With the end of the regular season of the NBA approaching next week, the MVP must be the player that has had the greatest effect on his team and the NBA this season.
This year that individual is Kobe Bryant. Yes, the whispers of Chris Paul’s candidacy are abundant, but this is Kobe’s year.
Kobe’s scoring is down to 28 points this year, but his ability to carry his team without mass scoring attacks has been on display all year. All of a sudden “Mr. Selfish” has become the ideal teammate.
Those who argued for Chris Paul’s MVP candidacy make a valid point. The Hornets are currently the number one team in the Western Conference and Paul leads his team in points (21.2), assists (11.2), and steals (2.7). That stat line is reminiscent of Isaiah Thomas in his prime.
But the major difference in his numbers is that it is a false representation of his effectiveness. Paul is often the best point guard on the floor only because of his team’s newfound health and effectiveness.
David West bloomed into an All-Star. Tyson Chandler remembered how to be active offensively and rebound. Peja Stojakovich is playing like he did in Sacramento. And not all of that is thanks to Chris Paul. Paul has been the most important piece, but he hasn’t been the only reason the Hornets are on top.
Kobe on the other hand is the sole reason the Lakers are not lottery-bound and has been for the past three seasons. Bryant has played every game this season with nine fingers (four on his shooting hand thanks to an injured pinky). He has been dominant on defense and potent on offense.
There is no player in the league who a team is more afraid to face than Bryant. Yes, the Lakers added Pau Gasol, but Pau is not a leader. He is an All-Star center who came to a team that was already going to be in the playoffs.
If Bryant doesn’t get the award now he will never be able to. He is playing the team role that detractors said he couldn’t, and he is finally winning basketball games.
Does he have to learn to fly to the basket to get the MVP title?
Bryant has also been surrounded by injuries this year. Andrew Bynum has missed a quarter of the season with a knee injury and new addition Pau Gasol missed nine key games.
Through all the injuries, Bryant has still been able to keep the Lakers within striking distance to win the West (one and a half games).
Even though the Lakers have been faced with injuries throughout the season, the team still ranks number four offensively in the NBA and the Hornets rank number 11.
But the more telling stat is that the Lakers rank number four on defense and the Hornets rank number 13 – and that all can be attributed to Bryant. He anchors their defense and is the heart of the offense.
One day Chris Paul will be recognized as the MVP, but this year belongs to Bryant.