Derrick Rose Is Your 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player

Derrick Rose was awarded the Most Valuable Player award earlier this week. He is the youngest player ever in the NBA to win that honor.

I personally thought Dwight Howard should win the award. But… check out his acceptance speech from his press conference yesterday.

What a humble kid. THIS makes you want to root for him more. I never expected Rose to make this leap and I’ll be one of the first to admit that I never thought he’d be this caliber of a player. But he worked on his game, as he mentioned, and I do believe that his experience at the World Championships really helped him. No one expected the Chicago Bulls to be this good and Rose’s elevated play definitely had something to do with this transformation.

Congrats to the 2010-11 Most Valuable Player, Derrick Rose.

PHOTO CREDIT: ???

Rey-Rey is the editor of Stacheketball and founder of the L.A.-based NBA blog, The No-Look Pass. Catch him on Twitter at… @TheNoLookPass. You might see him tweet about Boyz II Men once in a while.

Shots drop for Bulls as Bulls drop Pacers 116 – 89

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose(notes) drives the ball against Indiana Pacers during the first quarter in Game 5 of a first-round NBA playoffs basketball series, Tuesday, April 26, 2011, in Chicago.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yesterday – after learning of Frank Vogel’s confident claim that his team could win the series if it won Game 5, though down 3-1 – I sided with Volel, so to speak, reasoning that this series had been much closer thus far than the 3-0 start would indicate, pointing to three trends that had manifested themselves thus far in the series, and hence reasons the Pacers could keep things competitive.

Those trends were: the narrow scoring margin (only -10 over four games, an average margin of only 2.5 points per contest); the fact that Indiana held the largest lead in each game despite their three losses, including leads in each fourth quarter; and the fact that Derrick Rose’s injury might have kept him from getting to the line and into the paint as he had in the first three games.

All of those looked to be promising omens toward the Pacers’ ability to keep this game close and steal a road win to lengthen the series. And then the game started. Chicago got off to a better start than they had in any of the other games, and were particularly ignited by several brilliant plays from Joakim Noah on both ends of the court. It was the game’s first play, however, that most foreshadowed how things would unfold.

After the Bulls won the tip, Indiana pressured the ball in Chicago’s back-court. The Bulls made two quick passes and found Keith Bogans on the wing, who pulled up for a three ball that made the net dance. Those first three points secured a lead that the Bulls would never relinquish, and came in a fashion that the Bulls would repeat 13 times. That fashion – a quick pass followed by a made spot-up jumper, in this and many other cases a three-pointer – would prove to be the primary difference that turned this game into a blowout when the others had been so close.

In the first four games of this series, Chicago shot a combined 23 – 74 for 31% from behind the arc and 127-319 for 39% overall. In a word, they shot poorly; in a harsher word, they shot awfully. It the Bulls’ shooting woes, partially a credit to the Pacers’ defensive attention and strategy, that allowed Indiana to stay close in each game, despite decided advantages in other departments – not necessarily the same advantages in the same game – including rebounds, free-throws, and assists. As long as the Pacers had kept the Bulls from shooting well, from the field, they were able to overcome their other deficiencies to have a chance to win.

Last night in Game 5, though, the Bulls shot 14 – 31 for 45% from deep, as well as 26-52 for 50% on 2-pointers. They didn’t take drastically more shots in this game (83 compared to 82, 83, 72, and 82 in the first four games); they simply made more of them. The shot mix, though, did play a part, as they took 11 more three pointers than the 20 they took in three of the other four games, and going 6-13 from 3 in the 3rd quarter when the Pacers were trying to make a run essentially put the game out of reach.

The crisp pass we alluded to earlier was a subtle ingredient in all of those made field goals, as the 27 assists the Bulls had were a high for either team in the series. They moved the ball well inside and on the perimeter, and were decisive on the catch, as the shooters didn’t waste time putting up shots once they received the ball in an open position. I would argue that the Pacers didn’t do an overly poor job of closing out on those shooters, or even rotating to the ball inside. The Bulls were just a bit sharper and a bit more fortunate when spotting up from outside.

That is not to say that Indiana was helpless. In each previous game, the Pacers had overcome disadvantages in the areas mentioned above – rebounds (both offensive and defense), assists, free-throws, even poor – by taking care of the ball, limiting their turnovers to 11.25 per game. Last night, however, the Pacers coughed up the ball a series-high 20 times, limiting themselves to 9 less field goal attempts over the course of the game than the Bulls. It had been their low-error attack that gave their efforts to mitigate Chicago’s advantages. Indiana’s fight was still there, and they made several pushes to shrink the lead and try to stretch the series. But along with Chicago’s suddenly-found accuracy, their own turnovers proved to be too much to overcome, and, hence, the outcome was a convincing victory on the part of the Bulls, closing the series in a quick 5 games.

The Pacers faced long odds to win this series, even at the outset; their 0-3 start made those odds even longer. The 27 point margin in this 116-89 triumph by the Bulls, however, skews what was otherwise a very competitive first-round series.

Jason Frazier is the founder of NBAWiz.com, the editor for the FanSided blog, Wiz of Awes, and a regular contributor to Stacheketball. Follow him on Twitter @NBA_Wiz.

