league. And LeBron James doesn't have an advocate because there hasn't really been a player like him in terms of overall production and ability to cross positional strengths. Plus, everyone hates him. 

And that may be Rose's biggest strength in terms of his MVP candidacy. It makes everyone feel good to think of him as the MVP. The young underdog (playing in a large market alongside a considerable array of support players) putting in a stunningly good season (without much in the way of elite efficiency) while remaining humble (due in part to his terrible interview abilities and after openly campaigning for himself to start the season) and saying how loyal he is to Chicago (a large market with a history of winning where he grew up).  The parentheticals there aren't meant to say that Rose isn't the MVP, I've got no issue with Rose as MVP, he's earned it every bit as much as Dwight Howard, LeBron James, or Dirk Nowitzki.  The point is that Rose is an easy MVP to get behind. Jordan's electing to provide a sound byte in support thereof (which is rare) is proof enough of that. 

And it'll probably carry some weight with the voters, especially given the tremendous respect Jordan rightfully carries with them. 
Posted on: March 8, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 12:26 am

Roundtable: MVP Two-Man Game?

Is the MVP race a two-man game, and if so, what's holding each candidate back?
Posted by Matt Moore

Matt Moore: I don't think anyone can look at the numbers on closing games by the Heat and keep James in it. I hate to place so much emphasis on one part of the game, but along with the struggles, and the fact they have so much help, I think it's hard to keep him in it when you use that as the last element. So we're looking at Rose vs. Howard. Which is at once surprising and not shocking at all. I don't think anyone saw Rose making this kind of a jump this soon, or Howard to really have his presence felt more than he had in earlier seasons.  

Part of me, though, still wonders about Dirk. The only real dip for the Mavericks was when Dirk was out. In all the rest of the games, they've been mammoths trampling the world. Are we counting out Dirk too soon?

Ben Golliver:  We shouldn't count out Dirk Nowitzki. Especially if we're saying James is disqualified because of the late-game struggles (and we are), Dirk should be in the discussion for that very same reason.

I still like Dwight Howard's candidacy for a number of reasons. He wins the "did more with less" argument over the other major players -- yes, even Derrick Rose -- and he gets bonus points for helping Orlando weather a big-time midseason shakeup trade that could have sent the Magic's season in a number of directions. Orlando is 24-13 since the trade went official, nearly an identical winning percentage to what they managed prior to the trade. There's a fair argument to be made that this is not Orlando's best year at title contention, but that argument is about everything except Howard. He's averaging a career-high in points (23.1), near his career-high in rebounds (13.9), he's shooting 60% from the field and he's doing it without any other real low post threats. 

His team wins, he's put up numbers and he's persevered. Those are solid check marks in the three biggest boxes to me. Rose is just a half-whisker behind him to me. 

Moore: Does the fact that he's averaging more points while shooting more, but also shooting worse from the field than last year and worse from the stripe than in years prior matter at all? His TR% is the worst since 07. Block percentage worst since 08. ORating and DRating just as good as in year's prior. I think that's why I don't buy Dwight. He's not playing better than he has in prior seasons, and in prior seasons he wasn't good enough. So why now? Maybe that was just our mistake in prior seasons, though. 

Nowitzki's basically not going to win because he's not a sexy candidate, we can all just admit that, right? Because his production is through the roof. 

Golliver: I think the efficiency argument against Dwight has some merit but is fairly easily explained by the context of the season. Efficiency and usage aren't going to be linear when you reach the heights he's at, and he's not taking more shots by accident this year. The knock against the Magic was always that he didn't get enough touches, right? I think it's in their best interest to keep feeding the big fella, and his field goal percentage is barely down anyway. One of the big "what ifs" in the NBA is how ridiculously forceful (not to mention efficient) a presence Howard would be if he was even an average free throw shooter. But getting to the line has indirect value (he's at a career-high clip there) even if he isn't cashing in nearly as often as he should be. Of course, we can pick nits with regard to his offensive game all we want, but of the top 5 regularly discussed candidates Howard is surely the most dominant defensive presence and by far the best rebounder. 

