The latest “Article of Outrage” about Derrick Rose’s presumed MVP award comes to us courtesy of Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald.
Thank the Basketball Gods!
We needed another scribe to save us from the creeping menace of Rose’s MVP candidacy.
Le Batard’s piece doesn’t break any new ground. It’s basically a zero calorie version of several similar articles I’ve already read and linked to on this site. In summary: Advanced metrics prove Rose isn’t the best player in the league, his numbers are essentially the same as Russell Westbrook’s, Chicago’s offense is mediocre, the real MVP is Chicago’s defense, yada yada yada.
Like I said, we’ve heard it all before.
Still, let’s take a closer look at this section:
“The Bulls aren’t exceeding expectations because Rose is a ‘leader’ or ‘knows how to win’ or is ‘clutch.’ They are exceeding expectations because no team in the league strangles the opponent better on defense. You want to give the Bulls coach of the year for that? Cool. Defensive player of the year? Fine. But MVP for the league’s 20th-ranked offense? The one scoring less than Indiana, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Sacramento?”
I’m not sure how Le Batard — an apparent proponent of sabermetrics — has managed to quantify leadership or measure its impact on the Bulls’ success, but I sure wish he’d share his wizarding secrets with the rest of the free world. Based on post-game comments and quotes from Rose’s coaches and teammates, it’s pretty clear they all respect, admire and have the utmost faith in him. That has to have some impact on the outcome of games, right?
I’ll concede there’s no way to know whether the Bulls are winning due to Rose’s leadership qualities. Ditto for Rose’s knowledge about how to win at basketball.
The clutch thing, though? We actually have stats for that. According to 82games.com, Rose ranks seventh in clutch points (43.2), 10th in clutch assists (9.7) and, despite being a point guard, compares favorably in clutch rebounds (11.3) to Dirk Nowitzki (11.6), LeBron James (12.1) and Kevin Durant (12.9). And anybody who watched Chicago’s victories over the Grizzlies and Bucks last weekend will tell you that Rose’s clutch skills are worth wins.
But again, whatever.
Now we come to another commonly stated sticking point: “But MVP for the league’s 20th-ranked offense? The one scoring less than Indiana, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Sacramento?”
Reminder: Le Batard repeatedly mentions the importance of advanced metrics in his article. In fact, he devotes an entire section (including a discussion of baseball) to it. If advanced metrics were a giant cartoon sledge hammer, LeBatard would be repeatedly hitting us in the head with it. But then, in crunch time, he uses Chicago’s raw PPG stat to bolster his argument.
Because, see, that allows him to use phrases like “20th-ranked offense” and make unfavorable comparisons to bad teams. That seems a little like prestidigitation in my book.
But, I say again, whatever.
Yes, the Bulls rank 20th in PPG at 98.5 points per contest. But here’s a point well worth noting: Now that they have a full roster of healthy bodies, the Bulls have jumped to 12th in Offensive Efficiency (105.2 points per 100 possessions). This after a season in which they’ve been hovering somewhere in the 15th to 20th range.
The Bulls are currently only one-eighth of a point out of the 10th spot in Offensive Efficiency (and a mere two-tenths out of the 11th spot). Based on their recent play — they’ve had Offensive Ratings of 110.4, 143.2, 135.4, 114.9 and 108.4 in their last five games (that last of which was achieved on the second night of back-to-backs on the road against the league’s fourth ranked defense based on Defensive Rating) — the Bulls could concievably finish in the top 10, thus rendering the whole “mediocre offense” more myth than reality.
And think about it:
Carlos Boozer, the team’s second-leading scorer and second-highest FGP shooter has missed 23 games this season. Without Boozington, the Bulls have no inside game to speak of. Even recently, Carlos has looked out of sync due to the lingering effects of a sprained ankle. That certainly hasn’t helped the offense.
Joakim Noah, the team’s fourth-leading scorer and highest FGP shooter, has missed 30 games this season. Without Noah, the Bulls didn’t rebound as well or run as much. That certainly hasn’t helped the offense.
To reiterate: Two key pieces of the team’s offensive system have combined to miss 53 games.
Kyle Korver is the team’s only consistently high-percentage three-point shooter (42.8 percent on the year). Yet Korver doesn’t start and plays only 20.4 MPG. Keith Bogans has picked it up since January, but he averages 3.7 FGA in 17.7 MPG, and opponents don’t respect his shot. This hurts spacing, which holds down the offense.
A large percentage of the roster is filled out with rotation players who aren’t what you’d call scorers (Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson). Even Noah is more of an opportunistic scorer and not really somebody a coach would call plays for.
Despite all these factors, the Bulls’ relative inefficiency on offense keeps getting pinned on Rose, as if there are no other contributing factors. Although, as I pointed out, with everybody back and healthy, the offense is trending upward. With games left against the Timberwolves, Pistons, Raptors, Suns, Cavaliers, Knicks and Nets…a top 10 finish in Offensive Efficiency doesn’t sound too absurd. And top 10 can’t be considered mediocre, can it?
Something to think about.