Three Reasons the Pacers Can Beat the Bulls

Why the Indiana Pacers can tie and win their series against the Chicago Bulls

When it comes to impossible odds, historical probability shine less favorably as anything on being down 0-3 in a seven-game NBA playoff series. Few teams even come back to make things competitive, let alone push the series to a seventh game.

It was somewhat out-of-the-ordinary, then, when today after shoot-around, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel declared, “We feel like if we win tonight, we’ll win this series.” (via ESPN Chicago). Although the series is currently 3-1 in favor of the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls won each of the first three games, putting Indiana face-to-face with the unfavorable odds mentioned at the outset. Making the odds longer still is the fact that this is the 1-8 match-up, in which only once has the 8 seed triumphed since 2003 when the NBA switched to the seven-game format in the first-round.

What makes the Pacers, then, think they can be the first of almost 100 teams in their position (94 by my count) to win four straight games after being down 0-3, as the 8 seed at that?

First, Vogel’s own story sheds light on his first leap of faith in the coaching business dating back to his days at Kentucky. He overcame humble beginnings with little experience in coaching to work his way from a video coordinator to becoming an assistant coach under then-Kentucky head man, Rick Pitino. He used that success to launch himself to the NBA ranks as an assistant coach, to an advanced NBA scout, and again as an assistant coach in Indiana under coach Jim O’Brien. After O’Brien was fired in late January, Vogel was tagged as the interim, he rallied the troops, and lead Indiana to its first playoff appearance since 2006. So Vogel, you see, is not the type of man to shrink back from a challenge.

However, his claim could be more than just wishful thinking on the part of the confident head coach. Although Indiana dug this hole for itself, here are three quick reasons based on trends from this series to believe that the Pacers might have a fighting chance to tie and even complete the upset.

Scoring Margin
Scoring margin is a much stronger predictor of future success than just the binary measures of wins and losses. Although the Bulls have a decided 3-1 edge, they have only out-scored the Pacers by 10 points over those four games, or 2.5 points a contest. The Pacers haven’t been getting blown out in these losses; each game has been competitive.

GameFlow
Not only have the games been competitive, a look at the gameflows (I prefer to use the ones at Popcornmachine.net) reveals that the Pacers have held the largest lead by either team – having leads of 12, 6, 9, and 8 respectively – in each game this series. These weren’t just early leads owed to fast starts. They lead almost the entire contest in Game 1 before collapsing late, lead wire-to-wire in their lone win in Game 4, and have had leads in each 4th quarter.

If the Pacers have not been getting blown out, and have even had some commanding leads late in the games, why have they faltered 3 times out of 4 (not to mention nearly blowing their Game 4 win)?

Derrick Rose
I am not giving all of the credit to Rose for Bulls’ dominance in closing out the games. The Bulls’ defense has tightened during those closing stanzas, doing a good job of keeping the Pacers on the perimeter, and other Chicago players have made plays to win those games as well. But Rose is the motor that makes it all go, as he is a total +28 plus-minus in his  four 4th quarter stints, and all of the Bulls’ late runs have coincided with his time on the court. How is that a good thing for the Pacers?

As unfortunate as it is, injuries are a reality of sports, and have played a part in countless playoff series throughout NBA playoff annals, and Rose suffered a sprained ankle early in Game 4. Though he came back to play and finish the game, he had a poor shooting game (6-22 shots for 27 FG%) and only got to the line four times in the whole game, compared with 19, 13, and 15, respectively in games 1, 2 and 3. This latter point is especially important because free throws, especially late, allow the Bulls to score with the clock stopped, and have played a large part in each of their come-back wins.

If Rose, who didn’t participate in morning shoot-around, is slowed due to his injury and lacks his usually ability to get into the paint and to the line, it could hurt the Bulls – and help the Pacers – if they are again facing a deficit in the 4th quarter.

The odds that the Pacers face remain long, even if they are able to get a win on the road in Chicago tonight. They would still have to win Game 6 at home before returning to Chicago to play Game 7 on the road, in which they would be the underdog. Still each of the trends mentioned above bear watching as the Pacers look to back up their coach’s words, and to make history.

Jason Frazier is the founder of NBAWiz.com, the editor for the FanSided blog, Wiz of Awes, and a regular contributor to Stacheketball. Follow him on Twitter @NBA_Wiz.

2010-11 NBA Playoffs Recap: Day 10, Where The Spurs Look Spent.

San Antonio Spurs 86 – Memphis Grizzlies 104

Lionel Hollins tanking at the end of the season so the Grizzlies can drop down to the 8th seed and play a 61-win team now looks borderline genius. Memphis beat San Antonio to take a 3-1 series lead. Only person I know that called the Memphis upset was Zach Lowe on The Basketball Jones’ Overdose and he probably can’t believe how things have transpired either. Last night’s game saw the 4-time champion Spurs team get out-classed by Darrell Arthur and Tony Allen. The best part about this series is watching Marc Gasol adding zeros to his inevitable off-season payday. Marc has the confidence of a 2-time world champion as if his name was Pau. Swag him the f*** out.

Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes Of Hell tweeted during the game, “Just got a text from a friend. The Spurs window as contenders might run lockout-to-lockout, and that’s it. ” It’s remarkable that this is how things could end. Then again, would anyone be shocked if the Spurs came back and won this series? Game 5 is on Wednesday in San Antonio.

Portland Trailblazers 82 – Dallas Mavericks 93

At this point I don’t know what to think of Brandon Roy. He went just 2 for 7 in nearly 30 minutes of action last night but I can’t just throw him under the bus, none of the Blazers decided to show up last night. LaMarcus went for 12 and 9 and Wes Matthews had 8 points in 36 minutes. If it weren’t for Wallace and Miller, this game would have turned uglier, sooner. No one really checked Dirk all night and no one could keep Tyson Chandler off the glass, specifically the offensive rebounds. Tyson grabbed 20 boards including 13 offensive rebounds, a team record. Those second chance points killed Portland, who had held Dallas to just 41% shooting for the night. Dallas now has a 3-2 series advantage and I think they close it out in Portland on Thursday.

Oklahoma City Thunder 101 – Denver Nuggets 104

I didn’t see this game but I got home just in time to see the post-game interviews and read all the tweets. Russell Westbrook was a trending topic in my timeline. The tweets were hilarious but the context wasn’t and that was deserved. I check the box score and I see that the Thunder point guard put up 30 shots and missed 18 of them including a few crucial baskets at the end of the game. Yesterday I said that this game would be indicative of exactly what the Thunder are capable of. If they close out this game strong and sweep the Nuggets, we should all be very scared. I’m scared, but not for other teams, I’m scared for Oklahoma. What transpired is what I’ve always been afraid of for this team, selfish, inefficient play. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come and Westbrook will soon realize that Durant is the closer, not him. Oklahoma has a chance to close the series out at home on Wednesday.

Tonight’s Games:

Atlanta Hawks @ Orlando Magic – 7:30 PM EST on NBAtv: Atlanta leads this series 3-1. This means the  Hawks have three chances to win one game, starting with tonight. Which most likely means that Atlanta won’t win tonight because they are Atlanta. Orlando wins this one if their 3-point shooters actually make some 3-point shots. The strange part of this series is that Atlanta’s shooters haven’t been shooting well, either. Orlando might get unlucky and find their stroke on the same night Atlanta does.

Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls – 8:00 PM EST on TNT: The Pacers did some good things in games 3 & 4. They went to a trap defense and saw some results. Good enough results that they limited Derrick Rose — even before he sprained his ankle — and forced a Game 5.  Although Chicago leads this series 3-1 and many thought this would be a sweep or at worst 5-games, Indiana has been right there. This could easily be a 2-2 series or even a 3-1 series in favor of Indy. That last bit might be a stretch but don’t forget the Pacer held a significant 4th quarter lead in every single game. If this team figures out how to actually close a game out — they almost blew a double digit lead in game 4  as well — they might steal at least one more game in these playoffs. Still, even with Rose’s bum ankle, I see Chicago closing it out tonight.

New Orleans Hornets @ Los Angeles Lakers – 10:30 PM EST on TNT: I’m not sure what to expect anymore. I never thought one man could beat the 2-time defending world champs, let alone do it twice in four games. The thing that gets me is that Chris Paul has been stellar, but it hasn’t been inconceivable. It’s not like he had to score 60 points for the hornets to win. He simply had to have a great Chris-Paulian type game of 20+/15+/5+. That might sound out of this world, but Chris nearly averaged that a few seasons ago, so asking for him to do it two more times in the three games left in this series is not that far fetched. Especially with Kobe playing on a sprained ankle which he refuses to get an MRI on, there might be no one on this Lakers roster than can defend Chris Paul. Lakers are going to have to simply outsize New Orleans, something which they are inexplicably having trouble doing.

Links Of The Day:

The No-Look Pass: Check out Rey-Rey’s daily recaps of playoff action!
The Basketball Jones: Holly MacKenzie with two pieces just as good as the performances that inspired them: Chris Paul & Brandon Roy
Negative Dunkalectics: The joys of gambling on the NBA.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com: Chris Paul is red-hot, via StatsCube.

Join me on twitter tonight for a ridiculously good time.

Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.

 


2010-11 MVP Part.II: Why Rose Isn’t The MVP

A couple of months ago I tackled the question of what it takes to be an MVP. It was an exploration of how former MVPs had ranked in terms of four important categories: PER, Team Wins, Points Per Game and Win Shares. At the time, Derrick Rose was heating up as the MVP favorite and I wanted to dive into the numbers to see if he had a legitimate shot at the MVP.

Looking at where the majority of MVP winners had ranked in those four categories over the years and where Rose was this year, I concluded that Rose couldn’t or probably shouldn’t win this years MVP. I didn’t rule it out as a possibility (Steve Nash won back-to-back MVPs win far worse rankings) but I certinly didn’t think Rose was the odds on favorite.  The main reason I didn’t think Rose had a good shot at the MVP was because he was hurting in the one major category voters look at: Team Wins.

Flash forward two months and a healthy Chicago Bulls team is now in sole possession of first place of the Eastern Conference. Rose has been sensational this season, improving almost every single statistical category and leading a team who finished .500 last season to a 50-19 record.  The ESPN-hype machine is pushing it’s Derrick Rose propaganda and Madison Avenue is about to turn into a river from all the drool from Derrick Rose’s fan club. If Rose wasn’t the MVP favorite two months ago, he sure is now.