As for Dirk, I think it's a combination of sexiness and the ever-present fatigue factor. It was interesting to hear Kevin Durant allude to the fact that he isn't an MVP candidate this year because he's not the new, hot name. I think there's some merit to that. A player's "story" plays a huge role here and Dirk's story boils down to: "Guess what? I'm still really, really freaking good." Maybe he should be playing up the fact that he bounced back from that disastrous relationship he had with his alleged (but not really) baby mother? Sympathy goes a long way in the media. We love a comeback, even if it's manufactured.

Moore: It's not that Howard hasn't been insanely good, it's whether he's been the best. After all we're throwing out the player who may very well be the best pound for pound on the planet in LeBron James. But then, Rose's numbers in terms of efficiency haven't been great either. In terms of impact when you watch, it's pretty easy to come to a tie between Howard and Rose. The most interesting aspect may be the teammates-factor. Most will agree that Rose has better teammates than Howard, but we're talking Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. But then with Howard we're talking Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson.

The argument that Howard's defense goes further than Rose's offense. Rose has improved on defense, but doesn't have the same impact as Howard on offense. 
Posted on: February 17, 2011 11:29 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 11:30 pm

Derrick Rose makes a statement against Spurs

Derrick Rose takes over to beat Spurs with 42 points and 8 assists. What is it that makes him not only so good, but different from the other elite point guards?
Posted by Matt Moore

When Derrick Rose said that this game was a "statement" game, he apparently had more than one thing he wanted to make a statement about. 

"The Bulls are good enough to beat the Spurs." Check. 

"The Bulls are a legit Eastern Conference contender." Check.

"The Bulls will rise to the challenge when facing the great teams." Check.

"Derrick Rose is an MVP candidate." Check.

The Chicago Bulls have improved in a lot of ways this season, particularly defensively. They're a more complete team, have better perimeter scoring, better interior defense, a legit post presence in Carlos Boozer, and a better knowledge of how to execute in key situations. But Thursday night the biggest reason for their improvement was clear: Rose. Rose dropped 18-28 from the field, lobbed 8 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds and had but one turnover against the Spurs, a virtuoso performance which encapsulated his best attributes. 

There are so many great point guards in this league and everyone has their own favorite. Recently Royce Young argued that Chris Paul was still rule of the roost, but that Rose was on his way. However, tonight's performance served as an excellent example of what makes Rose so transcendent. He's blessed with a point guard's skills and a small forward's ability. His scoring ability is elite, there's no question of that now. Typcially this season, Rose's three-point shot has been on and his mid-range jumper has struggled. Against the Spurs it was the opposite, as he went 0-4 from the perimeter but nailed all but two of 13 jumpers inside the arc. That range forces the defense to step up, at which point, said defense is ruined, along with said defense's mother, face, and hope for the future. Rose showcased a floater that is as good as any player in the league, often off jump-stops or pump fakes, creating and-one opportunities. 

Rose's eight assists, though, don't come like Rajon Rondo's twisting, turning exploitations, or Chris Paul's seamless extensions of the offense like it was a part of him. Instead, Rose continually finds assists where there are seemingly none to be found. He is often credited with things described as "winning plays" and "big-time plays." In reality, this is a reflection of his ability to convert on low-percentage situations.  Against the Spurs, Rose swung passes over triple-teams from defenders trying to stop the gushing wound caused by Rose's dribble penetration. The result are wide open threes. Whereas Rondo and even Paul to an extent, create scoring opportunities with the threat of their passing ability, Rose creates passing abilities through the onslaught of his offensive repertoire. Essentially, he gouges you until you try and protect the wound, then he hurts you where you're revealed yourself. 

For the Spurs, it's a downer going into the All-Star break, especially because of the defensive implications. For a while Gregg Popovich has been harping on the defense, and in a situation against an amped opponent who was willing to work even on the last game before the vacation, they found those problems amplified. The Spurs are a fantastic team with just ten losses. But if they don't improve their defensive ability, it will all be for naught. 

And for Chicago? Luol Deng played great. Carlos Boozer was solid when he wasn't getting blocked by Tim Duncan, and the Bulls' wings did a nice job on Manu Ginobili. But the statement in reality is fairly simple. 

