Kobe Bryant deserves an award. No question. This season the Los Angeles Lakers guard affirmed his status as the best player in basketball. He helped shape Andrew Bynum into a dominant young force. He managed the integration of Pau Gasol into the mix. He even nurtured young players like Jordan Farmar and, at times, helped Lamar Odom look like an All-Star once again. Bryant is the primary season the Lakers, if healthy, could be the favorite to represent the West in the NBA Finals.
In many ways 2007-08 was his year. But with all respect to my Yahoo! Sports colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski, Bryant should be declared Comeback Player of the Year. (For rehabbing his rep, as much as for his skills) because the MVP trophy belongs to Chris Paul.
I first made that point two months ago and my stance hasn’t changed. Bryant has been great. So has Kevin Garnett. Either is worthy MVPs. But Paul sits atop my list because this season no player has been more valuable, more integral to the success of his team. The New Orleans Hornets have been the most consistently good team this season and are contending for the best record in the stupidly competitive Western Conference, all because of Chris Paul.
David West is an all-star because of Chris Paul.
Byron Scott may be Coach of the Year because of Chris Paul.
New Orleans is loving basketball again because of Chris Paul. (In fact, he’s done more for the city’s revival since Katrina since either Mayor Ray Nagin or President Bush.)
CP3 is his team’s leading scorer (21.2 ppg) and he leads the league in both steals (2.7 per game) and assists (11.5). Yes, he’s quietly crept ahead of Steve Nash, long the standard at the position, in the latter category, further validating his MVP cred. In fact, pretty much across the board, Paul’s numbers either match or are drastically better than Nash’s production during either of the Phoenix guard’s two MVP seasons. (For instance, Nash averaged 3.4 turnovers over those two seasons; Paul gives up the rock only 2.5 times per game.
Statistically, Paul stands up to Kobe, as well. While scoring 7 fewer points per game (Kobe averages 28.7 pg), Paul averages six more assists (Kobe: 5.4), leading to an additional 12 points for the Hornets. Moreover Paul outdoes Bryant in steals (Kobe gets a mere 1.9 pg), turnovers (3.18 for Kobe) and every shooting category – from the field (.489 to .461), three-point range (.371 to .362) and free-throw line (.850 to .840)
Sure he’s only in his third pro season. Because of players like Paul, Utah’s Deron Williams, Boston’s Rajon Rondo and others, the point guard position is in good hands for at least another decade. But Paul shouldn’t be penalized because he may have the opportunity to win MVP awards for years to come. Heck, Kobe’s only 29! He’s not going anywhere, either.
Kobe Bryant’s season? Maybe. Chris Paul’s trophy? No doubt.
This year the numbers favor CP3