And I can understand that. He is the leader of this team, both on paper and in our eyes. He has the swagger, the stats and the highlights. But the fact remains that Rose doesn’t lead the league in a single stat. In fact, he doesn’t even make the top five in any metric. Not in points per game, assists per game nor steals per game. Even in the advanced stats, like PER and Win Shares , Rose is a very good player, but not a top 5 performer.

The one number that does stand out is the wins. The Bulls have crawled their way up to the #1 seed in the East and that’s no small accomplishment. For this reason alone, Bulls fans are ecstatic. The rambunctious Chicago fan base is hungry for another Michael Jordan and more importantly, the championships that Jordan brought and for that, they are hopeful that if they have the MVP, the rings will follow. I can understand all of that, and I do.

MVP Candidates:

Rose is certainly a top flight MVP candidate. But I’m still not convinced that he deserves the MVP. Let’s take a look at where Rose ranks among other MVP candidates:

The chart above tracks PER, Team Wins, Win Share, Win Share Per 48MP and Points Per Game. All the data came from basketball-reference.com and is as recent as 3-24-2011. I decided to include Win Shares Per 48 MP (WS/48) this time around because some guys had missed time yet contributed greatly when active and WS alone doesn’t account for that.

When you glance at the chart above, you notice a few things. The most glaring is that Rose isn’t in the top five in a single category except for Team Wins. Total wins is a funny category to me when considering the MVP race since it is a Team accomplishment that plays a major role in determining an individual award, but that’s a topic for a different time.  Like I mentioned earlier, the MVP award has no clear cut rules or stipulations. Is it the best player in the NBA, the player most valuable to their team, the best player on the best team or a combination of all three? We don’t know exactly what constitutes an MVP and no one will come out and explain it. I guess the NBA front office loves ambiguity.

What we do know is how players have been selected before. Again, looking back at Part.I of this MVP debate, we saw that Team Wins and PER have been heavily favored in MVP voting. Typically, the player that finished with the best Win Shares usually takes home the NBA’s MVP award. In the last 20 years, 13 times has someone finished #1 in Win Shares and won the MVP. 12 times, they have had the best record in the NBA and 9 times, they have led the league in PER. Points Per Game has been the worst determining factor, only 6 times has the MVP also led the NBA in scoring and only twice if you take Michael Jordan out of the equation.  Now looking at the chart above, Rose is not #1 in a single category. He ranks 10th in PER, 7th in PPG, 2nd in Team Wins, and 15th in WS/48.

A Rose By A Different Name:

I’m not so sure Rose is the best point guard in the NBA, let alone the best player. His game has been nearly identical to Russell Westbrook’s this year. Rose has the advantage in some stats and Russ leads in others, but overall, it would be hard to tell who was who. Take a look at this chart below and tell me which player is Rose and which is Westbrook:

Difficult, right? Player A is Rose and Player B is Westbrook. The real difference between the two has been the overall team records and the public perception. Russell plays in a tiny market in a division that houses 4 playoff bound teams amidst a very difficult Western Conference. Westbrook also has the label of sidekick to Superstar Durant. It’s not his fault he’s been mislabeled and this season he’s been more of a 1b than a #2. On top of all this, OKC had some success last season and the team is seen as better overall when compared to the Bulls, but that’s a misnomer.

The Bulls have a great team this year mainly due to the various additions from the off-season. The addition of offensive players like Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver have helped Rose out by giving him viable options on Pick’N'Rolls or Drive-N-Dishes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the addition of C.J. Watson, Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer has turned the Bulls into a defensive juggernaut. Many maintain that Rose carried this team while Boozer and Joakim Noah missed a combined 50 games this season and for that he should be rewarded. But this makes little sense to me. While both Boozer and Noah missed long stretches of the season, Rose has always had a combination of either Boozer and Luol Deng or Noah and Deng. I think many have severely underrated Deng’s contributions for the season. He’s putting up nearly 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game this year and has been a wrecking ball on the defensive end. All of this from Chicago’s 3rd or 4th option.  Another thing people are forgetting is that Chicago hasn’t been on top of the East more than a week now. When Booz or Noah were out, the Bulls were somewhere between 4th and 3rd. Only when they had their full roster did they blossom into a championship contender, but the general rhetoric around the blogosphere makes it seem like the Bulls have been #1 despite their injuries and it’s all due to Rose.

Looking at the similarities between the two players brings up an interesting question that Tom Ziller tackled this morning; If Rose and Westbrook switched teams, would Westbrook be the odds-on favorite to win the MVP? I think so, only because Chicago’s roster and coaching staff is better than Oklahoma City.