Derrick Rose hasn't just arrived. He's taking the next step, and that's what should leave the rest of the league petrified. 
Posted on: February 14, 2011 6:15 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 6:53 pm

Pretenders or Contenders? The MVP candidates

As we head into the All-Star break, who's are the pretenders and contenders for the NBA MVP award?
Posted by Matt Moore

Before we get to our list of MVP contenders and pretenders, check out Adam Aizer, Greg Urbano, and Ben Golliver as they discuss the most underrated and overrated teams in the NBA and more in our weekly CBSSports.com NBA podcast:  

This season likely features the closest MVP battle we've seen since 2006. The list of worthy candidates is phenomenally long this season, and every candidate has a strong resume and clear question marks which is why this will end up as a hotly contested race down the stretch. 

To be honest, I'm loathe to write this. Anyone whose candidate is excluded will be outraged, but not as much as those listed in the pretenders category. It seems like a direct slap in the face, as if not saying a player is among the very most elite, just the generally elite, is a huge insult. It's understandable. Everyone loves their guy. Worse will be those outraged by my inclusion of certain contenders. Just as some are passionately certain that "their guy" is the MVP, there are candidates that just rub people the wrong way. Some are Chris Paul fans who can't understand all the fuss about Derrick Rose when CP3 has been around for years. Others are livid over Amar'e Stoudemire being in the conversation when Dwight Howard is a force at both  ends of the floor.

The answer to all this? If I had my way, we'd have a ten-way split for Co-MVP. It would be like that episode of "Oprah." "You get an MVP! And you get an MVP! And you get an MVP!" only instead of screaming middle-age stay-at-home moms it would be shrugging 25-30 year old basketball players who don't understand why you're giving them a car when they make over $16 million a year in most cases. The point is that all of these players deserve tremendous respect just for being included in the conversation. And it's entirely possible that some of them really do deserve to win it, or don't deserve to be considered, were there some sort of objective measure. But there isn't. It's a purposefully vague award voted on often by people who have not seen anything close to the entire body of work of all the acceptable candidates. The following is merely meant to be a roadmap based on the likelihood of the voters, featuring the common compliments and detractions for each.

To sum up: don't shoot the messenger. We're all winners in my book.


LeBron James: If there's a favorite, it's got to be LeBron.  The reigning two-time MVP is averaging 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He's the best player on the second best team in the East, and has shown the abilities that still consistently cause objective observers to label him as the best overall basketball player on the planet. His candidacy continues to improve each month, as he averaged 30 points in January, and is averaging 8.6 rebounds since the start of 2011.  Furthermore, Cleveland's horrific turn lingers in many eyes, despite the injuries to Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao wreaking havoc on Byron Scott's lineups. It's hard to argue against James when his former team went from the best regular season record in the East to arguably the worst team in the league. But there are reasons why James may not get the vote. His numbers, particularly his assists, are down, despite having his superstar teammates. We expected the scoring drop when put alongside Bosh and Wade, but he's having a harder time creating for teammates despite having far superior ones. His efficiency is also down considerably, with a 26.7 PER this season down from 31.1 last year. He may also suffer from the  "Jordan effect" where writers get tired of votiing for the same guy over and over again. But the biggest reason, sigh, is of course his image. No one wants to reward James' preseason preening, and considering the enormous expectations put on the Heat, it's hard to reward James when he hasn't blown everyone away despite the All-Star teammates he shares the floor with. 

Chris Paul: Paul has been the most efficient point guard on the planet this season. While Rajon Rondo leads in Assists, Weighted Assists, and Assist percentage, Paul isn't far behind in any of those categories, and has a lower turnover ratio. He's also better offensively. His (near) return to health has taken the Hornets from a lottery team to a team looking at homecourt advantage in the first round in a tough Western Conference, and may have single-handedly pushed the attendance where it needed to be to avoid the lease agreement issue. Paul is still strongly considered by many to be the clear-cut best point guard in the league, in an era where that position is filled to the brim with outstanding talent. The knocks on Paul seem like nit-picking. He simply hasn't been dominant in closing stretches of close games. Too often he defers, and not in the "pass to the open man off the double" way. More in the "here, David West, here's the ball, I'll be in the corner, good luck" way. He seems to be struggling to regain his explosivness that he showcased in his near-MVP season in 2008, and has not trusted his floater enough. Paul has had a phenomenal season and is definitely a contender, but the voters will need more in order for him to walk away with the trophy. 

