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Chris Paul v. Kobe Bryant: MVP?

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Chris Paul v. Kobe Bryant: MVP?

As early as two weeks ago the MVP race was seen as a two man competition between Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Now, with Lebron suffering losses left and right he is no longer seen as a realistic candidate. Lebron has the numbers, but will not have enough wins to secure enough votes to be MVP.

As Lebron has fallen, Chris Paul in New Orleans has risen. Chris Paul is a truly spectacular talent leading his New Orleans Hornets to a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the top seed in the Western Conference. 

While his team success has been the primary reason he has risen, his individual numbers are simply mind boggling. His player efficiency rating is a 28.88. That's good for the best PER for a point guard....EVER. Yes, better than Stockton's highest PER. Yes, better than Nash's higher PER. And Yes, even better than Magic Johnson's highest PER. His defense is fantastic and at the time of this writing, Paul was leading the league in steals. 

He is a pure point guard. You can go ahead an pencil Paul in for 21 points and 11 assists per game. He's better than Steve Nash during both of his MVP seasons and he's doing it with less help than Nash ever had.

Yes, Tyson Chandler is the best rebounder in the league, Peja can shoot lights out and David West is a stud, but they are not Amare Stoudamire, Raja Bell, Joe Johnson or Shawn Marion.

Beyond Paul's individual numbers, he's giving the city of New Orleans a breath of fresh air. A city rebuilding has a championship caliber team to be proud of and a MVP worthy franchise player. Certainly, Paul's play has been good for the city, the region and the country.

MVP?

Not quite.

Kobe's still the MVP and it really isn't close. 

First, Kobe is simply a better player. On offense and defense, Kobe is a superior player to Chris Paul, period. Kobe's not a PG, so he doesn't get the double double, but you can pencil Bryant in for 28/6/5/2. Outstanding numbers in their own right. Kobe's all around game is much better than Paul's. To put into perspective, Bryant is considered by many the best player on the planet. Paul is not.

Second, Kobe has been playing a much tougher schedule than the Hornets with equal results. This tilts the bar heavily in favor of Bryant. Paul's hornets have played the 4th EASIEST schedule in the league so far while Kobe's Lakers have played the 4th toughest. Obviously, Kobe's led his team to the same record as Paul, but has done it playing against much tougher schedule. Let's see how Paul does when the schedule gets a bit tougher. The Lakers have only a few road games remaining while the Hornets have 10 of their last 15 on the road.

Third, Paul has been playing with a superior supporting cast all season. Yes, Bryant has Odom, Bynum and Gasol, but don't forget how many games they've played together.

Zero. Zip. Nada.

Kobe Bryant has led his team to the best record in the conference despite his top guys all missing time. Gasol has been out the last two games. Bynum and athletic swingman Trevor Ariza have been out the last two months. Luke Walton, Vladimir Radmanovic, and energetic bench man, Sasha Vujacic, have all missed significant time. It is really amazing the results Kobe has been able to produce with the constant lineup fluctuations he has been dealing with all season.

Fourth, Kobe has been playing with injuries all season. You have to give credit to a guy who plays through a torn ligament in his finger, a strained groin, a bum shoulder, the flu and a dislocated him in order to produce Ws for his squad. Bryant wants to win and he has that rare killer instinct. As the General of the Lakers, he has been willing to sacrifice his body to help lead his soldiers to victory. If I'm going into battle, Kobe's the first person I want on my team.

Fifth, cluth play. According to 82games.com, Kobe is arguably the best clutch player in the league. Paul is very good in the clutch, but he's simply not as deadly or as effective as Bryant in the closing minutes of the game and it isn't even close. What makes Bryant's clutch play so impressive is that he's led his team to a significant number of blow outs in which he didn't even play in the fourth quarter. 

Sixth, Kobe's +/- stats are simply better than Chris Paul's.  Yes, Paul Gasol has a high +/-, but Paul Gasol has played 80% of his minutes with the Grizzlies this season. He's played about as much time on the Lakers as Ryan Bowen has played for the Hornets. No other Laker, except Kobe Bryant, have a +5 while playing 40% of the team's minutes. The Hornets have 3 players other than Paul doing it.

Seventh and finally, Kobe's defense has been on another level entirely. Yes, Paul is leading the league in steals, but Kobe has been the best perimeter defender in the league. The Lakers are an elite defensive team with Kobe on the floor and a extremely poor defensive team with him off the floor. It isn't even clear that Paul is the best player on his team, much less being a better defender than Bryant. Chandler and David West have been outstanding this season defensively and are a primary reason for the Hornets' success. 

Chris Paul is an exceptional player and certainly the best point guard in the league. There's absolutely no question about it. Indeed, Chris Paul is having a comparable, if not better, statistical season than Kobe Bryant. Nonetheless, if you look at the facts, it is almost impossible to make a case for Paul over Bryant. Bryant is a better player on both ends, plays better in the clutch,  and has a more significant impact for his team than Chris Paul. In short, he is everything that you want in a MVP.

Kobe Bryant is the 2008 MVP right now with Paul, Garnett, Lebron and Dwight Howard close behind.

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