The Bulls Are A Defensive Team:

A few other factors that hurt Rose are the fact that his greatest contribution to the Bulls comes on the offensive end, yet the Bulls aren’t winning because of their offense. last year, the Bulls ranked 27th overall in ORtg, scoring 103.5 points scored per 100 possessions. This year they rank 13th with a mark of 108.0. An improvement, sure, but they are still, no one is mistaking this Rose lead offense as a high octane machine. The Bulls have been winning because of their defense. Their DRtg jumped from 105.3 (11th) last season to 99.9 this season, the best in the NBA. This jump is attributed to the additions of great defenders to the roster and the defensive mastermind behind the Boston Celtics recent championship run, head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Measuring for defense is a difficult task since no real reliable metric exists. But we do have some decent ways to calculate for defense and one of those is Adjusted +/-. Overall, Rose is a +8.46 for the season. That means that the Bulls outscore opponents by 8.46 points when Rose is on the court. That mark is better than both Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant but worse than LeBron James and his own teammate, Luol Deng. This figure seems to back up how good Rose has been, but when we pull back the curtain, we see that without Rose, Chicago has been just as good, just different. With Rose off the court, Chiacgo still outscores opponents by a margin of 7.56 points per game but it’s not because their offense keeps firing at a ORtg of 110, it’s their defense that takes over. With Rose out of the game, the Bulls only allow 92.6 points per 100 possessions. That mark is not only incredible, it’s the best in the NBA.  This is mainly because Brewer, Gibson, Watson all do a superb job in executing Thibodeau’s defensive schemes. It’s not part of the reason the Bulls are 51-19 and in first, it is THE reason why.

Stacheketball contributor Jason Frazier made a good point in our email round table about this topic: “Answer this: Is Rose a first-team All-NBA guy? I don’t think so. Bron, Dwight, Dirk, Kobe, Wade. I think there is little debate that Kobe and Wade have been better than Rose, although you could argue for another forward if you wanted (Durant, Love), but I’d still go with those 5. If a guy isn’t clearly All-NBA, can he be the MVP?”

It’s a great question and one that I think should carry some weight. If Rose isn’t a sure fire All-NBA First Team guy, how can he be the MVP? I’m not sure if Rose will or will not be voted into the All-NBA 1st team but that doubt alone should be enough to question the idea of him as MVP. Another thought that always runs through my head is who would I want playing for my team right now. If you could build your own Dream Team around one guy in the NBA right now, not accounting for age, potential, or future accomplishments, who would it be? Would you really take Rose over LeBron or Dwight right now? Would you take Rose over Wade or Kobe? i’m not sure I would and I’m not sure most non-Chicago fans would, either.

At this point, no one can stop the Rose-4-MVP stamped. It’s almost a lock, but the question I have is “Is he  deserving?”. I’m not sure I want to say yes.  So, if Rose isn’t worthy, who is? It’s a though questions to answer and we’ll get to it in Part. III of the 2010-11 MVP discussions. In the meantime, you can find Part.I here.

(Photo via Yahoo! Sports by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.

A Case For Dirk Nowitzki As MVP

Dirk Nowitzki has no chance to win the MVP this season.

Just wanted to get that out of the way because that’s the unabridged truth. Dirk isn’t sexy enough to win. He doesn’t cross people over like Derrick Rose. He doesn’t dunk on people like LeBron James. He doesn’t have Dwight Howard’s massive shoulders. And he doesn’t have the fanbase that Kobe Bryant enjoys. But when you cut through all that fluff, you see that Dirk is not only one of the best in the business today, he is the most important piece on his team.

How good is Dallas right now?

Since the All-Star break, Dallas has won 7 of 8 games. Their sole loss came last night of the Grizzlies when Zach Randolph hit a last second rainbow jumper to steal the game. In that same game, Dirk hit what would have been a game winner right before Z-Bo stole the show. Going beyond the All-Star game, Dallas has won 18 of their last 21 games. 11 of those wins have come on the road. Dallas owns the best road record in the NBA at 22-8. They have been winning games and winning them convincingly.

They are 45-17 and are in 2nd place out West, right in front of the Lakers. Dallas has also managed to go 9-6 versus the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Magic, Thunder and Bulls. Three of those losses came with Dirk on the sideline with an injury. With Dirk in the lineup, Dallas has won 9 of 12 games vs. the elite of the NBA. With Dirk out the lineup, Dallas went through it’s worst stretch of the season, losing 7 of 9 games. If there was any questions as to how important Dirk is to the success of this team, it was answered during that time.

Numbers Don’t Lie.

Dirk’s per game averages have slumped a bit this year but that’s due to a number of factors.  Dirk’s playing just 34 minutes a game, that’s the lowest minutes per game since his rookie season. His rebounding is down because Dallas has picked up a few great bigs that soak up the rebounds in the paint, mainly DPoY candidate, Tyson Chandler. Outside of that’s Dirk’s been marvelous this season. He’s putting together one of the most efficient seasons I have ever seen. Putting up 22.9 points per game on just 15.7 shots per game. He’s shooting a career high 53% from the field and a re-dirk-ulous 42.4% from three, also a career high.

When you dissect his game, you’ll begin to see the true gems of his offense. Among all NBA players, Dirk ranks 15th in FG%, 15th in eFG% (56.4%) and 7th in TS% (62.5%). All this for a guy that only takes 2.3 shots at the rim. This is where Dirk’s game shows itself. The mid-range game is an art form and Dirt is it’s Picasso. According to HoopData.com, Nowitzki is shooting at least 47.2% from everywhere inside the arch. In fact, he’s shooting 52% on shots ranging 16-23 feet from the rim. That number is mind blowing considering that’s the most difficult shot in the NBA, one that is almost certainly missed more than made. Dirk is actually making more than he misses from this range.

