Will Kobe Bryant Outlast Chris Paul in Race for 2012-13 MVP Award?
First and foremost, this is not to state that either Kobe or CP3 will take home the hardware. Instead, it is to acknowledge that both are prime candidates and will garner votes.
Whether fair or foul.
The debate started when Chris Palmer of ESPN TrueHoop posted a tweet claiming that it would be the Clipper outdueling the Laker in the MVP race. With LAC's hot start and LAL's failure to top .500, one can see why he'd come to such a conclusion.
With that being said, we have three-and-a-half months of basketball remaining. As much will change as it will stay the same.
Including the mentality of an MVP voter.
In 2008 Chris Paul finished 2nd in MVP voting behind Kobe. Will finish ahead of him this year.— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) January 2, 2013
Biases aside, we must ask: Which Los Angeles king will reign supreme come the MVP voting process?
The Steve Nash Effect: Kobe
The common belief about the Los Angeles Lakers is that the MVP votes will shift towards Steve Nash once they begin to win. After all, the Lakers were just 12-12 when Nash was out of the lineup.
But don't sell Kobe short just yet.
The Lakers began their recent five-game winning streak with Kobe leading the way. In fact, Bryant has been their leading scorer in every game since December 2, 2012.
Not only that, but the Lakers are 12-5 when Bryant has at least five assists. They're 3-11 when he does not.
That is value. That is what MVP voters look at.
This is not to sell Nash's value short, as he is the key to it all. The fact of the matter is, voters love statistics, and Kobe has those.
Who will finish ahead of the other in the MVP voting?
He is the league's leading scorer, and the Lakers are dominant when he facilitates. If he takes up that role, the results will be acknowledged.
As long as the Lakers win, Kobe will emerge as a leading MVP candidate.
The Steve Nash Effect: CP3
Believe it or not, Steve Nash has an impact on Chris Paul's candidacy, as well.
The last time a point guard led the most high-powered team in the NBA, he won two consecutive MVP awards. That player just so happens to be Nash, who did so with the Phoenix Suns.
The difference for CP3 is that the Los Angeles Clippers are just as dominant on defense as they are while scoring.
This is why Paul's candidacy is so intriguing.
Not only is he an offensive powerhouse from a statistical standpoint, but he's the nearly unanimous choice to be named the best point guard in the NBA. That alone makes him an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
As long as the Clippers continue winning, Paul will garner votes. But will he receive more than Kobe Bryant?
Like it or not, the NBA Most Valuable Player award is just as much about popularity as it is production and value.
Due to this fact, we have a divide between the perception on who will garner more votes. The two sides will be the younger generation and more veteran NBA fans.
Not all will pledge this allegiance, but the majority will.
For the younger fans, analysts and writers, Chris Paul will be the top dog. If the two teams finish with similar records, the depth surrounding him will be meaningless in the eyes of voters.
Every great team needs an alpha male, and CP3 is that player.
In the eyes of the more veteran voters, the fact that Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring at 34 will play a major factor in their decision-making. His pending retirement could play a role, as well, as no one can justify his owning just one MVP.
That alone makes him a sure-fire vote-getter.
The question is, what will separate the two come that time? Assuming they're on an equal front in terms of the win-loss column, what will offer a distinction between the two?
To put it simply, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
It Feels Like 2006
To put it simply, we have 2006 all over again.
During the 2005-06 NBA season, Kobe Bryant averaged 35.4 points per game on 45.0 percent shooting. The Lakers finished 45-37 that year and struggled to make the playoffs.
Their third- through sixth-leading scorers were Smush Parker, Chris Mihm, Brian Cook and Kwame Brown, which is where we draw the line of difference.
Kobe finished 4.82 Player Efficiency Rating points ahead of eventual MVP Steve Nash. Not only did he fail to win, but he finished fourth in the voting.
This was far from the first time. Nor will it be the last.
In 2012-13, we can expect to see Chris Paul follow in Steve Nash's footsteps. His numbers will adjust according to the depth surrounding him, but his name will be at the front of every accolade LAC receives.
With a top-10 offense and a top-five defense, there will be a great deal of praise.
As a result, the Clippers will continue to develop into everyone's favorite team to hate. Much like LeBron James in 2011-12, there is an irrational desire to see the Clippers fail.
Perhaps it's Blake Griffin's taunting dunks. Maybe it's the team's recent 17-game winning streak.
Or maybe it's the fact that the Lakers are no longer the top team in Los Angeles.
Regardless of why fans love to hate the Clippers, they do. In turn, Paul will become the face of the 2012-13 season's most prominent franchise.
This makes Paul the most valuable in the City of Angels. It could also clinch the award.
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