Dwight Howard: Oh, Dwight. If Howard were to play every game on the offensive end as he did Sunday against the Lakers, the award could be thrown at his feet during All-Star Weekend. Howard is an extremely divisive figure in the conversation, arguably even moreso than LeBron. LeBron's detractors don't like him, and have good reason not to like him, but finding fault with his game is pretty tough. With Howard, finding fault with his game isn't difficult, but neither is finding evidence that he's the single most impactful player on both ends of the floor. He's still the monstrous defensive presence he has been for the past three seasons, even if Kevin Love's astronomical rebound rate has stolen the top spot statistically. Howard is still the most dominant rebounding force in the league. He's able to influence play mechanics and shot selection, he rotates, blocks shots into the ninth row, has terrific awareness and is the biggest reason why the Magic are still hovering around homecourt advantage in the first round. Howard has also featured a more expanded offensive repertoire, showing off a mid-range jumpshot to go with his array of dunks. He leads all centers who play 30 minutes a night in FG% at the rim , at 75.5%. So what's the hold back? In short, if you absolutely need a bucket in the fourth quarter of a contested game, Howard is still not the best place to go. With all the improvements made to his offensive game, he's actually shooting his second worst free throw percentage of his career. That alone wouldn't take him out of the running, but with the Magic having made several trades to improve the squad and still struggling, Howard isn't supporting them enough on his own to make him the favorite in some eyes. His footwork remains inconsistent, his offensive repertoire still the basketball equivalent of the menu at a baked potato restaurant. You can get it loaded with whatever you want, it's still a baked potato. Howard may be the candidate who suffers most from perceptions rather than facts about his game, and that's saying something with LeBron James in the conversation. 

Derrick Rose: If Howard is most often punished based on feeling rather than fact, then Rose is his mirror image. The point guard who's not an elite passer, the scorer who's not the model of efficiency, but the player who "wows" voters night in and night out. Rose has shown a phenomenal ability to take over games, particularly in the fourth quarter, and with extended injuries to both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls' second and third best players respectively, it's been Rose that has pushed the Bulls to be in contention not only for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference, but possibly a top-two seed. He's improved in nearly every aspect of his game, from defense, to scoring, to creating contact and getting to the line, which was a concern early this season. He's quite simply been a phenomenal basketball player, even though he's not necessarily dominant in any one area. Rose has found a way to make the necessary play more times than not when the Bulls have a chance to win the game, and his athleticism and explosiveness simply blows you away. All that said, he's a third-year player on a third-place team who's only shooting 45% from the field. Rose being considered a candidate is either a testament to the immeasurable impact his play has on the game, or a case of big-market bias combined with a sentimental affection for a outstanding highlights insteads of empirical evidence. 


Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bryant doesn't care about this award. Could not give a flip. He cares about the sixth ring, catching Michael, cementing his legacy, sending Phil out on top (or perhaps more importantly, not failing him), and doing it his way. Which means lots and lots and lots of shots. Whether you agree or disagree that Kobe's the source of the occasional Lakers' stalling mid-flight offensively, to argue that Bryant doesn't like to shoot is beyond reason. He leads all players in FGA per 40 minutes . All players. Even the end-of-benchers who like to toss it up so as to say they made a few buckets in an NBA game before heading off to the D-League again take fewer shots than Bryant. And that's acceptable. He's the singular best offensive talent of his time. So he'll continue doing what he wants, and scoring, and winning more often than not, in part because he had the unimitigated gall to demand to play for the Lakers before the draft, and has been rewarded with teams of unfathomable talent and a Hall of Fame coach, and in part because he may very well be the second best ball player to ever lace up shoes on an NBA floor. So for Bryant to be considered a pretender should not be taken as some sort of grand insult the way so many consider his exclusion of the award from 2005 to 2007 to be. He's older, he doesn't shoot as well, he doesn't have to try as hard, and Pau Gasol is just as much a part of what makes the Lakers great. Bryant is a phenomenal player on the West's second best team, as well as the star of the defending NBA champions who many expect to repeat. None of this makes him worthy of the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award, just as none fo the accomplishments of the contenders listed above make their legacies in any way comparable to what Bryant has accomplished. Bryant's past a silly regular season award. He's playing for points in the game of immortality. 