To take it even further, Dirk is 8th overall in PER (23.7) and 3rd overall in adjusted +/- with a +12.99 rating. To put it in short, Dirk’s been an offensive beast no matter what statistical measure we use.

Dirk the Dagger.

Nowitzki has come through when his team has needed him the most. According to 82games.com, Dirk is the second most prlific scorer in the ‘clutch’ this season, averaging 50.5 points per 48 minutes of ‘clutch’. He’s also chipping in 13.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in that span, all while shooting 60% from the field.

Seven feet tall and all the offensive tools in the world. Who can possibly defend a player like that 20 feet from the basket? When Dirk’s on the court at the power forward spot, most teams can’t match up. He’s the ultimate stretch four that can pick and pop or drop down low and hit you with some post moves.

No ‘D’ in Dirk.

The one glaring flaw with Nowitzki is his lack of defense.  For all the issues he creates for opponents on the offensive end of the floor, he still a liability on defense. Dallas has done a wonderful job of bringing in Chandler and even running some zone-sets to help mask Dirk but the deficiencies are there.

The advanced number might even paint the opposite picture. According to unadjusted defensive +/-, Dirk is actually a -4.43 defensively when on the court, which is a good thing. It means Dallas holds teams to 4.43 less points while Dirk’s on the court as opposed to when he is off of it.

Still, the eye test doesn’t agree with the advanced stats. Dirk very rarely guards the opposition’s best player and has been hidden rather well in Dallas’s defensive schemes.

Sex Sells.

Ultimately, his defense won’t cost him the MVP. We’ve overlooked it before and we will over look it again. Dirk just might not be sexy enough in the eyes of voters. Sex sells, and offense is sexy. But for Dirk, his issue is that he is sexy in all the wrong ways. For as beautiful as Dirk’s offensive game is, he’s no Derrick Rose or LeBron James. Dirk’s footwork is a basketball-geeks fetish, but Rose’s and James’ athleticism is the equivalent of a mainstream celebrity sex tape.  Rose and James have mass appeal. When he Rose shred’s a defender’s ankles or when LeBron lifts off over 12 defenders for a SportsCenter dunk, it captivates our attention. We can’t help but look. That’s what the fans want. That’s who they want to crown their MVP. We live in a world where Blake Griffin’s dunks trump Kevin Love’s hustle. One where we’d rather see Kobe hit a game winner than put together a complete game.

Sadly, in today’s world, Dirk is a pin-up model. Elegant, nurtured, and classy. What the world wants is raw, uncut and in your face naked, something Dirk can’t deliver.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Shane is a part-time contributor for Stacheketball, NBAOffseason.com, LarryBrownSports.com and a full-time lover of fresh socks. Find him tweeting nonsense at @Suga_Shane


2011 NBA All-Star Game Predictions

NBA All-Star weekend tips off tomorrow and I’m anticipating it to be one of the best we’ve seen in a while. Me and the chief-of-staff, Rey-Rey, will be tweeting all weekend from Staples on behalf of American Express and AmexSports (Follow us on twitter for all updates, behind the scene pictures and live tweets: @TheNoLookPass & @Suga_Shane).

For all the participants in this weekends events, check out http://espn.go.com/nba/allstargame. On to my predictions for the weekend.

Rookie/Sophomore Game MVP:

This game has some promise although Tyreke Evans,  the reigning Rookie of the Year, won’t participate. DeJaun Blair took home the MVP last year and he will be suiting up for the Sophomore team again this season but I’m going to go with DeMar DeRozan here. Kid’s been a beast as of late and one of the lone bright spots on a dismal Toronto team. His jumper has really come along and I don’t really need to tell you about his athletic abilities.

Skills Challange:

The skills challange is setup in such a manner that it favors speedsters with passing accuracy and a nice mid-range shot. That mid-range shot and passing accuracy become very important half way through the challenge because you have to hit a 20 footer and then thread a some what difficult pass into a tiny hole.  I have to eliminate Chris Paul because of how hurt he’s been looking the last few weeks. He’s going to be lacking the necessary speed to win it all.

I’m going to go with Stephen Curry here. Curry has some sneaky quickness to him plus he is the second most accurate passer and the best shooter in the bunch. D-Rose fans: Sorry i snubbed your dude, but I’ll make it up to you in a bit.

3-Point Shootout:

This event will probably be the funnest of all the sideshows mainly because of all the characters involved. Mainly Paul Pierce. He was really lobbying to get himself selected because he wanted to have a nationally televised shootout versus his Celtics teammate, Ray Allen. Well, Paul got what he wished for but it’s not going to be easy to repeat as the 3-point champ this year. Ray Allen happens to be the newly crowned 3-point king and James Jones is a dark horse to surprise everyone. I honestly don’t know who will win this one but I’m going to go with my gut here and select Ray Allen.

