It is still very early in the season, as we are in the middle of January. That being said, it is never too early to look ahead at whom the possible MVP candidates are Arguments can be made for Manu Ginobili, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for getting their teams off to hot starts. They all have, in their own ways, elevated the play of their teammates and in turn brought back (or continued) winning ways.
For the sake of discussion here, the focus will be on two players who have re-shaped the look of their respective Eastern Conference teams: Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knickerbockers.
Rose is beginning to truly establish himself as a top-tier point guard, among the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, in today's game. He might be the best point guard in the league now, but that is a lengthy argument for another time. Stoudemire is coming into his own without Steve Nash or the Phoenix Suns organization. The former Rookie of the Year has the Knicks back in winning form.
The Chicago Bulls' 2009-2010 record was a paltry 41-41, garnering an eighth place finish in the Eastern Conference. On the other side of the coin, the 2009-2010 Knicks were 29-53 for an 11th place finish in the East.
Let's do a quick comparison of this season's statistics to get a better idea head-to-head on how they stack up.
2010-2011 Season Statistics: Amar'e Stoudemire Derrick Rose
PPG: 26.4 24.4
RPG: 8.9 4.7
APG: 2.6 8.1
SPG: 0.9 1.0
BPG: 2.4 0.6
FG%: .505 .452
TOPG: 3.6 3.5
The stats that stick out Stoudemire's way include field goal percentage, points per game, blocks and rebounds. Rose has delivered with assists in his only category that really outshines Stoudemire. However, Rose only commits the same amount of turnovers a game as Amar'e despite the fact that he is the point guard and primarily has the ball in his hands.
Also, it is somewhat surprising that Stoudemire is only averaging 8.9 rebounds per game given his strong start to the season. That number is accurate, as 8.9 rebounds per game is his career average.
Statistics aren't a full measure of how great a player is doing, but they sure can help get a better understanding of the situation. The other offseason acquisitions have to be put into place as well. The Bulls signed Ronnie Brewer and Carlos Boozer this past summer, with Boozer missing most of the season with a broken hand and Brewer having little production for Chicago.
Kyle Korver has been relevant as any player the Bulls signed this offseason, including his clutch three to help defeat the Heat on Saturday. I'm not trying to get ahead of myself—Carlos Boozer is still an All-Star talent—but Derrick Rose has been producing without Boozer available for part of the season. Second-year Bull and former USC Trojan Taj Gibson has been a great role player due in part to Rose.
The Knicks, on the other hand, picked up Anthony Randolph, who has done little for them, and a former Larry Brown point guard in Raymond Felton. Felton has had a positive and productive role with the Knicks. However, it might be the increased production from Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari that has sparked the Knicks outside of Amar'e.
Both of these players are at the top of current MVP lists, but who is leading right now? At the moment, Chicago holds the No. 3 seed in the East at 28-13, while the Knicks hold a 22-18 mark, which is good enough for the sixth seed. Based off the records, you would have to say Rose is out-shining Stoudemire, even if the Knicks have improved more going strictly off records.
In the end, my vote in a close one right now would go to Derrick Rose. He has elevated his game to a level that I was not expecting this year, as many others also did not expect. The main difference in the Bulls this year has been the improvement of Rose. As stated, Carlos Boozer has not been in the lineup long enough to be fully weighted in the Bulls' success equation, only playing in 25 of the Bulls' 41 games.
I want to give it to Stoudemire, but it just comes down to the fact that besides Amar'e raising his level of play, Chandler and Gallinari have done so as well. There also is the addition of Raymond Felton that has really gone under the radar in making the Knicks a better team. There's still plenty of basketball to be played though, and we'll have to see if Manu Ginobili or any other players can keep up with these two.