Dirk Nowitzki: If physically pains me to place Nowitzki here. Did you know that Nowitzki is shooting 51% from 16-23 feet ? Think about that.  As the number one offensive threat for a Western Conference contender, in the most difficult place to shoot from (three-pointers are often set, catch and shoot opportunities with reasonable space from a closing defender), Nowitzki makes more than he misses. That's incredible. What will really shock you, however, is Dirk's defense. He's allowing just 29% FG shooting in the post. He's certainly not defending top-level post players, but that's still incredible for a guy often criticized for his defense. Same with isolation, where he's allowing just 36.4% shooting. (Numbers courtesy of Synergy Sports.) All this and he's helped lead the Mavericks to the second best record in the Western Conference. So what's the knock on Dirk? Nowitzki suffers more than any other candidate from the "What have you done for me lately?"card. Nowitzki has already won the award, his team isn't blowing everyone away in their conference, and they're still not taken seriously as a title contender. It's impossible to find an argument with Dirk's play, it's that once again, he doesn't seem to "feel" like an MVP. 

Amar'e Stoudemire: Stoudemire energized New York in the first quarter of the season and was blasting his way through the Eastern Conference. It looked every bit like Stoudemire was going to be a legit MVP candidate this year. But the Knicks have fallen off, and as a result, Stoudemire's contributions no longer seem as sterling. Yet he's still averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, at or near career highs, and certainly is the most valuable player on a Knicks team that's a lock for the playoffs, even as homecourt slips further and further away. The biggest knock on Stoudemire? Defense. His defensive numbers are average in the post according to Synergy Sports, and there's a widely held perception that he's a terrible defender. It's probably an exaggeration, but without any signature wins over the top defensive teams outside Chicago (ironically the top defensive team), Stoudemire will be hard pressed to get the vote, even with the New York advantage. 

Kevin Garnett: Can a player average only 15 points and win MVP? Probably not, which is why Garnett will likely fail to get many, if any votes for MVP. But he deserves to at least be in the discussion. Garnett shoots 74% at the rim this season, and 46% from 16-23 feet . He's the unquestioned defensive leader of the most trusted defensive unit in the league, and his work has somehow been even better than usual this year. His explosiveness has returned after last year's recovery from a knee injury, and he has been dominant at both ends of the floor at times. If LeBron James is excused from statistical dips because of his teammates, how about Garnett who plays on the deepest team in the league? Not to mention, how many other candidates can hit someone in the testicles and not get suspended for it? Garnett means more to the best team in the East than any other player. That alone should get him in the room for this discussion. But he's still not individually brilliant enough to warrant the award. The Celtics without Garnett could conceivably still be a top three team in the East. Thats' how stacked they are. And much like Bryant, Garnett's presence isn't most felt in the regular season, but in April, when the toughest part of the season comes into play.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 2:47 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 2:49 pm

F&R Quarterly Report: 1st Quarter Good and Bad

Here's a look at the 1st quarter and what we've taken away from it.
Posted by Matt Moore

We're a quarter in to the season, and it hasn't gone exactly according to plan. Some things we thought would happen, some things we didn't. As we head towards the season being halfway through, here's a look back at the first quarter of the season and what we thought about it.

MVP: As Ben Golliver will be telling you later, Dwight Howard makes a pretty strong case for first quarter MVP. Royce and I wound up on the Big German's side of the aisle, though. With the Mavericks on a ridiculous winning streak (make it 11 after blasting the Comrade's Nyetzkies on Thursday night), Nowitzki has been off the charts so far this year. The Mavericks look better this year because of their depth and their defense, but without Nowitzki, they'd still be nowhere.

As Nowitzki's career begins to wind down (we think?), it's important to let go of the past where people questioned Dirk's intensity, toughness, and clutchness. He's been one of the best players in the world for the past ten years, and the fact that he's still putting together stretches of games like this only confirms that. Don't believe me? Check the elbow.

