What’s the first thing Kobe Bryant did upon formally being awarded the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award? Probably send a ‘thank you’ case of Scotch to Chris Wallace, the General Manager of the Memphis Grizzlies and the person who executed the trade that sent Pau Gasol to Los Angeles and made it possible for Kobe to win his first league MVP award. Let’s face it, if not for the Gasol acquisition, not only would Kobe not have won the award, the Lakers would have most likely finished 4th or 5th in the hyper-competitive Western Conference.
With all due and deserving respect to Kevin Garnett and the work he’s done in Boston, this year’s MVP award should clearly have gone to Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. Not only has CP3 led the Hornets to heights they’ve not seen since leaving Charlotte, he’s done so without the help of an All-Star Center, as is the aforementioned Gasol. It’s true when you compare the averages of the other four starters for the Lakers and Hornets, there is not much of a statistical difference (13.3 PPG with 8.75 years of experience for the Lakers versus 14.2 PPG and 8 years of experience for the Hornets). However, the true measure of value is found when reviewing the complete body of work for each player over the course of the year.
Kobe’s individual numbers are better than those of Chris Paul (28 PPG/6 RPG/5 APG versus 21 PPG/4 RPG/12 APG, respectively), and Bryant was far better statistically than the next best Laker starter. From the aspect the MVP should go to the best player on the best team, one can argue Kobe is deserving of the award. However, when the focus is on the middle initial of the acronym, there’s no doubt Chris Paul creates more value for the Hornets than Kobe ever can for the Lakers.
Chris Paul came into the NBA in 2005, drafted only a couple of months before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and forced the Hornets to play the majority of their games in Oklahoma City. The displaced New Orleans/Oklahoma City franchise managed to win 38 games that season, a 20 game improvement from the year before, and Chris Paul went on to win Rookie of the Year in the NBA. Since the 2005-2006 season, the Hornets’ season record is 18 games better in ’07-’08. By contrast, the Lakers are only 12 games better over the same time period.
Specific to this season, Chris’ 12 assists per game versus Kobe’s 4 is a reflection of how CP3 makes the players around him better. Kobe may have scored 7 more points per game than Chris, but Chris created 16 more points per game than Kobe. His average of +7PPG versus the average of the other Hornet starters further reflects Paul’s selflessness on the court and his overall contribution to the team effort (Kobe was 15PPG better than the average of his teammates). Furthermore, Chris Paul led the Hornets to a 68.2% winning percentage this past season. The Lakers finished with a winning percentage of 69.5%, but ended up winning 76% of their games after acquiring Pau Gasol on February 1.
Maybe it’s the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. Maybe it’s because sports writers felt New Orleans’ regular season was a fluke – a concept that has been significantly disproved so far in the playoffs. Maybe it’s the sense Kobe deserves the MVP as a pseudo lifetime achievement award (dare we mention Colorado?). Either way, there is more value in the 6’0” frame of the little kid from Carolina than in the often-hyped leader of the Lakers. There is no doubt Kobe will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he has yet to achieve anything on a Shaq-less Laker team. Chris Paul has been achieving since his arrival to the NBA. Although he won’t get to hoist the MVP trophy this year, if CP3 continues to tear it up in the playoffs, he just may be hoisting a different kind of hardware come June.