Derrick Rose and LeBron James: The NBA MVP Debate Rages on

Rod RammersteinContributor IApril 19, 2011

Allow me to take you for a stroll down memory lane, all the way back to June 26 of 2008. George W. Bush was still in office, Iron Man was the No. 1 movie in America and Brad and Angelina were on their way to adopting their 33rd child. It was also draft day for the Miami Heat.

Two months prior to that, the Heat had just completed a 15-67 campaign that matched the franchise record for losses in a single season and also gave it the worst record in the NBA. That distinction earned it the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, losing out on the top pick to the Chicago Bulls, a team that possessed a mere 1.7% chance of landing the first pick. 

That year the coveted prize was Derrick Rose, the talented freshman point guard out of Memphis. With Chicago taking Rose, the Heat had no choice but to settle for another freshman phenom, nabbing Michael Beasley out of Kansas State.

Everything happens for a reason, right?

Had the Heat acquired the top pick that year and drafted Rose, the landscape of the NBA could have been drastically different. It seems that the cruel fates that deprived the Heat of a talented rebuilding piece was the best thing to happen to Miami and Chicago, yet devastated the Cleveland community.

That brings us to the present day. 

While the Cavs watch comfortably at home, the Heat and the Bulls are in the thick of the playoff race, perhaps headed for what would surely be an epic clash in the Eastern Conference Finals. With that said, let the MVP talk begin.

The Bulls made an improvement of 21 wins from last season, posting a 62-20 record, the best record in the NBA. The Heat finished the season only four games behind the top-seeded Bulls with 58 wins.

Heading into the playoffs, even with the Bulls dominance during the regular season, the Heat is widely considered to be the favorite to win the NBA championship. The main reason for this overwhelming confidence has to be the talent level of Miami, headed up by its MVP candidate, LeBron James.

Over the last several weeks of the regular season, the talk of who would take home the NBA's top individual honor had become a foregone conclusion. Derrick Rose was running away with the award, but as we take a closer look, it becomes painfully evident that the real MVP resides in South Beach, not on the South Side.

Let's talk numbers first.

LeBron James scored at an average of 26.7 per game this year, good enough to finish second to Kevin Durant in the race for the scoring title, who has won the award in back-to-back seasons. Derrick Rose finished seventh. 

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Not only did LeBron score more points per game, but he also logged more total points than Rose, besting the young guard by nearly 100 points, and he did it with two less games.

This season wasn't nearly that of his final season in Cleveland, but LeBron posted tremendous numbers this year, including a career high in field goal percentage, all the while taking nearly three less shots per game. Let's not forget that many times this year James had to defer to the offensive minded power forward Chris Bosh and to fellow superstar Dwyane Wade.

Some seem to think that because James has the added help of his two aforementioned teammates, that in some way takes away from his accomplishments this year.  My question is, why should LeBron be punished for having great talent around him? 

The Bulls have one of the most balanced teams in the league, managing role players and superstars alike, so how is it that Rose doesn't get the same criticism?  Let's not be guilty of a double standard here sports fans, especially with a player that barely cracks the top-10 in PER.

If you're not familiar with PER, it's a player efficiency rating created by ESPN's John Hollinger. It takes into account style and rate of play, overall numbers and minutes played.  The PER then rolls all this data into one big matzo ball of statistical goodness in hopes to "summarize a player's statistical accomplishments in a single number." 

And do you know who tops the list when it comes to the PER in the NBA? You guessed it, Frank Stallone. 

Seriously though, James was tops in that category not only this season, but also finished first in the two previous seasons, both of which he took home the MVP award.

Numbers and stats are nice, but they aren't everything.

The summer of 2010 saw basketball's biggest superstar hold an hour-long special to let the world know where he would be playing in 2011, the ramifications of which were something never before seen in sports. 

When LeBron left Cleveland last summer, it made a massive financial impact on two cities. On one hand his move boosted an already healthy Miami economy, added jobs and sent ticket sales through the roof. 

On the other hand, it has adversely affected the city of Cleveland and it's local economy.

When LeBron James' "Decision" was announced, it was estimated that Cleveland's local businesses, a majority of them in the downtown area, were primed to take a hit of nearly $418 million. LeBron's departure has hurt the pocketbooks of merchandise proprietors, restaurant and bar owners, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. 

Forbes reported that the net worth of the Cavs dropped an eye-popping 26 percent in the first year, while Miami's Heat franchise has seen a growth of 17 percent. Talk about value.

On the surface it's easy to say Rose is the MVP, and I get it, believe me.  Rose is often effortlessly amazing, making near impossible acrobatic plays on a nightly basis. If you took Rose off the Bulls and James off the Heat, they're still playoff teams in the East. 

Take LeBron off the Cavaliers, however, and what you're left with is a 63-loss team with a still loyal fan base, a bitter owner and a bleak future. With that said, by taking a long hard look at all the empirical data, it's hard to deny that LeBron deserves to become the first "3-peat" winner of the MVP award since Larry Bird.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. In that world, the eighth seed in the East wouldn't be a sub .500 team, the Kardashians wouldn't be famous and two unfairly overlooked players in Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard would lead the MVP discussion. Ahh, a boy can dream...

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