ROY: Boy, was I wrong . Again. John Wall hasn't been a slouch by any means, but to compare the impact the two has on the court is to examine the ballistic missile barrage that is Blake Griffin on a nightly basis. It's not just the dunks (but trust us, we'll get there). It's things like the way he absolutely blew Lamar Odom off the block, and his intensity and athleticism while rebounding. It's the way that even though this Clippers team has no hope of winning on any given night, Griffin looks like he's dying for a win, to try, to compete. He's the only unanimous pick for a reason.

Biggest Surprise: We're split between the Knicks, who were supposed to be better but not this better, and the Pacers, who were supposed to be bad and are really pretty good. Amar'e Stoudemire has the Knicks rolling, and Danny Granger alongside Roy Hibbert is making up one of the best frontcourts in the NBA this year. Great to see teams surprise us in a good way.

Best Overall Performance: We're all very impressed with the Celtics, basically. Except Ken. But we think that's because he had a bad cab ride. Maybe it was bad chowder. No, couldn't be that, there's no such thing as bad chowder in Boston. Probably the cab ride. Anyway, the rest of us are completely horrified of Boston coming into our homes at night and subjugate us under their imperial rule.

Biggest Letdown: Ken and Ben (hey, that rhymes!) have a soft spot in their hearts for the sad plight of the Blazers' health. I'm more concerned about Houston and why they're not competing among the West's elite (but they're getting there), and Royce has the same question about the Bucks in the East. If you couldn't see this coming in Portland... you probably haven't been paying attention for the past, oh, forty years.

Ticking Time-Bomb: While Ben Golliver frets over Chris Paul continuing to keep his cards close to his vest, the rest of us are alarmed at how DeMarcus Cousins seems hell-bent on alienating his teammates and coaches. Tick, tick, tick.

Best dunk: Yeah, sorry, not going to be able to get over this, regardless of whether he traveled or not :

Here's a look at our votes for the first quarter of the 2010-2011 season.

Posted on: November 30, 2010 3:35 pm

Award-O-Matic MVP 11.30.10: CP3 as MVP

NBA F&R breaks down the MVP candidates after the first month of the season by dissecting the award down to three parts: Most Valuable, Most Important, and Most Oustanding Player. CP3 is in control.
Posted by Matt Moore with contributions from Ben Golliver and Royce Young

Well, we're a month into the season and the context of this year has begun to take shape. While certainly a long way from the finish line, we've already gotten a glimpse of who's playing well, who's playing average, and who ... not so much. And so it is that we begin our monthly look at awards. On a regular basis we'll take you around the award contenders and give you a look at who is in contention for the NBA's major awards by breaking down what they really mean in our Award-O-Matic. Today we start with the MVP.

The problem, as has been elucidated approximately a million times by various media members, is that the MVP is a nebulous, hard to define award. Its name is Most Valuable, but it most often goes to the Most Outstanding Player on a winning team. If your play is other-worldly but your team doesn't win, you have no shot. If you contribute the most to a winning team but your numbers aren't stellar, again, your chances are slim. It takes a combination of three factors: value, performance, and importance to snag the award. As such, we decided to break the award into those three categories, tally them up with the top player getting 3 points, the second 2, the third 1, then summing to see if we could come up with a list.

First up?

Most Valuable Player (To Their Team): Who is most responsible for their team's success? Or, to put it another way, whose team suffers the most without them?

Matt Moore:

1. Dirk Nowitzki: Without him that offense is anemic and it's been his rebounding that's kept them in games at points.
2. Carmelo Anthony: Seriously, Nuggets. Cliff. Teetering. Melo's the only thing keeping the truck from smashing into pieces.
3. Dwight Howard: Get him in foul trouble and the Magic turn into a Mid-Major college team, just wining it from perimeter to perimeter.

