The regular season NBA MVP award is always a hotly contested debate. This year, as Stan Van Gundy pointed out, the media seems to have labeled Derrick Rose as the clear front-runner to win the award.
In response to that, statheads like ESPN's John Hollinger have countered with numbers that prove Dwight Howard and LeBron James should be the leaders in the MVP conversation. Others say Kobe Bryant is overlooked since he's always so good and should add a second MVP to his accomplishments.
But something hit me when I was reading Hollinger's chat today. Rose and the Bulls have garnered media attention and respect from around the league because Rose is a humble superstar and the Bulls play well as a team. Rose has become the face of the new generation of superstars in the NBA.
But the established superstars haven't gone anywhere and aren't playing at any lower of a level. In other words, it might be too early for Derrick Rose to win the MVP award.
He's only in his third year in the NBA.
He has made the natural progression of an elite player, but earning an MVP in only year three would be an astounding feat.
First year: Rookie of the Year.
Who should win the MVP award this season?
Second year: All-Star reserve and FIBA Championships selection.
Third year: Starting point guard in the All-Star Game and probably Second-Team All-NBA.
Note that I said he would likely make the second team, not the first team. That stems largely from the fact that he's not a top five player in the NBA just yet. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant still top Rose.
That, of course, is the argument people are making against Rose. How can a player that's generally regarded as outside the top five be considered for MVP?
That's not what I'm saying, though. I'm saying that by giving Rose the MVP this season, he might never become a top five player in the NBA.
If there's one thing Rose has proven from last season to now, it's that he will work tirelessly to fix his weaknesses and relentlessly attack those who have beaten him in the past.
Yet it's also what Rose did in the offseason that shows how committed he is to the game of basketball. He worked on his three-point shot and taking contact at the rim, which have added additional weapons to his already potent offensive arsenal.
He has stated he wants to develop a post game in the offseason. Good for him.
But it's not hard to imagine that the sense of urgency to get better might be lessened with an MVP trophy.
As great as Rose is at times, I'm not blind to his weaknesses. He is shooting a career-low field goal percentage this season and still needs to improve his defense and pick-and-roll game.
If his three-point shot isn't falling, he still takes them to try to get back on track. If he makes his first few attempts from beyond the arc, expect eight to 10 shots for the game.
Rose still has holes in his play, and that's why his advanced statistics are not near the level of James and Howard. He has emerged as the leading candidate for MVP, as Hollinger says, not strictly because of his performance, but also because of his "story."
That tale, of course, is he's a Chicago kid making the Bulls relevant again and becoming a superstar in the process.
As much as it pains me as a Bulls fan, I'm starting to realize that it just might be too soon for Rose to win MVP. But it's not all bad if he loses. Sources have said that despite what Rose says to the media, he desperately wants to win the award.
If he does win, that's great. But if he loses, expect him to get even better for next season and beyond, solidifying himself in the MVP conversation for years to come.