Derrick Rose Is the MVP, but Russell Westbrook May Have Had a Better Season

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder brings the ball up the floor against the Washington Wizards during the first half at the Verizon Center on March 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Derrick Rose will almost certainly be named as this season's NBA MVP in a few days, but he didn't have as good a season as Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (at least not statistically).

The case for Rose is strong, and I certainly won't be disappointed if he wins the league's top individual honor, but I don't think it should be seen as a foregone conclusion.

The Bulls finished the regular season with the best team record, and Rose was clearly the most important player on that team.

The fact that they won 62 games despite their second and third best players (Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah) missing a combined total of 57 games is a testament to Rose's dominance.

All season long, he's shown the ability to get to the rim at will and can finish in ways we've never seen before.  Plus, in the rare cases he is stopped, he's a solid distributor who can find the open man.

He put up great regular season averages of 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.  And he shot 45 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range.

On the surface, it looks like giving Rose the MVP is a no-brainer, but there are other legitimate candidates.

Dwight Howard and LeBron James are the obvious challengers, but there are two guys down in Oklahoma City who have as legitimate an argument as anyone.

And between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder point guard may have the best case for the award.

Durant scores more points, but Westbrook averaged three times as many assists and twice as many steals as his superstar teammate (and did so in four fewer minutes a game).

And at 23.6, their Player Efficiency Ratings are identical.

They each play their role perfectly, but Westbrook's role could be more important.  In today's NBA, the point guard position may be the most important.

In basketball, point guards may not be quite as important as quarterbacks are in football, but there is a parallel there.  They run the team and are supposed to be an extension of the coach on the floor.

So what kind of argument does Westbrook have against Rose (who many have dubbed as the league's best point guard)?

Their shooting percentages are essentially identical across the board, and Westbrook takes about three fewer shots a game.  That would explain why Rose averages three more points per game (25 compared to 22).

The Bulls point guard has the advantage in scoring, but that's about it.  Westbrook averages more assists (8.5 compared to 7.4), rebounds (4.6 to 4.1) and steals (1.9 to 1).

People arguing for Rose will point out that Westbrook averages more turnovers, but the difference in their assist to turnover ratios is minuscule (Rose's 2.2 compared to Westbrook's 2.1).

Plus, Westbrook has a better steal to turnover ratio than Rose.

The next big argument for Rose over Westbrook is team win total.  The Bulls did lead the league with 62 wins, but couldn't we say that had as much to do with Tom Thibodeau as it did Rose?

The word valuable is always a big part of the debate as well.  Obviously, Rose is the most important player on Chicago's team, but like I said before, Westbrook's role is critical as well.

Is Kevin Durant a better player than Russell Westbrook?  Almost certainly.  But at least in terms of statistics, he may not be any more important to Oklahoma City's success than Westbrook is.

Like I said at the start of this article, I won't be disappointed at all if Derrick Rose wins the MVP.  But there was one legitimate candidate who is not getting the attention he deserves right now.

If the award was based on stats alone, Russell Westbrook could very well have a better case than the front-runner from Chicago.


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