Ben Golliver:

1. Chris Paul:
  I like Darren Collison as much as the next guy, but CP3's return from injury to lead New Orleans' absurd hot start, despite an unimpressive supporting cast, reveals exactly how valuable the league's best point guard is.
2. Rajon Rondo Boston would still be good without Rondo, but his game ownership places them on an elite level and makes them the odds on favorite to win the East yet again. 10.6 points, 14.2 assists (what!), 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals through the end of November. Crazy.
3. Kevin Durant The Thunder have had an up-and-down start but imagining this team with Russell Westbrook at the helm by himself, dragging an ineffective Jeff Green along for the ride, would be a recipe for a guaranteed lottery team. KD will get better -- perhaps much better -- over the course of the season, and he's already easily leading the NBA in scoring again.

Royce Young:

1. Chris Paul:   Subtract Paul and what do you have. I can promise you it's not an 8-1 team. It's really as simple as that.
2. Dirk Nowitzki:   The Mavericks are dangerous in every fourth quarter that they're close in. The reason is because Dirk can score in every situation, at any time. He essentially is the Maverick offense.
3. Steve Nash:   Take Nash away and yes, there's Goran Dragic who can dazzle in stretches. But without Nash this Suns team is nothing more than a 35-win club. With Nash, there's potential to push for the playoffs.

Most Important Player: Who is most crucial to their team's success? Ex. Last year I argued that Josh Smith was MIP because when he did Josh Smith-y things, the Hawks were nearly unstoppable, and when he didn't, they were much more beatable.

Matt Moore:

1. Chris Paul:
He does everything and it starts and stops with him. This is even more clearly illustrated by their recent struggles down the stretch where he hasn't been involved.
2. Al Horford: The level of production Horford is creating right now is simply astonishing. More astonishing is how overlooked he is.
3. Pau Gasol: It's him that's carrying the Lakers. Even as Kobe scores all the high points, the most dominant Laker performances this season are from Gasol.

Ben Golliver:

1. Pau Gasol: His virtuoso early season performance has single-handedly made Andrew Bynum an afterthought. What more needs to be said?
2. Deron Williams:   Utah's streak of comebacks begins with Williams' tough-minded leadership and ends with his play-making and shot-making.
3. Dirk Nowitzki:   Another banner start from Dirk singlehandedly puts a Dallas roster loaded with question marks in the playoff mix.

Royce Young:

1. Pau Gasol: Having Gasol as part of the triangle has been like a revelation. He's really what makes the Lakers so darn dangerous.
2. Kevin Garnett:
We saw what an impact his has in regard to the Celtic defense two seasons ago when his knee was injured.
3. Nick Collison:   He's a classic no-stats All-Star. He's only played for a few weeks so far this season for Oklahoma City but his value is immeasurable and impact immediate. He tips rebounds that become extra possessions, takes charges, sets outstanding screens and makes two or three small (but big) plays a game.

Most Outstanding Player: Who has simply wowed you?

Matt Moore:

1. Rajon Rondo: Key plays every time he's on the floor and he makes it look easy, There are a lot of moments where he looks like he's just on a different plane from everyone else.. and he's got three Hall of Famers on his team.
2. Russell Westbrook: Westbrook has managed to take over the game down the stretch. His turnovers are down, assists are up, he's got range and that mid-key pull-up jumper is as deadly as it ever has been. He's been simply phenomenal in half-court and full-court sets.
3. Deron Williams: Three point guards? Yup. Check Deron at the end of the clock with the game on the line. Money. And that's after all the assists, rebounds, key plays and floor leadership. Man's a ninja, no joke.

Ben Golliver:

1. Dwight Howard:
  Lost in the Miami Heat wave, Howard is quietly putting up 22.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as the defensive and rebounding engine that will make Orlando a title contender for years to come. By the way, Orlando sits atop the Southeast Division -- 3.5 games ahead of the Heat.
2. LeBron James: His numbers are crazy and his highlights are spectacular. It's a wonder he can jump so high and dunk so hard carrying the burden of Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra's corpse on his shoulders.
3. John Wall:   Wall doesn't belong in the MVP discussion -- there are too many holes in his game (jumper, turnovers) and his team is terrible -- but for sheer "outstanding-ness" and "wow factor" he merits inclusion here. His assist numbers have been great and his speed is tops in the league; he's a lot further along the NBA readiness scale than even his biggest fans could have imagined.