Slam Dunk Contest:

I keep having these horrible nightmares where Blake Griffin pulls a Shannon Brown and disappoints the entire world. Deep down inside, I know you are all fearing the same outcome. But really, who would bet against Quake? Anyone? No? Didn’t think so. Then again, DeMar DeRozan is a scary foe in this competition.

All-Star Game:

Have you seen the Eastern Conference starting five? It’s pretty much you All-NBA First Team and your TeamUSA starters for London 2012. No joke. This has to be the meanest 5-man line-up we’ve seen in a long time. If the East doesn’t take this, then blame it on Rondo (why not?).

All-Star MVP:

Derrick Rose has to be the MVP, right? Now that he is a starter, the offense is going to run through him for the majority of this game. And after watching him go H.A.M. vs. the Spurs (and the majority of this season) I feel compelled to side with Rose.  After all, why can’t he be MVP?

The Shoes:

By far my favorite part of the All-Star weekend. This is the part were we, the fans, win. Enjoy.

Shane is a part-time contributor for Stacheketball & NBAOffseason.com and a full-time lover of fresh socks. Find him tweeting nonsense at @Suga_Shane


2010-11 MVP By The Numbers: Why Rose Isn’t The One

Like a stampede in the distance, the rumblings are getting louder and more terrifying. If the herd of supporters continues to grow the rest of the contenders will get trampled over by the bull rush leaving one Bull at the helm, Derrick Rose. But is he the right choice?

First lets dissect the idea of the MVP. What makes a player an MVP, is it individual skills? Is it prolific scoring? Or is it based on team success measured in wins? I took a look at the last 20 MVP winners (from 1990-2009) and investigated where they finished in terms of a few key categories:

Player Efficiency Rating  (PER) – The definition of PER according to basketball-reference.com:

Player Efficiency Rating (available since the 1951-52 season); PER is a rating developed by ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger. In John’s words, “The PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.” Please see the article Calculating PER for more information. Also seeVAA and VAR.

In today’s NBA, PER is as relevant as ever thanks to the works of John Hollinger and the Advanced Statistical Revolution that is taking place in the NBA. For most who believe in the relevance and importance of PER, the metric is used to measure who is the most skilled player in the NBA. In most cases, PER is just a statistical valuation to help provide mathematical proof to the “eye test”, i.e. Kobe vs. LeBron.

Team Wins – This is simple and straight forward. What place did the player’s team finish in during the corresponding NBA season. Many believe that to be an MVP you must lead your team to victory. Since the Award is voted on before the playoffs, this only applies to regular season wins and not the more crucial playoff wins.

Win Shares (WS) - Win Shares is a metric which estimates the number of wins a player was responisble for or contributed to the teams total. Please see the article Calculating Win Shares for more information.

Points Per Game (PPG) – There once was a time where scoring was the greatest marker of individual success. Today more advanced measurements, such as PER and WS, have helped erase the idea that the highest scorer is the best player.

Perception (Fame) – There is one category that we can’t quantify and that is the perception of the fans and media. Many times the MVp award voting is skewed based on hype or the perception that one is deserving. We can’t measure for this but it is an important factor to keep in mind.

Lets have a look at the list of winners from 1990 to 2009 and see where they rank in each category.

A few things imedietly stick out to me:

  1. Steve Nash might not have deserved that second MVP and perhaps not the first, either.
  2. If you win the MVP you are probably not going to win a title.
  3. Maybe Karl Malone did deserve some of those MVPs.

Looking at the list of players who have won the award and where they rank in each category you will notice that no MVP has finished outside of the top four in terms of team wins in the past 20 seasons. This shows that voters have always stressed the importance of winning. 16 of the 20 winners have had one of the top two records at the end of the regular season.

Scoring no longer seems to be important considering that the league MVP hasn’t won a scoring title since Allen Iverson did it in 2000-01. That year also comes with a great deal of controversy as Shaq O’Neal finished 1st in PER, 2nd in Wins, 1st in WS and 1st in PPG and he also won the title yet Iverson was awarded the MVP. O’Neal was probably robbed again the following season where his numbers bested Tim Duncan but Tim won the MVP. MVP voting isn’t always fair or by the numbers and that’s left a dominant player like Shaq with four championship rings, three Finals MVPs and only one league MVP.

Like wise, in 1993 Hakeem probably stole David Robinson’s first MVP award. The Admiral finished #1 in all four major categories but Hakeem won the MVP. Hakeem had a very good season himself, finishing no worse than 3rd best in each of the four categories and also taking home an NBA Title in June but by the numbers, Robinson was the best player in the league that season.

One more important fact to note; in the past 20 seasons, the MVP has finished at #1 in at least one of the four MVP categories except for Kobe Bryant in 2007-08, Steve Nash in 2005-06 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993-94.

Now that we understand what categories voters key in on when selecting their MVP candidates we can sift through the 2010-11 field. I’ve included almost everyone that has even been mentioned as a possible MVP this season so the list is rather long. The only elite level team that isn’t represented on this list is the Boston Celtics and that’s due to their team-orriented style of play and reliance on defense, both of which keep individual stats as low as the media hype. The list includes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Kevin Love. Yes, KEVIN LOVE! (While Love’s team wins and individual WS are low, his individual stats are rather impressive. He is putting up very impressive numbers despite being stuck on a team drenched in a rotting pool of horrendous suace.

