I saw some poll, I believe on ESPN.com, the other day, asking people whether the MVP Award, if the rules were changed to have it account for playoff performance, should remain with Derrick Rose, or go to LeBron James. A significant number of people, well above 50%, said it should go to LeBron James.
I guess none of those people watched the series between the Heat and the Bulls.
To anyone who watched, it’s perfectly clear that Derrick Rose must carry a substantially larger burden than LeBron James simply to keep his team competitive. Rose doesn’t have anyone to give the ball to who can generate any offense on his own. The Bulls’ only offense is this:
1. Rose must do the best he can to make something happen, whether that be a shot for himself, or drawing the defense and passing to someone else for an open shot,
2. Guys must make open shots when they get them, and
3. At the very least, guys must make sure their shots hit the rim, because the Bulls have some good offensive rebounders.
Let there be no doubt: if the Bulls played without Rose and the Heat played without LeBron, it would be a bloodbath. A complete thrashing. The Heat would have the two best players on the court. (By the way, if I ever said that Carlos Boozer was better than Chris Bosh, I hereby officially admit that I was wrong – unless I happen to have said that Boozer is better at failing to finish near the rim than Chris Bosh is.)
So, when the Heat finished off the Bulls – and trust me, I’m well aware that LeBron was fantastic during the series – it didn’t establish that LeBron is more valuable than Rose; the only way the Bulls had a chance in the series was if Rose significantly outplayed LeBron. The same is true of the other superstars in the league.
Dwight Howard led the Magic in scoring this year, with 22.9 ppg. The next leading scorer, Vince Carter, scored 7.8 fewer ppg (not to mention that he got traded mid-season).
Rose led the Bulls in scoring this year, with 25 ppg. The next leading scorer, Carlos Boozer, scored 7.5 fewer ppg.
Dirk led the Mavs in scoring this year, with 23 ppg. The next leading scorer, Jason Terry, scored 7.2 fewer ppg.
Kobe led the Lakers in scoring this year, with 25.3 ppg. The next leading scorer, Pau Gasol, scored 6.5 fewer ppg.
7.8, 7.5, 7.2, and 6.5. In stark contrast, the difference between LeBron’s production and the production of the next-leading-scorer on his team was 1.2 ppg.
To be clear, I’m not saying LeBron is less capable than any of these players. In fact, I explicitly acknowledge that he has at least as much talent and skill as any of them. He has stretches on offense when he looks unguardable, and his versatility on defense is remarkable.
I’m saying that LeBron doesn’t deserve the same amount of credit as Rose because he has to do a fraction of what Rose has to do — or, for that matter, what all of the other superstars in the league have to do — to keep his team competitive.
He used to carry a much higher burden than he does now, but he decided it was too much for him. He chose to leave for a team where his burden would be much lower.
Remarkably, there are still many people who rush to give him credit, as if there’s nothing cowardly about his decision.