Royce Young:

1. Rajon Rondo: He's been nothing but insanely ridiculous. Manages the game perfectly, understand his place within an offense and runs the show beautifully.
2. Kevin Love: When given the time on the floor, he's a legitimate 20-20 threat every single night. How many players can you really say that about?
3. Russell Westbrook: There's a case to be legitimately made for Westbrook as an MVP contender. Kevin Durant is still leading the league in scoring, but Westbrook is what's kept the team winning games. But his play has been just insane this year (23.8 ppg, 8.4 apg, 5.1 rpg) and he's a super-highlight waiting to happen.

Here are the tallies:

Most Valuable Player:
1. Chris Paul (6)
2. Dirk Nowitzki (5)
Tied for 3rd: Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo (2)
Tied for 4th: Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash (1)

Most Important Player:
1. Pau Gasol (7)
2. Chris Paul (3)
Tied for 3rd: Deron Williams, Al Horford, Kevin Garnett (2)
Tied for 4th: Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Collison (1)

Most Outstanding Player :

1. Rajon Rondo (6)
Tied for 2nd: Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard (3)
Tied for 3rd: Kevin Love, LeBron James (2)
Tied for 4th: John Wall, Deron Williams (1)

Top 5 in Totals:
1. Chris Paul: 9
2. Rajon Rondo (8)
3. Pau Gasol (7)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (6)
5. Dwight Howard (4)
Posted on: October 18, 2010 11:10 am

Rose: "Why can't I be MVP of the league?"

Posted by Royce Young

When the GMs voted in their annual survey, most were a little shocked that one player wasn't on top. LeBron James, the two-time reigning MVP, only got a fraction of the vote. Kevin Durant led the way with Kobe Bryant, James and then Dwight Howard trailing behind.

But one player that feels a little slighted to not be mentioned is Derrick Rose. As he told Tim Povtak of FanHouse, "Why can't I be MVP of the league?"

It's a good question, really. Why can't Rose win the award? His Bulls are lined up to have a successful season, he's entering his third year and has been extremely good in his first two years and by all accounts, he's better than before. He's going to be the Bulls focus and he'll have plenty of attention of on him all year. It kind of adds up.

But at the same time, Rose hasn't even begun to touch what he's capable of. Watching him in the open floor is almost a revelation. He's not just fast, he's smooth fast. No player moves the way he does. It just looks good. Rose is flashy, but he has substance. When he's got the jumper going and he's creating aggressively, look out. Problem is, it doesn't always happen. But that's something that shouldn't surprise anyone from a guy that's played two seasons and is 21 years old.

(Quick timeout: How beautiful is that little jump-stop runner Rose has developed? I'm talking about the one where he dribbles down the floor acting like he's looking for someone to pass to, heads to the right side of the lane, plants quickly and in a blink, shotputs the ball at the rim. It's gorgeous. And pretty much unstoppable.)

Rose's biggest challenge is translating his quiet demeanor into strong vocal leadership on the court. But that comes with comfort. He's gaining in confidence. For example, this MVP comment. I don't think Rose would have said something like this two years ago. Not because he didn't believe it, but because he wasn't as sure of himself. He wasn't exactly sure how to express himself. And now he's getting there. Which is all part of the process.

In his first two years though, Rose was teamed with somewhat of a lackluster roster. He had Ben Gordon on his wing his rookie year and he's had Joakim Noah inside. He's had the often injured Luol Deng on the wing, but really at no point did Rose have a go-to scorer to rely on. He's kind of been forced to be the go-to scorer but always creative and distribute. Now, with Carlos Boozer on the interior and a couple weapons to kick to on the outside, Rose might be capable of scratching his statistical ceiling.

Could a 20-10 season be in the cards for Rose? Probably not, but with some of the defensive focus pulled off him, he could potentially score in the upper 20s while also handing out six, seven or eight assists a game. For instance, look at the damage Rose did last April against the Cavaliers in the playoffs: 26.4 ppg, 7.2 apg, 3.2 rpg, plus excellent percentages. That type of year is certainly something Rose has in him. Maybe not now, but eventually for sure.

 And if the Bulls are in contention, is that enough to at least put Rose in the MVP discussion? I'd think so. Hard to ignore numbers like that.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com