We can eliminate a few players based how voters have acted in the past.  Amar’e, Nash and Love can all be eliminated because none of their teams are in the top ten in terms of wins and will probably have no shot at getting that high. Although no previous MVP winner has finished outside the top four in team wins, I’ll leave the top ten alone because we still have half a season to go and anyone of these players’ teams can rise to or fall out of the top four. This leaves us with a solid 10 players to rank.

Next, I’ll see where each player ranks on average based on all four categories (AVG). In the previous 20 seasons, the MVP winner has had an average ranking of less than 3.79; meaning that they were on average at least the 4th best in each category. Let’s look where this year’s candidates rank:

Based on this, LeBron James, who I think is still the best player on the planet, deserves to win the MVP for a third consecutive year — Something that hasn’t happened since Larry Bird did it from 1983-85. Everyone’s favorite to win, Derrick Rose, seems to be at the bottom of the top five, hurt by both his Win Shares and PER. Check out Dwyane Wade landing at #2 on the list, just further proof why everyone originally feared this duo teaming up. Miami probably has the two best players in the Association playing on the same team.

Next I wanted to isolate the players from the one category that seems to matter less and less, scoring. I took the average ranking for each player in Wins, PER and WS (AVG2).

Again, LeBron James is at the top of the game with his Miami running mate, Dwyane Wade, dropping to #3. Chris Paul slides on up to the 2-spot. Derrick Rose, who is a high volume, low efficiency scorer, drops even further when we eliminate the use of PPG. An interesting situation also arises in Los Angeles where Pau Gasol now looks to be more suited for the MVP than his more famous teammate, Kobe Bryant.

Amar’e Stoudemire – Through December, Amar’e was the hot ticket and the fan favorite to win the MVP. But the hype has cooled down quite a bit since New York has struggled to keep winning games. I’d say Amar’e's shot at winning the MVP this season has fizzled out.

Pau Gasol/Kobe Bryant – Both will suffer in the “Perception” category. Kobe is being viewed as old and it’s no longer vogue to consider him the greatest. Blame that on marketing, media, hype or on LeBron James but it is the world we live in today. Pau Gasol, likewise, suffers from being perceived as too soft and is often times blamed for many of the Lakers’ struggles. Fact or fiction, that is the label that is attached to him and it with severely hamper his shot at the MVP.

Dwight Howard – While I mentioned that scoring has become the least important factor in MVP voting, for Dwight it might be the opposite. Howard can put up a good number of points if he chooses to but his lack of a true post game and his inability to hit big shots and knock down clutch-time free throws will almost certainly eliminate him from receiving top MVP honors.

Kevin Durant – Kevin has struggled for much of the season and for a good stretch Russell Westbrook was the best player on the team. It might be too early for the 22-year old Durant to win the MVP but chances are he will win his second scoring title this season, so there is that to look forward to.

Manu Ginobili/Dirk Nowitzki - Both of these guys have been the catalysts for their teams success but they both lack the individual stats to put them over the top. While Dirk has greater individual numbers his team wins will hurt him and for Manu the opposite is true.

Dwyane Wade - Flash is an amazing basketball player. He is one of the top 5 in the NBA and many will argue he is #2 right behind his teammate, LeBron. But that right there is the problem. How can you award someone the MVP when most don’t even believe he is the best player on his own team?

Chris Paul – CP3 has been robbed of the MVP before (2007-08) so don’t be surprised when the best point guard in the NBA finishes out of the top 3 in MVP voting.

Derrick Rose - I understand why so many believe Rose could be the MVP but that doesn’t change the fact that he shouldn’t be. one thing that blows my mind is that the same faction of media and fans that believe Rose deserves the MVP also think Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. So if Rose isn’t the best at his own position how can we consider him the best overall in the league? Dwell on that for a minute.

LeBron James – By the numbers, LeBron is still the best player in the Association. But a few things will prevent him from winning the MVP including “The Decision” and his teammate, Dwyane Wade.

One thing I am sure of, no matter who wins this year, it’s not going to be near unanimous like last season.

**EDIT**: From the comments and emails I’ve gotten, I believe that some of you have misunderstood the point of this post. I’m not making a claim that Derrick Rose is undeserving or incapable of winning the MVP this year. I simply wanted to point out that historically, the media/voters have chosen the MVP based on a few categories, even if they weren’t totally aware that they were doing so. Using this data we can build a profile of what the media ‘thinks‘ the MVP should be like or at least how they have voted so in the past.

D.Rose doesn’t fit the typical profile (Someone who is in the top 3 in most of the four major categories that I’ve pointed out) but that does not mean he can’t win the MVP. Nash, who didn’t fit the prototypical MVP profile in 2005-06 ended up taking home his second consecutive MVP award. Rose might be that player that not only doesn’t fit the mold but casts an entirely new mold for the next generation to fit into. I just don’t see it happening.

Read Part.II of the discussion HERE.

All player and team stats via www.Basketball-Reference.com – An NBA blogger’s best friend.

Shane is a part-time contributor for Stacheketball & NBAOffseason.com and a full-time lover of fresh socks. Find him tweeting nonsense at @Suga_Shane